Guidelines for Expense Claims for Cabinet Ministers, Opposition Leaders, and Their Staff
The Office of the Integrity Commissioner reviews expenses relating to Meals, Hospitality, Travel, Hotel (and similar types of accommodation) that are incurred in the performance of a ministerial, parliamentary assistant, opposition leader and their respective staffs’ duty or function.
The review is conducted to ensure that expenses comply with the Allowable Expense Rules (the “Rules”). The Integrity Commissioner will also continue to use various resources as a reference point in determining whether an expense is reasonable.
This document is meant to clarify the Rules by explaining what the Commissioner considers when reviewing expenses, but is not meant to replace the Rules.
If you are unsure whether an expense is allowable, please contact the Office of the Integrity Commissioner for guidance and advice.
When reviewing expenses, the Commissioner keeps in mind the Governing Principle of the Rules (Rule 9): Expenses must be "reasonable and appropriate", taking into account the circumstances in which they were incurred.
In certain instances, it may be necessary and appropriate to make an exception with regards to the amount of an expense or an expense itself. If the person approving the expense believes that an exception should be made because of special circumstance(s), these must be well documented with the claim. The Commissioner will review the circumstance(s) and reason(s) for the exception before determining whether it is allowable.
All exceptions must be fair and equitable, reasonable and appropriate given the circumstances.
Please note that some rules are mandatory and cannot have exceptions (e.g. no alcohol can be claimed with meals – excluding hospitality expenses).
There are two types of allowable meal expenses – those incurred while working through normal meal periods while at headquarters, and those incurred while traveling outside of headquarters (at least 24 km away). In general working meals are to be provided in-house.
For meals outside the workplace, designated persons will be reimbursed at the meal reimbursement rates set out below:
Meals Rates in Canada
These rates align with the Travel, Meal and Hospitality Expenses Directive.
The rates include taxes and gratuities. Meal expenses can go over these rates, but only the maximum meal rate can be claimed if no reasonable justification for an exception has been provided.
Meal Rates Outside of Canada
When determining appropriate meal rates while traveling outside of Canada, please use the rates established by the National Joint Council "NJC" which are found in Appendices C & D. You may access the National Joint Council website link here.
Gratuities and taxes on alcohol
All gratuities on meals should be no more than 15% of the bill.
When there is alcohol on a meal receipt, be sure to remove the cost of the alcohol, as well as the tax and amount of the gratuity for the alcohol.
All claims must have an itemized receipt. If there is not an itemized receipt, a written explanation must be submitted to explain why the receipt is unavailable and a description itemizing and confirming the expenses must be provided.
For any meal with an MPP, government or caucus staff in attendance, these people should be identified by name. In addition, please identify the Ministry, Agency of the government or caucus.
Hospitality refers to the provision of food and beverages, including alcohol, accommodation, transportation and similar amenities. Hospitality cannot be offered to persons who are members of the government and/or opposition caucuses or employed by the Ontario government, including persons who are appointed to a provincial agency, board or commission.
When extending hospitality, the cost of the meal should strike a balance between economy (the expenses represent a prudent use of public funds) and proportionality (the expenses reflect what is customary for such functions).
When extending hospitality to external parties, alcoholic beverages cannot exceed the total cost of food. Hospitality that consists of only alcohol expenses is not permitted. Hospitality that consists of only alcohol expenses is not permitted. Where possible, preference should be given to wine, beer and spirits produced in Ontario.
For any meal with MPPs, government or opposition staff in attendance, these people should be identified by name and identify the Ministry, Agency or caucus where they work.
It is important to provide details. The claim form must state the “To and From” locations as well as “Business Purpose”. A receipt must be provided in order to receive reimbursement. Gratuity should not be more than 10% of the fare.
Mileage vs. Car Rental
All must consider car rental vs. mileage when determining the most economical means of travel. Most car rental agencies offer a government rate of $35 to $60 per day with unlimited mileage.
When renting a car, advance booking is recommended to ensure that an appropriate vehicle is available. Additional insurance coverage for a rental car is not required when a corporate card is used. Where applicable, refuel the vehicle before returning the car to avoid any additional charges.
Using a personal vehicle for business travel within and outside the GTA will be reimbursed on the basis of actual kilometres traveled, excluding kilometres between the claimant's home and regular place of business.
When booking a flight, be sure to choose the most economical fare (e.g. Air Canada Tango/Tango Plus or Porter Firm/Flexible). Very often, even if a change is necessary, the change fees on the lowest priced airfare bring the total price to less than a higher, more flexible fare. For cancellations, credits on low fare flights can be used up to 12 months after the cancellation date.
Means of Transportation
All travel must include a “Means of Transportation” such as: “drove with Minister in Minister’s car”, “rode with coworker”, etc.
All airfare, rail and bus travel must include a copy of a receipt (even if centrally billed) showing the cost, class and date of booking. Credit card statements alone are not acceptable as a receipt.
If parking a personal vehicle at the airport before taking a flight, claimants should consider using offsite or long term parking to reduce costs.
When booking hotel accommodation, use the the federal online accommodation directory as a guide. The directory provides information on service providers offering government rates.
The directory is available here.
Take into account that significant savings can be achieved by choosing a hotel that is in a less central location, even with the additional cost of taxi fare. However, it is also recommended, and allowed, that a hotel is in a safe environment.
Meals on hotel bills
Meals should be claimed separately and not as part of the hotel bill. Itemized receipts are required for the meal portion of the bill.
Claims submitted on a timely basis
All claims should be submitted on a timely basis – monthly or at most quarterly – and within the fiscal year in which they occurred.
From time to time, there will be exceptions; however, pursuant to Section 6 of the Act. Such exception should be approved by the Office of the Integrity Commissioner in advance, (if possible). If you have any questions, please contact us at 416-314-8983.
You may also be interested in:
Checklist Before You Travel
Travel Costs Within the GTA
Checklist Submitting Your Expense Claim
PDF formats are available below.