NDP MPs say they feel confident about their impending court battle with the Commons Board of Internal Economy over the closed-door, Conservative-dominated board’s decision to order 68 former and current caucus members to repay $2.7-million in funds that it says were inappropriately spent, and say the BOIE’s decision is “ridiculous” and politically-motivated. “I’m feeling confident, I sleep very well at night. I’m not stressed at all because you know, at the end of the day, it’s a partisan political attack by a committee that is driven by Conservatives. So, we’ve followed the rules and there’s nothing more I have to say about it, except that it’s really ridiculous,” said NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice (Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, Que.) last week. Stopped on her way into the House of Commons Chamber, NDP MP Hélène Laverdière (La Salle-Émard, Que.) said she “did nothing wrong,” and said she’s “feeling quite confident” about the NDP’s court challenge. “It’s been proper from the first step and we’ve never heard anything about this, and I see this as a big farce,” said NDP MP Pierre Nantel (Longueuil-Pierre-Boucher, Que.). “It’s ridiculous,” he said. “I think that what’s ridiculous is the accusation that come from the kangaroo court.” The battle between the BOIE and the NDP has been ongoing since late 2013, following media reports that the NDP was employing staff paid by Parliamentary funds at satellite offices in Montreal, with smaller offices in Toronto and Quebec City. Chaired by House Speaker Andrew Scheer (Regina Qu’Appelle, Sask.), the BOIE, which is the governing body of the House, is also made up of Chief Government Whip John Duncan (Vancouver Island North, B.C.), Government House Leader Peter Van Loan (York-Simcoe, Ont.), Conservative MP Stella Ambler (Mississauga South, Ont.), NDP Whip Nycole Turmel (Hull-Aylmer, Que.), NDP MP Philip Toone (Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Que.), and Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc (Beauséjour, N.B.). On Feb. 3, Mr. Scheer released a statement requesting the individual NDP MPs who contributed funds to support staff at satellite offices in Montreal, Toronto and Quebec City, were being directed to “personally reimburse” the salary costs in question, which totalled $2,749,362. The issue overall goes back to 2011, when, following the historic election that vaulted the NDP to official opposition for the first time in history and saw the party sweep much of the province of Quebec, the NDP sought to establish satellite offices to support its new, large contingent of MPs. NDP MPs in the region pooled a portion of their MPs’ office budgets, which, in part, are used to fund constituency offices off the Hill, to pay for satellite office staff. The NDP has maintained it received permission from the House administration to employ staff at these offices. But following media reports, the House administration said it was unaware the NDP was employing Parliamentary-funded staff in satellite offices outside Ottawa and the matter was brought to the BOIE. After investigating the matter through last spring, on Aug. 12 the BOIE released a statement indicating that the staff in question weren’t working “in a Parliamentary office or a constituency office, and therefore the use of Parliamentary resources for employment, telecommunication and travel expenses contravenes the MPs’ bylaw.” Following the BOIE’s decision last August, the NDP vowed to fight it in court and filed an application in Federal Court, which challenged the process by which the BOIE reached its decision, before suspending court proceedings last fall in the hopes of negotiating with the BOIE. The NDP has since recommitted to fighting the BOIE’s decision in court, and has called the BOIE a “kangaroo court,” criticizing the fact its MPs weren’t given an opportunity to meet with the BOIE on the matter. Ms. Hassainia, a former member of the NDP caucus who’s been sitting as an Independent MP since last August, told The Hill Times in an email interview that she was “very surprised” when she received the BOIE’s letter ordering repayment. “The NDP really assured us at the time that the expense was reviewed by lawyers and that everything was legal and in order. Those of us who were reticent were assured by the party that everything was in line with policy, so we complied, trusting that the party acted legally,” said Ms. Hassainia in an email. “They explained it was