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No need for MP audit since buying elephants 'couldn't happen here'

There is no chance that a Member of Parliament could buy an elephant, insists a spokesman for the committee that oversees Parliament's expenses.

Liberal MP Marcel Proulx said the Board of Internal Economy is still considering a 10-month-old request from Auditor-General Sheila Fraser to audit Parliament's internal operations, including the expenses of MPs. A similar request is being considered by a similar board in the Senate.

"We are looking into it," he said Monday in an interview. "There hasn't been a decision."

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Audits of the British House of Commons and of the Nova Scotia legislature have revealed serious cases of legislators charging everything from large-screen televisions (in Nova Scotia) to cleaning a moat (in Britain) to the taxpayer. An audit of constituency expenses in Newfoundland in 2006 sent four former legislators to jail.

But such "unfortunate situations ... couldn't happen here," Mr. Proulx maintained.

MPs' expenses, he said, are closely monitored under explicit guidelines and fully audited by KPMG.

"Let's say I decided to buy an elephant," he postulated, "and I brought the bill to the House of Commons and I submitted it. It would be rejected."

The elephant wouldn't qualify within any spending envelope and the MP wouldn't be able to justify an elephant as a necessary parliamentary function, he explained.

"The only budget that could allow something like that would be as a gift to an outstanding citizen of my riding, and there'd be a limit of about a hundred dollars on it," Mr. Proulx said.

We note Mr. Proulx's explanation, and take it in good faith. Still, given all the evidence of past abuses in other legislatures, a public look at the books would let us know if any Members of Parliament picked up a pachyderm really, really cheap.

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About the Author

John Ibbitson started at The Globe in 1999 and has been Queen's Park columnist and Ottawa political affairs correspondent.Most recently, he was a correspondent and columnist in Washington, where he wrote Open and Shut: Why America has Barack Obama and Canada has Stephen Harper. He returned to Ottawa as bureau chief in 2009. More

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