Join Date: Dec 2007
anyone still think we elected the party of fiscal prudence?
Tony Clement kept auditor in dark on G8 spending, municipal files suggest - The Globe and Mail
When building gazebos violates the public trust - The Globe and Mail
...(T)he NDP bypassed the federal government, using freedom of information laws to seek out documents directly from municipalities. There, via hundreds of pages from Bracebridge and Huntsville, a very different picture emerged as to what federal officials knew.
For instance, the documents include minutes of a Feb. 27, 2009, meeting in Huntsville, chaired by Mr. Clement, where the minister explained how G8 legacy funding would work.
In addition to representatives from local communities, the meeting was also attended by four federal public servants from FedNor – a development agency for Northern Ontario then led by Mr. Clement – and two officials from Industry Canada, also led at the time by Mr. Clement.
Other meetings were attended by Gérald Cossette, then the G8 summit manager with the federal department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
At a news conference in Ottawa, NDP MP Charlie Angus said the documents show the funding process was able to escape the jurisdiction of the Auditor-General because it was all run out of Mr. Clement’s constituency office – which is not supposed to be involved in ministerial, or government, work.
“The use of a constituency office to funnel money is very disturbing,” Mr. Angus said, arguing the documents raise new questions about a process that has already attracted plenty of controversy.
“If you wanted money from Tony, call Tony’s staff. They’d get you the money. We didn’t know that. And what we also didn’t know was that senior bureaucrats who told the Auditor-General that they didn’t know anything about this process, sat in on meetings and helped write the criteria based on the suggestions of the local mayors. We didn’t know any of this and the question is, why didn’t we know this?”
Misled. The Auditor-General report’s may not use the word, but that’s what the federal government did to Parliament, and therefore to Canadians, by spending $50-million of public money in the Muskoka region of Ontario for the 2010 G8 summit, and calling it “investments in infrastructure to reduce border congestion.” Governments always play fiscal shell games, so why be moved to outrage this time?
First, even by standards of the cynic, the process was brazenly irregular. Muskoka is hundreds of kilometres from any border – a conveniently available existing line item was used as cover for the unrelated spending. There was no documentation around the choice of the 32 projects, which included new logistics centres that performed no G8-related logistics, new runways for airports where no G8-related planes landed, and gazebos and other goodies of marginal connection to the G8, all in Tony Clement’s riding.
Second, it put good public administration at the mercy of politics. Some modest tweaking of any kind of government spending for political gain is to be expected. But professional public servants ought, at least, to be at the table, to bring some rigour to the process. Instead, they were absent. The report does little to dispel a picture of Mr. Clement and then-infrastructure minister John Baird, two experienced ministers who should have known better, sitting down together, alone, to pick projects.