WATCH: NDP leader Tom Mulcair talks about the ongoing controversy surrounding his party’s satellite offices.
The ongoing saga, with the NDP’s use of satellite offices at the centre, is nothing more than Canada’s “old-time” Conservatives and Liberals waging a partisan attack on the high polling official Opposition, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says.
“This is simply a partisan attack by the old-time parties,” he said in an interview on The West Block with Tom Clark.
“There is no possible way that the old-time parties would push their audacity to the point of trying to hobble the surging NDP official Opposition by trying to remove our funds on the eve on an election.”
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Mulcair’s jab comes just four months ahead of the anticipated election day, though the issue with the New Democrat’s alleged use of parliamentary funds for partisan purposes stretches back more than a year.
That’s when it was revealed the NDP had set up a satellite office in Montreal in the fall of 2011 in an effort to help the raft of young, rookie MPs elected that spring. The party later set up offices in Quebec City and Toronto; they’d been planning another in Saskatchewan, where the party has no elected MPs.
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Mulcair has admitted the salaries for the 14 staff members at the offices were paid through House of Commons budgets, which are intended to be used only for parliamentary – not partisan – purposes.
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Mulcair has repeatedly insisted the employees in question dealt only with parliamentary work.
Still, the multi-party board of internal economy, which polices Commons spending, has ordered 68 current and former NDP MPs to repay $2.75 million for the satellite office scheme and another $1.2 million in free parliamentary mailing privileges used to send out almost two million partisan missives.
“They’ve had their political games with this but that’s all it’s been, a partisan political attack, orchestrated by the Conservatives and the Liberals,” Mulcair said.
“With regard to this partisan attack, everybody can see right through it.”
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WATCH: NDP MPs asked to pay back $2.75 million for satellite offices
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau shot down Mulcair’s assertion that the focus on the NDP’s alleged misdeeds have anything to do with pre-election polls, noting the issue has been boiling for years
An EKOS poll published late last week showed that, among those who were asked how they’d vote if the election was tomorrow, 34 per cent said the NDP, 27 per cent said the Conservatives, and 23 per cent said the Liberals.
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The stark drop for the Liberals, who were once leading the polls, has seen the Conservatives re-focus their attacks, which were aimed squarely at Trudeau and the Liberals; the Liberals, meanwhile, are also zeroing in on the NDP, specifically the party’s economic proposals.
The Liberals claim the New Democrats’ platform planks revealed so far amount to about $35 billion over four years, and $131 billion over eight.
Mulcair said the question over spending is “a debate that I’m looking forward to having with the Liberals,” arguing the NDP has costed every proposal so far, which will be balanced by increasing corporate taxes and eliminating some of the Conservatives’ boutique tax credits that opposition parties say don’t benefit enough Canadians.
With files from The Canadian Press