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Monday, June 16, 2008

Ottawa Spending Scandal - A Case of Institutionalized Corruption

Thanks to widespread press coverage of the government spending scandal in Newfoundland and Labrador, with former provincial politicians and cabinet ministers winding their way through the courts for allegedly misusing constituency allowances, the report this week in the Toronto Star highlighting federal spending practices has a distinct ring of familiarity to it.

According to the news agency, federal Cabinet Ministers are making a practice of conveniently scheduling official business to coincide with Conservative party fund raisers and then claiming travel costs. The result: You and I pay for the expense out of our tax dollars while the Conservative Party of Canada reaps the benefit from the fund raising efforts.

The investigation highlights several trips made by a multiple Cabinet Ministers including Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn, Defense Minister Peter MacKay as well as Ministers Jim Prentice, Stockwell Day, Chuck Strahl and Gary Lunn.

This kind of misuse of taxpayer’s money is a familiar happening to the folks in Newfoundland and Labrador but that’s where the similarity ends.

As soon as the situation was uncovered in Newfoundland and Labrador the government’s top cabinet Minister was immediately fired, resignations were tendered, in both government and opposition ranks, a police investigation ensued and charges were laid. The reaction from the Harper government is simply to… well, actually there has been no reaction from the Harper government unless you count offhand comments from representatives who simply qualify their actions by saying, “… this is the way it has always been done and the Liberals did it too”.

Now that's a novel defense. That one was tried in Newfoundland and Labrador as well. Court dates were still set.

The Prime Minister for his part appears to have lost his voice and is once again displaying an inability to make the “tough” decisions that need to be made by a responsible leader who has the best interests of constituents at heart rather than those of his party and political future.

For nearly two years Stephen Harper and Danny Williams have made no secret of how completely opposed to one another’s points of view they are. It seems that when it comes to the misappropriation of public funds their individual approaches are no different. One took the actions required to clean up government, the other, who ran on a platform of clean government, refuses to even awknowlege anything is wrong.

When elected officials spend countless thousands in tax dollars to attend party fund raisers it’s a situation that should raise the ire of all taxpayers, especially those who don’t support the party in question but who, through this backdoor practice, end up helping to fill party’s war chest.

The following Toronto Star excerpts speak volumes about the immoral and unethical practices taking place in Ottawa and being tacitly condoned by the Prime Minister.

The Star easily found 25 examples of Tory ministers mixing fundraising and department business, each trip typically costing taxpayers several thousand dollars.

The federal Conservatives – elected on promises to be squeaky clean – are using government resources to help fill their election war chest.

When Peter MacKay flew to British Columbia in January, he split his time between government business and two Tory fundraising gigs. Taxpayers footed the bill.

When then-Indian affairs minister Jim Prentice flew to Nova Scotia to meet with provincial chiefs, he headlined a Conservative fundraising dinner in Prince Edward Island. Taxpayers paid for the trip.

When Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn jetted off from a Quebec fisheries forum to attend a government meeting in Manitoba, he also guest-starred at a local Tory fundraising banquet.

Hearn was also in Nova Scotia and attended a fundraiser.

Total cost (for Hearn's travels): about $5,500.

Stockwell Day (public safety); Chuck Strahl (Indian affairs) and Gary Lunn (natural resources) gave keynote speeches at the conference, and the theme was getting ready for the next election.

Strahl billed taxpayers about $5,000 for a five-day period that included the Tory conference. His expense report says he had "First Nations meetings" in Vancouver.

For the Conservative party, the trip cost nothing, though about $40,000 was raised in Victoria and Kelowna.

Lunn's expense reports show a $10,000 expense for several trips in a short period, leading up to the conference, and ending in British Columbia. His assistant, who typically travels with him, shows on her expense report a $5,000 bill to taxpayers for a five-day period that includes the three-day conference in Harrison Hot Springs.

Former Indian affairs minister Prentice, a Calgary MP who is now industry minister, travelled in February 2007 to Nova Scotia to take part in negotiations with Mi'kmaq chiefs in the province. He then attended a Conservative fundraising dinner in Malpeque, P.E.I. According to reports disclosed by the department, the total cost for Prentice and his political aide for the eastern trip was just under $7,000. A charter flight was included; the documents don't explain the destination.

The regularity of these trips and the huge amount of money both expensed and raised, to help fill Conservative coffers, make the fridge magnet purchases and charitable donations of disgraced and criminally charged Newfoundland and Labrador politicians pale by comparison.

When political mishandling of public money became known in Newfoundland and Labrador sweeping new spending controls were put in place. A full investigation was undertaken by the Auditor General and charges were laid. The position of the Newfoundland and Labrador government was clear, clean up the mess and let the chips fall where they may. Stephen Harper’s silence and total inaction over Ottawa’s misuse of public funds is clear indicator of his government’s position.

