Put your money where your mouth is.
That’s the not-too-subtle message from Premier Kathleen Wynne to Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath over expenses.
Liberal sources told the Star that Wynne and Government Services Minister John Milloy will announce new legislation Thursday that would force opposition leaders and MPPs from all parties to post their expenses online.
In addition, the new accountability legislation is also expected to ensure expenses of employees at 197 government agencies will be publicly available.
Currently, only the premier, cabinet ministers their staff, and senior mandarins are bound by law to make their receipts public.
Wynne’s decision to try to make such disclosure compulsory for her political rivals and others comes against the backdrop of a looming provincial election this spring.
While both Hudak and Horwath have volunteered to put out their expensed travel, accommodation, meals and incidentals, neither leader’s information is as up to date as that posted by the premier and her ministers.
The government bill, which will be formally introduced in the legislature later this month, would make it mandatory for both opposition leaders and all their staff to post their expenses.
Liberal, Conservative and New Democratic MPPs would also have to abide by the new rules, but their staff members would be exempt.
“This is all about increasing accountability and transparency,” a government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wednesday.
Both Hudak and Horwath have long called for greater openness in such areas, so it will be difficult for them to oppose Wynne’s move.
The Tories post their leader’s expenses online, but they have not been updated since June 22, 2013.
Hudak’s office said Wednesday that the delay is due to the fact the receipts are still with the integrity commissioner, who oversees such things.
Although the New Democrats voluntarily display Horwath’s expenses on a caucus website, when the Star checked Wednesday afternoon they had not been updated since June 2011 — four months before the last provincial election.
Following questions from the Star, however, the NDP leader’s data was amended later in the day. Now, it goes up until July 2013 — though there remain gaps from mid-August 2010 until the end of that year and for the second half of 2011.
Wynne’s expenses are current to only Sept. 30, 2013.
The government said the lag is due to the fact that the integrity commissioner has not yet released the latest batch to be posted.
Since 2010, expense receipts for senior Ontario public servants, cabinet ministers, political staff, and senior executives at the province’s largest Crown agencies have been available online.
With the Conservatives and New Democrats likely to exploit past expense controversies at the ORNGE air ambulance service, eHealth Ontario, and the Pan Am Games, the minority Grits are hoping to insulate themselves against further criticism.
The government is also mindful that after the expense scandals that have roiled the Senate, there is a greater public appetite for increased transparency surrounding public officials.
Last October, the Liberals joined the Tories and New Democrats to close a long-standing loophole that enabled MPPs to receive up to $21, 000 in housing allowances even if their ridings were close to Queen’s Park.
Now, under the Members’ Accommodation Allowances Act — which all three parties helped write — MPPs whose ridings are 50 km or less from legislature would be not qualify for payment regardless of where they live.
That change was made after former Thornhill Tory MPP Peter Shurman was eligible for a Toronto housing allowance because his principal residence was in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Shurman, who always maintained he did nothing wrong because he followed the rules and made Hudak aware of the arrangement, retired from provincial politics in December.
Kathleen Wynne wants all MPPs’ expenses made public