Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Prime Minister's Office should account for false representations on Harper's stylist

Can you spot the difference in the headlines?

From Sun Media: "Harper's groomer not on public payroll."

Elsewhere: "Harper's stylist no longer on public payroll." Did you catch that? The first headline implies she's not on the public payroll, possibly never has been. The second informs, correctly, that she was on the public payroll, but no longer. Just to be nit picky about the treatment of the story, for starters.

The stylist, who does his makeup, hair and picks his outfits (don't we all wish we had one of those?), has been employed by Harper since 2006. We learned new details of who has been footing the bill just last night. This is 2010, in case you need reminding. So that's one issue here, the belaboured transparency.

Secondly, there are issues of truthfulness here:
"We just don't talk about personnel matters, but off the record, she's paid by the party," said the source.

Muntean used to be on the public payroll, the source confirmed, but her salary was transferred to the Conservative party books sometime since 2007.

"I don't know why, but it's changed," said the source.

As for her extensive travel expenses, government sources have always maintained they're paid by the party.

Then, as now, no one in the Prime Minister's Office would go on the record about Muntean's salary and expenses — meaning no one can be held accountable for statements made to the media that turn out to be false or misleading.

The Public Accounts of Canada list an M. Muntean travelling among the prime minister's entourage at taxpayer expense for five trips abroad in 2006-07, five in 2007-08 and six in 2008-09. The data for 2009-10 is not yet available online.

A government source confirmed that taxpayers pay for Muntean's hotel and airfare when she travels with Harper, but the party covers all her incidental expenses.
(emphasis added)
To reinforce the point, government sources have always represented that the Conservative party has paid for Muntean's travel expenses. Falsely it turns out. That needs to be addressed by the Prime Minister's Office.

Secondly here, that the stylist is paid by the Conservative party is also information offered off the record. Is there any proof? Why should the salary information be believed when they haven't been truthful about the travel expenses?

This is the second story this week touching on questionable expense handling and the Prime Minister's department or office. Is there a problem with the tone at the top and the ethical culture being set? It sure looks like it.