In the first quarter of 2008, the Conservative party has raised $5 million – outstripping both the Liberals and NDP with a dollar ratio of about five to one.


Anonymous said...

Governments EQUATE to Corruption, no matter whether they operate in Africa or Canada.

I have no faith in anything anymore. There was a time in Newfoundland and Labrador when we, including myself, equated a politician to being almost a representative of God, but that day is long gone. We know that we don't think that way anymore, but I believe the Governments have NOT caught up with or detected the change in our people. We have become ENLIGHTENED.

Is it any wonder? That is given the Natural Resources that the province of Newfoundland and Labrador was endowed with by Nature, and despite the many Natural Resources of every type, which were present, the resulting economy which was created here remains almost negligible.


Anonymous said...

I would like to add the era when I, as a Newfoundlander and Labradorian, equated politicians with a disciple of God ended with the reign of Brian Tobin.

I was very disillusioned after Mr. Tobin's tenor as Premier, especially after he went back to Ottawa and received so many gratifications and I hadn't seen anything accomplished in the province because of his reign as Premier.

And after what happened with the Voisey's Bay Development, which saw the Nickel Ore go to Sudbury, Ontario and Thompson, Manitoa to keep the smelters going in those towns, smelters which were winding down because of the lack of Nickel Ore instead of the Nickel Ore being smelted in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, preferably Labrador. Since then I have very little time for politicians and their smoke screen antics and manoeuvres.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you all. You are right as usual. The only way to clean up government is to appoint a rich person who doesn't need to raise money. Don't put that person through the trials of a leadership or anything else, just anoint them. If they're rich they must be smart, therefore that would be the best kind of leader... a person who could lead for life and have no need of MHAs, etc. That's what we need.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they are trying to cut down on Carbon emissions. ;-}


Anonymous said...

Danny or his ministers would never do anything like that, right?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the NL Liberals and NDP wouldn't do anything like that either, right?

At least Danny and the local Conservatives helped clean house when it happened here (with all the parties) not like Harper who just sweeps everything under the rug. It's his George W. mentality. "As long as you pretend everything is great there's no problem."

Calvin said...

If you’re going to sit there and spew off against Danny Williams, look outside the box and see what he has done for the people of his province.

For shame on you to judge a fellow mans character. Shows the level of thought that a mind such as yours is capable of.

Let’s sit back and see were he has taken the province of Newfoundland and Labrador from, and then see were he wants to take it.

If it wasn’t for Mr. Williams the Harper Government would be facing a separation battle never seen in the history of this country you call Canada. You people that call yourself Canadian should be extremely grateful that Premier Williams did have the capability to turn things in this province around. He sensed the mood in his province and he responded accordingly, and the people responded to him.

Great leaders are defined by the people and times around them. Not the other way around. Gee Myles and I wish I had half the education that some in here have. I would be a millionaire myself. ;)

PS, the ignorant factor has greatly increased on the Blog Myles. Why don’t we allow these fine people to come forward with names? This anonymouse factor is cowardly to say the least.

Anonymous said...

No I don't spose Danny never >>>cancer scandal<<< swept anything under the rug.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 12:33

Sure Anon, firing your top minister, opening the house to the Auditor General and calling for a full public inquiry can only be considered "Sweeping it under the rug". I just wish Harper would "Sweep it under the rug" half as much and maybe something would get addressed on this issue in Ottawa.

Get a life.

Calvin said...

June 19, 2008 12:23 AM

I know that I am slow to respond at times Myles but this anon is exactly what I have spoken about several times in here.

Eyes and Ears for the Anti-Christ !!!

Absolutely sickening to say the least. You my good man, have what I would like to call “NO CUTH” when you grow up, you just might find out what that means.

Go educate your mind.

“ Long Live Republic Of ”

time for a change said...

"what he has done for the people of his province"

Calvin - please explain.

What has he done? Really? What has this man done besides watch oil prices rise to record highs, and accept a big cheque from Ottawa. What else has he done?


Anonymous said...

How about getting a better oil royalty regime in place and signing a deal for Hebron. How about putting more money into schools, roads and healthcare over the past couple of years than any previous government, how about paying down more debt than any previous govt. How about "that 2 billion cheque?" yes, that was a big one too. How about giving many NLers back a sense of pride in our homeland that was lost over the years.

I'm not saying the guy is perfect, far from it and he makes a lot of mistakes, but when you compare him and what he's done to the Liberal leaders who ran this place for a decade or more before him, there's no comparison. They were useless sellouts to Ottawa and more concerned with keeping the status quo than going out on a limb to try and get anything done.

Anonymous said...

Anon of June 20, 2008 9:06 AM- You are so right.

Premier Williams is far from perfect and I, not for a moment, think that he is in the political racket just for the love of his people. There is a duel purpose.

