Executive Assistant George Smith speaks with Official Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair as he waits to appear at Commons house affairs committee to explain the use of House of Commons resources by the Official Opposition Thursday May 15, 2014. Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press
One million eight hundred thousand first-class stamps do add up.
After the Board of Internal Economy determined NDP MPs misused their mailing privileges it requested that $1.17 million be repaid.
Only a small fraction of that, about $36,000, is owed to the House of Commons directly for envelopes and processing, while the rest is for what’s called “franking privileges,” the free postage Canada Post is required under law to provide to MPs.
The Board of Internal Economy has now declared these mailings to be “not parliamentary functions,” which effectively means the NDP ought to have paid postage on nearly two million letters sent to voters using MP mailing privileges.
Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, who is responsible for Canada Post, said during question period today that she spoke with Deepak Chopra, the president and CEO of the Crown corporation, to ensure there would be a resolution with respect to matter of the $1.13 million owed in mailing privileges.
"It is not acceptable to use House of Commons resources to fund party offices or to send out party mailouts. They know this, Mr. Speaker, and as a result I expect that they are going to pay back Canada Post.
"But I also expect that they'll refuse to pay back Canada Post and that's why today I spoke to the CEO of Canada Post to ensure that he understood what was happening. He does indeed. They take it very seriously and they will be developing a plan to deal with the situation," Raitt said.
Canada Post responds
A spokesman for Canada Post said, in a written statement sent to CBC News immediately after question period, that it is examining what to do next and promises to do so in a timely fashion.
"Canada Post is conducting a detailed review of all commercial and regulatory aspects of the decision by the Board of Internal Economy regarding the use of member’s franking privileges. This will be done in a timely manner and include compliance with the Canada Post Corporation Act, which contains the provisions for government mail," spokesman Jon Hamilton said in a statement.
New Democrats accused Raitt of political interference, but after question period, Raitt told reporters she did not tell Canada Post what to do.
"No directives have been given in this case, it was just a phone call to ensure that they understood the issue and that they would be looking into it. That's it," Raitt said.
Earlier in the day, Raitt's office issued a statement to CBC News attributable to the minister which said she vowed to recover every penny from the NDP.
"I will be discussing with the head of Canada Post in the coming days for a report on their plan to recover these funds. Rest assured, every single penny that was misspent by the NDP will be paid back to hard-working Canadian taxpayers."
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