Auditor General: Conservative Government Mislead Parliament

Auditor General Sheila Fraser concluded that the Conservative Government hid facts from Parliament to convince them to allow the Conservatives to create a $50 million G8 fund which allowed Industry Minister Tony Clement the funds to upgrade his riding. To top that, the way that the money was funded was deemed illegal. This scandal is yet another to add to the list of Harper’s failed attempts at accountability and a full public investigation should be carried through to search the “tough on crime” party’s records with a fine tooth comb.

These findings contained a confidential report that was to be heard in parliament on April 5 – had the government not been defeated.

This report analyzed Harper’s $1 billion cost of last June’s G8 summit in Ontario and the G20 gathering in downtown Toronto – one that saw police and protesters clash violently as police lost order and treated the streets as a war zone.

The report has been delayed due to the election and will be tabled after May 2.

A draft that was tabled on January 13 stated that the “G8 summit liaison and implementation team” chose the 32 projects that received funding, as reported by the Toronto Star. The draft stated that there was no apparent regard for the needs of the summit or the conditions laid down by the government.
The report finds an allocation of money to questionable projects. Notably:
  • $274,000 on public toilets 20 km from the summit site.
  • $100,000 on a gazebo an hour's drive away.
  • $1.1 million for sidewalk and tree upgrades 100 km away.
  • $194,000 for a park 100 km away.
  • $745,000 on downtown improvements for three towns nearly 70 km away.
In November 2009, spending estimates which asked for $83 million for a Border Infrastructure Fund aimed at reducing congestion at border crossings was tabled, according to the report.It is also worth noting that the government didn’t reveal that it intended to devote $50 million of that money to a G8 legacy fund, even though Huntsville is nowhere near the Canada-U.S. border.
“This ensures that public funds are spent as authorized by Parliament for the purposes intended by Parliament. 

We found that money expended for the G8 infrastructure projects under the Border Infrastructure Fund were approved by Parliament without any indication that $50 million of the appropriations for border congestion reduction would be spent on G8 legacy projects.
Therefore, in our opinion, Parliament was misinformed.” 

Auditor General Sheila Fraser
The report stated that the government rejected the report’s finding claiming that their actions were legitimate. However, as the Toronto Star reported, Fraser said that bumping money from one find to another “created a lack of transparency about the purpose of the request for funding and, in our view, Parliament was not provided with a clear explanation of the nature of the approval being sought.”
“This matter raises broader legal questions related to the use of appropriated funds by government. Parliament may wish to examine these competing interpretations to ensure that vote wording reflects Parliament's intentions.” 

Auditor General Sheila Fraser
Past G8/G20 summits costed much less. Quebec City got $4.5 million to host the Summit of the Americas in 2001 and Alberta's Kananaskis region got $5 million to host the G8 in 2001.

Fraser said, “We are concerned by the lack of documentation around the selection of projects for funding.” She added that it is vital to “demonstrate transparency, accountability and value for money.”

Fraser’s team examined the list of the 32 projects and could not find that they met the purpose of their necessity. Fraser said, “We were informed that at the time of the announcement for this project, (Foreign Affairs) had already determined the center would not be suitable as it was not expected to be completed on time.”

This report will turn up the heat as Clement is already accused of spending wrongfully extra on his riding.
The Liberal party calculated that Clement’s riding got four to five times more on average than every other Canadian riding. They calculated that $92 million was spent on Clement’s riding as a result of the G20 summit.

Michael Ignatieff urged Harper to authorize the release of the report before May 2, however if wrong doing is involved, it is highly unlikely that he will accept it – especially when Harper wants to win a majority government.

Party Reactions to the News

“These are shocking revelations. We knew they’d been spraying money around like drunken sailors in Tony Clement’s riding. What we didn't know was that they lied to Parliament…and may have broken the law. This is not me telling you this. This is the Auditor General of Canada.
As far as I can see they sat around a Muskoka bar handing out contracts to their friends. This is an absolute scandal. 
You can’t have a minister’s cronies spending public money. It’s just utterly unacceptable.” 
Michael Ignatieff – Liberal Party
"We believe the report of the Auditor General makes [a public inquiry] even more pressing.” 
Jack Layton – New Democratic Party
“We're prepared to facilitate the release of the final version of the report in any way necessary. We’re hoping to help them out, so I’m not sure about the logistics around that, but we’re prepared to help them facilitate it any way we can.” 
“It’s our understanding that it does not reflect the final version. I won’t get into detail.” 
Ryan Sparrow – Conservative Party