House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
2000 EditionMore information …
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4. The House of Commons and Its Members

Budgetary Entitlements

The Parliament of Canada Act authorizes the Board of Internal Economy to make by-laws with regard to the use of funds, goods, services and premises provided to Members. [325]  The Members’ Manual of Allowances and Services, produced in accordance with the By-laws of the Board of Internal Economy, contains administrative guidelines on the availability and use of all the funds, goods, services and premises to which Members are entitled.

The Thirty-Fifth Parliament (1993-97) was the first Parliament to operate with a complete set of by-laws. The By-laws were first enacted by the Board of Internal Economy in 1993 and are a series of guidelines concerning the handling by Members of public funds put at their disposal to help them carry out their parliamentary functions. Parliamentary functions are defined as duties and activities related to the position of Member of the House of Commons and includes public and official business and partisan matters but does not include the private business interests of a Member or of a Member’s immediate family. [326]  Each year, the Board of Internal Economy publishes a Finance By-law (By-law 501) which establishes the financial provisions for the fiscal year (April 1 to March 31). These include the Members’ Budget (including the Member’s Office Budget, the Constituency Furniture and Equipment Allowance and Members’ Travel Expenses), House Officers’ Budgets [327] and Committees’ Budgets. [328]  The other By-laws set out the terms governing Members’ use of their budgets and other benefits provided by the House including travel points, printing privileges, staff, and the purchase of goods.

The Board determines the terms and conditions of managing and accounting for the funds by the Members and has exclusive authority to determine whether their use is or was proper. [329]  In the event the By-laws are contravened, the Board of Internal Economy may pursue a number of options, including withholding money from one of the Member’s budgets or allowances, or freezing any budget or allowance or payment that may be available to the Member. [330] 

Each Member is entitled to an office in the precinct of Parliament, office furniture and furnishings and equipment for this office. [331]  Every Member is also entitled to establish one or more offices in his or her respective constituency and is provided with furniture and equipment for these offices. Furniture and equipment provided to Members are the property of the House of Commons. Each Member is provided with several budgets, including an Office Budget and a Constituency Furniture and Equipment Allowance. [332]  Members may spend their budgets as they choose so long as they conform to the regulations prescribed by the Board of Internal Economy. The Members’ Office Budget is used to pay expenses for the Member’s parliamentary precinct office, including staff remuneration. This budget also pays expenses incurred in establishing and operating a constituency office, including staff remuneration, office rent and utilities, and office furnishings, supplies and equipment. [333] 

Each Member is the employer of all his or her employees and each Member has the prerogative to recruit, hire, promote and release employees. [334] A Member is allowed full discretion in the direction and control of the work performed on his or her behalf by employees and is subject only to the authority of the Board of Internal Economy and the House of Commons in the exercise of that discretion. Members determine the duties to be performed, hours of work, job classifications and salaries, and are responsible for employee relations. Subject to specific terms and conditions, Members may enter into contracts for services with individuals, agencies or organizations and use a portion of the Member’s Office Budget for the payment of these contractors. Members may not hire or enter into a contract for consulting and professional services with members of their immediate family (spouses and children and their spouses and children).

The House covers the cost of printing newsletters, commonly known as “householders”, sent by the Member to all constituents. Members have free mailing privileges to send out householders and other materials. [335]  These mailing privileges are often referred to as “franking” privileges. “Franking” is the process by which Members of the House of Commons, by affixing their signatures to an addressed piece of mail, may have that mail delivered postage-free anywhere in the country. It is available only for mail that is addressed to places in Canada and may not be used for parcels, special delivery or other special services offered by Canada Post. Mail addressed to Members of the House is also delivered free of charge if sent to a Parliamentary Hill address. These mailing privileges begin on the day the notice of the Member’s election is published by the Chief Electoral Officer in the Canada Gazette and end 10 calendar days after a dissolution of Parliament or 10 days after that person ceases to be a Member. [336] 

The House of Commons provides Members with modern office equipment and services such as extensive long-distance calling, electronic mail and internet facilities, internal mail and messenger services, printing, security and language training. The Library of Parliament, through its research and reference services, provides Members, upon request, with research papers, background information and press clippings.

Members are allowed regular return trips to travel between Ottawa and the constituency and on occasion elsewhere in Canada. [337]  Members or persons representing the Member can be reimbursed for travel costs while travelling within the constituency or within the province or territory in which the constituency is situated to a maximum amount established by the Board of Internal Economy. [338]  Receipts must be submitted and the amount reimbursed is deducted from the Member’s office budget.

When Parliament is dissolved, Members of the House of Commons are discharged from their responsibility to attend the sittings of the House and cease to be Members of Parliament. However, the Parliament of Canada Act provides for the continuation of a number of provisions upon dissolution. For purposes of the allowances payable, a Member is deemed to continue to be a Member of the House until the date of the following election. [339]  Between the date Parliament is dissolved and the day of the election, budgetary funds, goods, services and premises made available by the House to its Members are to be used to carry out Members’ parliamentary functions.

Members who are defeated or who did not seek re-election are provided with travel benefits to come to Ottawa to close their office. If a Member resigns before Parliament is dissolved, his or her travel benefits cease as of the day of resignation. Household moving expenses from the constituency to Ottawa and back are covered once per Parliament.

On behalf of the Board of Internal Economy, the Speaker tables in the House an annual report of Members’ expenses. Members receive a copy of their annual expenditures prior to disclosure. [340] 

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