We who pay the piper should call the tune
Yanking flyers, originating from MPs and other politicians, out of the mailbox is becoming a frequent activity in post offices nationwide. Most of the flyers would like recipients to indicate which party or politician is doing the best job in specific areas, before returning the brochures to their point of origin.
How many constituents actually take the time to respond to such mailings?
Based on the garbage, which ends up in some post office lobbies, most of the flyers are immediately consigned to File 13, never to be seen or remembered anymore. Good riddance! Unsolicited flyers clutter mailboxes and garbage boxes. But that’s a littering issue for another day.
Once in a long while, though, a flyer gets the attention it deserves.
One such flyer arrived with the mail two weeks ago. It asks on one side, “ Who’s Accountable?” The question is breathlessly answered on the reverse: “M.P. Scott Andrews Is!” The next words read, “M.P. Scott (Andrews) Releases All MP Expenses to the Public.”
Andrews explains: “As your Member of Parliament, I believe it is necessary to be open and accountable to you. For this reason, I have taken the opportunity to make all my expenditures available on my website.” Kudos to the MP for that. Tact must be employed here, for fear of misunderstanding. The desire to know exactly how MPs spend our tax money may be perceived as an attempt to get a cheap, vicarious thrill.
You may hear someone say something like, “it’s shockin’, b’y, how much money he spent on his Missis travellin’ with him ... over five thousand dollars in one year.” But nothing could be further from the truth. Few among the body politic would want to know how much money Andrews spends on boxers as opposed to Brylcream. But knowing the MP’s spending habits in more germane areas should be a privilege accorded constituents.
A recent survey found that 88 per cent of Canadian taxpayers believe that detailed expense accounts of elected officials should be open for public scrutiny.
Taxpayers have every right to know how their hard-earned dollars are being spent by their members in the hallowed halls of the House of Commons. The privilege of public spending demands public accountability. Great responsibility and great accountability are not mutually exclusive. Public accountability could even guard against mismanagement and misappropriation of public funds.
Truth be known, the information is already available. While individual MPs elect whether or not to add it to their websites, the spending is provided in the House of Commons Individual Member’s Expenditures. So it isn’t like some great secret. Check out the details at http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/ about/ process/ house/ GeneraLInformation/ MembersExpenses-2008-2009-e.pdf.
However, not everyone is able - or willing - to follow the circuitous route to locate that document. If it was posted on MP websites, across the board without exception, it would be conveniently available for public perusal.
In the bigger picture, it does matter to constituents how much their MPs spend on, for example, staff and other expenses, travel, advertising, office lease and constituency office furniture and equipment improvement.
Scott Andrews has stepped up to the plate and chosen to make his expenditures public.
There is anecdotal evidence that other MPs will be following his example by including their Budget on their websites.
Now, when will we see such open access among members of the provincial House of Assembly?