Eight Progressive Conservative MPs from Ontario have received allowances from their riding associations over the past four years for various expenses, including child care, entertainment and vehicle expenses, raising new questions about how the party spends taxpayer donations and grants.
After the issue was first raised by the Ontario NDP, Global News combed through publicly available Elections Ontario data looking at the expenses incurred by the 124 sitting MLAs and uncovered tens of thousands of payments made to certain politicians between 2018 and 2021 that fell outside of the current expenses claimed by constituency associations.
While the vast majority of riding associations typically spent on items related to community events, personal protective equipment and even iPads for long-term care homes, eight PC MLAs received money for accommodation, meals and entertainment, according to the Elections Ontario statements, and some received an “MPP allowance” in addition to their taxpayer-funded salaries.
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In a statement to Global News, the PC party defended the allowances given to all MPs, but did not respond to questions about the ethical nature of the expenses or whether members would be expected to repay the funds.
“All riding association expenditures are approved by the local riding association executive, audited by a certified auditor, and all audited financial statements are reviewed and approved by Elections Ontario,” said the gate-keeper. campaign spokesperson, Ivana Yelich.
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Topping the list is Lisa Macleod, MPP for the riding of Nepean, who served as Minister of Children, Community and Social Services and Tourism, Culture and Sport, earning a salary of $165,851 in 2021.
According to annual returns from riding associations made public on the Elections Ontario website, MacLeod first received a “expense allowance” in 2017 as well as a housing allowance over $12,000. Macleod then received $18,200 for “MPP Expenses and Allowances” in 2018another $16,727 for “MPP Housing/Exp Allowance” in 2019and $9,500 for the association’s 2020 “MPP stipend.”
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Mississauga East-Cooksville candidate Kaleed Rasheed, who served as associate minister for digital government, received a total of $23,000 in stipends from the PC riding association bank account.
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According to public documents filed with Elections Ontario, Rasheed received $11,000 in 2019 and $12,000 in 2020 of the riding association while earning over $130,000 as an MLA and chair of a legislative committee. The payments are simply listed as “MPP allocation” with no further breakdown of how those funds were used.
Another cabinet minister, Greg Rickford of the Kenora Rainy-River riding, spent a total of $14,640 since 2019 which the riding association classified as “MPP’s expense allowance” and “MPP’s car allowance”.
Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin received a “MPP allowance” in 2019 and 2020 totaling $6,500while Mississauga-Lakeshore MLA Rudy Cuzzetto received a total of $5,631 since 2019 under a heading entitled “MPP Expenditures”.
Belinda Karahalios, who represented Ontario PCs in Cambridge until 2020 when she was dropped from the party by Doug Ford, has been paid $1,139 per riding association in 2019 for “MPP childcare costs”.
Of the eight PC MPs, the biggest spender was Vincent Ke of Don Valley North, who has billed the riding association $54,717 since 2018 for a range of expenses, including nearly $30,000 in 2018 in “meals, food and drink,” another $12,000 in 2019 in “meals and entertainment” and more than $13,000 since 2018 on gas, parking and car-related expenses.
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Duff Conacher, founder of Democracy Watch, told Global News while provincial legislation allows riding associations to approve spending by Ontario MPPs, the payments don’t pass the smell test.
“MPs have salaries that are in the top 10%, winning over 90% of voters in Ontario and it’s a dark, secret way to give them more money,” Conacher said. “I don’t think donors donate to parties to have their money passed on to wealthy politicians.”
Conacher said, by comparison, MPs are bound by ethics rules that prohibit them from receiving top-ups from riding associations — a rule he says should also apply to their provincial counterparts.
“MPs have travel allowances and housing allowances if they’re outside of Toronto and it’s part of their salary, but having another allowance on top of that is prohibited federally and it should also be prohibited in Ontario.
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