Yes, the love of his people and wanting to move them forward is one reason, through creating a great economic region here, and no doubt is foremost in his mind, but, if he succeeds, he will, I think, have benefited business wise as well. I have no problem with that and I hope he does.

If Premier Williams doesn't do anything more for the people than what he has already done, he will still have done more than all the politicians, both provincial and federal, of the past 58 years under Canada and the remaining 450 while being affiliated with Britain, where that Empire robbed us to the bones and forgot about its poor citizens whil making many Britains and others wealthy.

To Recap, I suspect the Energy Sector will make Premier Williams a lot of money and he will have set the province of Newfoundland and Labrador on the course to being one of the top economic regions in the World, the place it should have attained since we became part of the most touted nation in the world, Canada.

I won't mind that and I don't think many other Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will either.

Go for it Premier Williams! Please make this province into the Economic Tiger that it should have been for the past 58 years and beyond, had others jurisdictions not been sucking the life blood, in the name of our natural resources, out of our beautiful Newfoundland and Labrador.

We have had abundant natural resources here, and a prime geographical location which proved itself to the world during the Second World War, since our province protected all of North America, since the War came directly to our doorsteps. We have the carbon footprints still present of the American and Canadian Military personell, who were here to prove that, since there were 4 large American bases here and a large Canadian contingency as well. We know they migrated once the threat was gone to give other areas economic benefit. Another way that we were abused.

I have no problem with Newfoundlanders and Labradorians growing great corporations from our resources, especially when those corporations will be helping the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to stay at home and work their own resources.

I would, on the other hand, have a lot of problems if our Premier saw to it that only he and his political friends became rich on our resources and passed the remainder of the benefits over to large outside Corporations, such as big Gas and OilCorporations.

I don't think our Premier will do that, though, since I do believe one of the foremost reasons that he became Premier was to see that his brothers and sisters in this province would one day realize from their natural resources what they should have more than 58 years ago.

Thanks Premier Williams for what you have done thus far and please go all the way so that the province of Newfoundland and Labrador can realize the greatness from its resources and location wealth that it should have attained right from the beginning.

Calvin said...

June 19, 2008 7:51 PM, I'm sorry anon.

I'm not trying to sound ignorant or to be rude to you, but please read a newspaper or pick up a book.

Newfoundland and Labrador is on the cusp of their second “Golden Age.”

Sir Robert would be proud.

I have always said that I would never jump on the Danny Williams band wagon. My first and foremost reason is that he almost refuses to endorse what I feel the province needs more then anything. Its own Political Party. Until we have this we are just waiting to be run over again, by what I would call the “Canadian Wolf.”

Without a voice our nations concerns and needs will never be seen by the rest of the world. This must be shown. The plight of the people of Labrador must be shown to the world .We must let the world see why our riches areas are being exploited and why the people of those areas are not benefiting from that exploitation.

For the love of GOD, our need to see the world outside the box is even greater .St Johns is not an “Over Passé” it’s a landing strip for an invading army. But, at least now we have the common séance to tell the world why we feel like we do.

Labrador should be one of the wealthiest spots on the planet, but it is abused and used by Canada to the point were it makes me want to almost cry. But, these people don’t see how St Johns placed their trust in a federal system and was kicked because of it.

Mr. Williams has shown us one thing that I believe he will be known for thru history. His will to show his nation that we must do it for ourselves.

When we stop asking for what is ours, it will fall into our lap.”NO MORE GIVEAWAYS”

“Long Live Republic Of”

Anonymous said...

I agree that the plight of Labrador should be shown to the world, and the abuse of Labrador by Newfoundland exposed for the colonialism and hypocrisy that it is.

Anonymous said...

hi,sort of new to this stuff...but someone explain this,what on gods earth a nfldr and labradorian is supposed to be...sounds like an attempted IDENTITY THEFT by the colonizers.
we still are allowed to use those kind of words,i hope.i dare say i would use them anyway.you are one OR the other.Being Labradorian is a native IDENTITY! this you do not aquire by moving in even if you are nice about it.if you nfldrs were colonizing in lets say CHINA...then you would be...hmmm and HARUMMPH,the hell you would.these are matters of JUSTICE,not merely colonial laws and oddly named jurisdictions.i am Labradorian,by blood and birth descended from Micmac-Iroquois and Inuit people...PEOPLE.Sure we are a mixed people and damn proud of it.while you may feel shafted by canada,we feel extra-well done by both illegal jurisdictions.i have euroancestry too,but i am INDIGENOUS to my ancestors land.we do not share our identity as easily as the papers were signed in st johs and ottawa.never accept it.it really is a colonial attempt to steal our identity.my name is kirby lethbridge,originally from Paradise River,LABRADOR.I grew up in Cartwright,LABRADOR and am pretty tired of hearing the sheepherders boasting of how prud they are to be a nfldr and LABBADOREAN.yes it really is stealing an identity...kirby,montreal