legal, that lawyers reviewed the House of Commons rules, and regulations and everything were in order.” Ms. Hassainia said she’s been told to personally repay and has until March 31st to do so, according to the letter she received, and said “it doesn’t seem like there are other options but to pay the bill.” Ms. Hassainia said she’ll likely be speaking with her own attorney and said she was never aware of any partisan work being done by the satellite office employees in question. Under House rules, MPs have 90 days to repay the amounts ordered by the BOIE, at which point, the House chief financial officer is able to deduct the amount owing from any amount to be paid to the MP by the House, except for sessional allowances or pay. Sec. 21 of bylaws state that any other civil remedy may be available to the BOIE. “The NDP never contacted me regarding this case. I don’t know what their opinion is as far as how the former MPs fit in all of this. I spoke with a few current MPs and their position is that they do not intend to pay. At least, not until they hear more from the court appeal. I don’t know if the appeal decision will include MPs that are no longer part of the caucus or not,” said Ms. Hassainia. Asked if MPs were given an option to contribute to the satellite offices, or if it was mandatory, Ms. Hassainia said, “we had no other options.” “At the time, they explained we had to sign and that we needed consensus. Everybody needed to agree,” she said in an email, adding she was unsure at first. “When the party assured us that lawyers reviewed the rules, I trusted the party’s actions and signed in good faith.” When asked by The Hill Times whether NDP MPs were in fact given no other option but to contribute to the satellite office funds, NDP press secretary Greta Levy said, “that is false.” Looking at the list obtained courtesy of The Ottawa Citizen’s Glen McGregor, and focusing only on Quebec NDP MPs from 2011, only two Quebec MPs are not listed as owing money: NDP MP Elaine Michaud (Portneuf-Jacques-Cartier, Que.) and now-Liberal MP Lise St-Denis (Saint-Maurice-Champlain, Que.). Ms. Hassainia, who’s been ordered to repay a total of $26,754, said she hasn’t spoken to the BOIE yet, but she intends to contact them in the next week or two. “There are some errors in the calculations which I would like to get sorted,” she said. “I don’t know if the NDP acted in good faith or not, we will see what happens next.” The NDP has also been ordered by the BOIE to repay a total of $1.17-million for constituent mailings that it ruled were partisan in content and therefore an improper use of House resources. Of that, $36,000 is owed to the House of Commons and the rest to Canada Post. “Timing is still uncertain, but all of the decisions will be contested,” said the NDP’s lawyer Julius Grey in an email to The Hill Times. Meanwhile, the BOIE has been studying the mailings sent out by a number of Conservative MPs following the NDP complaints that the mailings are partisan and therefore an inappropriate use of resources. The BOIE met on the matter Feb. 17. As reported by media, among the mailings that were complained about was a mailing sent by 10 Conservative Manitoba MPs to residents in Winnipeg Centre, Man., in the spring of 2013. “All the Ten Percenters have been dealt with. There’s some questions that are going to be asked of MPs that did some direct mailings, House administration’s going to ask them questions, that’s all,” said Mr. Duncan on Feb. 19 when asked about the BOIE’s study of Conservative mailings by The Hill Times outside the House Chamber. “The Ten Percenters are no longer being looked at because they were judged to be within the rules,” he said. Asked whether House rules allowed the NDP to repay on behalf of MPs, Mr. Duncan said the MPs are responsible for repayment, but “if the party wants to compensate the MPs, that’s their opinion.” The Hill Times contacted Mr. Duncan’s office seeking more clarity on his comments regarding the BOIE’s study, but in an email from his communications aide, Christine Maydossian, was told that, “he cannot speak to the proceedings of the Board except what is decided.” “Conservative MPs do not use Parliamentary mailings to ask for party donations or solicit party memberships, as the NDP did. Conservatives fully support and will use this opportunity to demonstrate that our mailings are complaint in contrast to the NDP who have broken the rules and use outside printing to get around the rules,” read an email to