A GTA Conservative MP is calling for the immediate end to a little-known perk that allows MPs to put their $75 daily meal allowance towards their mortgage on an Ottawa residence.
Turner said that, as it stands, an MP can decide to buy a house in Ottawa, rather than rent. (Those who rent are entitled to accommodation and related living expenses of up to $24,000 a year, recently increased from $20,000.) If the house is eventually sold at a profit, the MP pockets the difference, even though taxpayers’ dollars enabled the politician to buy the home.
“I can get my $75 cheque delivered to my office, I can save them up and once a month I can put them against my mortgage.”
The author of the story is GTA Bureau Chief Richard Brennan, late of the Star's Queen’s Park bureau, who would be familiar with the fact that in 2004 the Ontario Liberal party purchased a house in Toronto for Dalton McGuinty to live in. There is no mention in today’s story of the fact that McGuinty hands his approximately $1,460-per-month MPP housing allowance over to the Ontario Liberal party as “rent” on the Rosedale house.
As I posted on my blog in May, the purchase price of the house was $995,000 and a $1,000,000 mortgage in favour of Scotiabank is registered against it. I estimated that the monthly carrying costs for the house would be close to $7,000, including a mortgage payment of $5,845.90 (assuming 5% interest and a 25-year amortization). All the documents are posted here.
To date, the Star has published little detail about McGuinty’s housecapades, revealing only that the house’s price was “in the high six figures” and that the party would accept his monthly housing allowance as adequate rent.
A search of the Star’s archives using the terms McGuinty, house or home, and mortgage, reveals no articles mentioning the payment of the Ontario Liberal party’s mortgage with McGuinty’s MPP allowance.
If an MP were to claim the meal subsidy for 20 days out of a month, that would translate into $1,500, roughly equivalent to what McGuinty is handing the Ontario Liberal party every month.
In fairness, it could be argued that there is a difference between a housing allowance going to pay a mortgage, and a meal allowance going to pay a mortgage. But I am puzzled by the Star’s two-and-a-half-year silence on McGuinty subsidizing a mortgage with his allowance, while trumpeting only the theoretical possibility that MPs might subsidize a mortgage with theirs.