OTTAWA — The NDP is trying to duck responsibility for a series of political mailings that broke the rules on the use of parliamentary resources, says a Conservative member of the secretive, all-party committee that oversees Commons spending.
The committee, known as the board of internal economy, found that the mailings were political and designed to advance NDP electoral prospects, Conservative MP John Duncan told a hastily assembled news conference.
What's more, said Duncan, MP for Vancouver Island North, the board has asked to take a closer look at other NDP mailouts to determine whether they also were against the rules.
The New Democrats, who say they cleared the mailings with Commons administrators and Speaker Andrew Scheer, accused the Conservatives and Liberals late Monday of ganging up and turning the board into a kangaroo court.
The board, which meets secretly and keeps its deliberations close, needs to be more transparent, said New Democrat MP Paul Dewar.
"Open this up," Dewar said.
"I mean this is a kangaroo court, what we've seen here with Liberals and Conservatives playing the judge and jury. Does anyone really believe that there's not politics involved here?"
Not so, said Duncan, who described the board's findings as "very fair."
"They should be accepting responsibility instead of impugning everybody else, including the Speaker," he said.
"I do believe at this point they should be apologizing to the Speaker, who they know darn well is in no position to defend himself. That would demean his office."
The NDP could find its budgets cut if it refuses to pay for the mailings, Duncan added.
Scheer, who is chairman of the committee, said in a statement earlier Tuesday that Commons administrators have been asked to suggest appropriate remedies for the infraction.
The board has been looking at up to 1.8 million pieces of mail sent into dozens of ridings using House of Commons envelopes and the free postage services available to MPs.
There's been no infraction, Dewar insisted. "We follow the rules."
If the NDP has to pay for the mailings, it could run into the millions of dollars. Duncan refused to speculate on the final bill, but he said there are ways to recoup the money if the NDP were to balk at repayment.
"In any of the situations where they would be asked by the board for a remedy, if they didn't respond to the request for remedy there would obviously be ways to enforce it," he said.
"Members of Parliament receive budgets, the NDP as a party would receive a research budget, they receive salaries; there are obviously mechanisms to recover monies and they should be paying the monies back."