The Hill Times. Ms. Turmel did not respond to questions from The Hill Times by deadline. email@example.com The Hill Times A List of the 68 MPs who the Board of Internal Economy says owe money to the House While all 68 of the MPs listed incurred these charges as NDP MPs, a number are no longer members of the official opposition caucus, and one, Olivia Chow, is no longer an MP. Namely, MP Jean-François Larose is now part of the newly created Forces et Démocratie party, Claude Patry is now a Bloc Québécois MP, Sana Hassainia is now sitting as an Independent MP, as is Manon Perrault. MP Riding Amount Owing Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, Que. $30,158 Paulina Ayala Honoré-Mercier, Que. $29,280 Tyrone Benskin Jeanne-Le Ber, Que. $31,888 Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe Pierrefonds-Dollard, Que. $29,842 Denis Blanchette Louis-Hébert, Que. $31,888 François Boivin Gatineau, Que. $24,498 Charmaine Borg Terrebonne-Blainville, Que. $22,807 Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, Que. $122,122 Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, Que. $24,259 Tarik Brahmi Saint-Jean, Que. $22,953 Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier-Maskinongé, Que. $30,959 Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette-Témiscouata-Les Basques, Que. $64,916 Andrew Cash Davenport, Ont. $1,288 Sylvain Chicoine Châteauguay-Saint-Constant, Que. $31,069 François Choquette Drummond, Que. $24,216 Olivia Chow Trinity Spadina, Ont. $1,288 Raymond Côté Beauport-Limoilou, Que. $31,064 Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg-Haute-Saint-Charles, Que. $35,430 Pierre Dionne Labelle Rivière-du-Nord, Que. $26,812 Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, Que. $29,551 Matthew Dubé Chambly-Borduas, Que. $30,727 Pierre-Luc Dusseault Serbrooke, Que. $26,805 Mylène Freeman Argenteuil-Papineau-Mirabel, Que. $30,301 Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, Que. $31,788 Réjean Genest Shefford, Que. $21,380 Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, Que. $28,794 Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, Que. $29,836 Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, Ont. $141,467 Sana Hassainia Verchères-Les Patriotes, Que. $26,754 Pierre Jacob Brome-MIssisquoi, Que. $31,051 Matthew Kellway Beaches-East York, Ont. $1,288 François Lapointe Montmagny-L’Islet-Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, Que. $30,364 Jean-Francois Larose Repentigny, Que. $15,299 Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, Que. $31,888 Hélène Laverdière Laurier-Sainte-Marie, Que. $24,216 Hélène LeBlanc La-Salle-Émard, Que. $27,866 Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Milles-Îles, Que. $29,845 Hoang Mai Brossard-La Prairie, Que. $30,739 Christine Moore Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Que. $31,793 Dany Morin Chicoutimi-LeFjord, Que. $28,152 Isabelle Morin Notre-Dame-De-Grâce-Lachine, Que. $169,117 Marc-AndréMorin Laurentides-Labelle, Que. $25,690 Marie-Claude Morin Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, Que. $30,023 Thomas Mulcair Outremont, Que. $7,440 Pierre Nantel Longueuil-Pierre-Boucher, Que. $14,911 Peggy Nash Parkdale-High Park, Ont. $1,288 Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, Que. $30,740 José Nunez-Melo Laval, Que. $31,700 Annick Papillon Québec, Que. $29,266 Claude Patry Jonquière-Alma, Que. $14,081 Ève Péclet La Pointe-de-l’Île, Que. $27,111 Manon Perrault Montcalm, Que. $22,009 François Pilon Laval-Les Îles, Que. $31,874 Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois-Salaberry, Que. $15,324 Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, Que. $30,727 Francine Raynault Joliette, Que. $27,952 Jean Rousseau Compton-Stanstead, Que. $142,548 Romeo Saganash Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou, Que. $35,600 Craig Scott Toronto-Danforth, Ont. $1,288 Djaouida Sellah Saint-Bruno-Saint-Hubert, Que. $29,840 Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough-Rouge River, Ont. $1,288 Mike Sullivan York South-Weston, Ont. $1,288 Philip Toone Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Que. $31,069 Jonathan Tremblay Montmorency-Charlevoix-Haute-Côte-Nord, Que. $30,739 Nycole Turmel Hull-Aylmer, Que. $15,161 Whip N/A (Parliament Hill Office) $35,633 House Leader N/A (Parliament Hill Office) $189,714 Party Leader N/A (Parliament Hill Office) $408,573 Total $2,749,362 —List courtesy of the Ottawa Citizen’s Glen McGregor.