The federal Liberal government is joining the Opposition Conservatives in no longer allowing its members of Parliament to expense taxpayers for home internet services.
And government House leader Mark Holland’s office said Thursday he will propose that the practice be ended for MPs of all parties, after Conservatives signalled their intention to do the same.
A breakdown of recent expenses shows 31 Tory MPs have charged taxpayers for home internet services for either themselves or staff, according to an analysis by The Canadian Press. The information was first reported by the National Post.
The MPs include former interim party leader Candice Bergen and fellow Manitoba MP James Bezan, along with Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner and British Columbia representative Mark Strahl.
Across the aisle, 27 Liberal MPs expensed home internet costs for either their homes or those of their employees, including Justice Minister David Lametti and Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly.
As for the Bloc Québécois and NDP, the parties saw 11 and four of their MPs claiming such costs, respectively.
A spokeswoman for the House of Commons said the practice is allowed under existing rules for members of Parliament, who can expense the fees through their office budgets.
As was the case for many Canadians, the COVID-19 pandemic forced MPs and their employees to work from home. But their offices have now been back open for months, and no health restrictions currently require them to work out of a home office.
No rules have been broken, but the Opposition whip’s office told MPs that a new policy has been set for caucus, according to a recent email obtained by The Canadian Press.
The email said it has been decided that no caucus member or employee can expense home internet costs, following a discussion with Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre.
The message said if the party expects Canadians to see Conservatives as responsible financial stewards, “we must lead by example.” It adds that the party plans to propose that the current House of Commons policy end for MPs of all stripes.
“With Canadians continuing to face a cost-of-living crisis, spurred in part by irresponsible government spending, we do not expect that taxpayers should be left paying the bill for the home internet of members of Parliament,” Kerry-Lynne Findlay, the Opposition whip, said in a statement Thursday.
“While these expenses were allowed under the standing policy of the House of Commons, Conservatives will cease any expensing of home internet charges going forward.”
By Thursday afternoon, Liberal MPs had also been informed that the rules were also changing for them.
“The chief government whip has told Liberal MPs today that going forward, they should not bill for their own home internet expenses and for their staff,” Alex Maheux, a spokesperson for Holland, said in a statement.
The statement from Maheux added that at the next meeting of the Board of Internal Economy, which is the committee that sets rules for MPs, Holland would be proposing a change to end the practice for good.
“Our government has and continues to support Canadians as they face the economic and heath challenges that have confronted this country,” the statement said.
“That is why, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we brought forward measures to allow Canadians to claim tax deductions for expenses related to working at home, such as the cost of the internet.”