Monday, May 24, 2010

The real expenses scandal

Canadian Press is drawing everybody a road map these days. Anyone interested in the bigger picture might want to consider what they're telling us. Look at what they've uncovered just in the past week.

First, the Privy Council Office having been called out in an audit for backdating legal expenses in connection with the Mulroney-Schreiber inquiry. A no-no and something the Prime Minister's department should not be doing.

Second, we learned that the Prime Minister's personal stylist's travel expenses have been paid for by we, the taxpayer, for years, when we were told by off the record Prime Minister's Office personnel that the Conservative party was paying. That was false.

Third, we learned that the in and out election advertising scheme from the 2006 election is not looking to end well for the Harper Conservatives. That scheme involved them overspending on advertising expenses in the 2006 election and it's looking like either the Conservative party nationally or individual Conservative candidates, including three Harper cabinet ministers, are going to be held to account for that. Plus, again, there is a criminal offence that's been referred to the public prosecutor's office, which referral is languishing, for unknown reasons ("...there are reasonable grounds to believe a criminal offence was committed under the Canada Elections Act").

Fourth, a bit of embarrassment yesterday about the Prime Ministerial Challenger jet expenses, to promote the Economic Action Plan, what was it, 50 trips? Are we in a major deficit situation or is travel still conducted at Marie Antoinette pace? And within that report, a reminder of the unprecedented Harper road shows to deliver the economic report cards that he agreed to do. The costs for those have been totally unnecessary because they should have been delivered in the House of Commons. $250,000 unnecessarily spent, at a minimum.

Where does all this lead? To high places. The legal expense backdating to the Privy Council Office. The false representations on the stylist, to the Prime Minister's Office. The in and out matter? See above. The PM's flights and travelling partisan road shows? To his office.

Yet what do we hear on a Sunday of the long weekend? The Conservatives suddenly taking an interest in MP expenses. Suddenly saying, hmmm, ok to the Auditor General coming in to the Board of Internal Economy to come up with an audit solution. Time to go along with turning the lens on MPs, away from all of the above. Quite the pivot from Friday's shrug by Harper that it's not under his jurisdiction.

We also heard about the latest obstructionist ploy, only ministers will come to the committees, not staffers. More distraction, another flame to throw at the opposition. It's time to point the arrow elsewhere, away from the PMO, explaining all the news making on a holiday Sunday.

MPs? Yes, there's likely going to be some audit arrangement made now and down the road some scrutiny. But there's lots staring us right in the face, right here and now and it leads to a much more interesting place.