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John Baird scrutinized for "freeloading" on taxpayers' property

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is under scrutiny after CTV news learned he and six buddies had a vacation at the official residence of Canada's High Commissioner to Great Britain. The scrutiny intensified as we learned Baird used tax-payer owned assets in New York on two separate occasions for vacation use.

CTV reported Baird stayed in the Mcdonald House in central London with six buddies while on vacation in England. The house is only used by the Prime Minister and Governor General when in the UK on business.

Liberal MP Roger Cuzner called the vacation "disappointing."

“When you see a high-profile minister of the Crown that takes advantage of the taxpayer in this way…if he was on government business, that’s one thing but certainly being on vacation with a bunch of his buddies, it’s an abuse of the taxpayer.”

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar went a step further and said Baird and his friends were freeloading.

“The way it works for the Conservatives is if you’re a buddy of the Conservative Party, it’s open the doors and freeload,” he said.

The building was used by Canada since it was bought from the US government in 1960. The building sits in the central location in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Baird's office said he paid his way. “Mr. Baird paid his own way. His own taxis. His own drinks.”

Gordon Campbell, Canada's High Commissioner to Great Britain, said he invited his boss to use the place. “I invited him to use the apartment. I wasn't going to be there and the staff was not there. He used it as my friends would use it.”

Baird's ministerial spokesman Joseph Lavoie defended him, saying, "The minister personally paid for the trip himself, including [the] flight, and personally paid for transportation to and from airport by cab, as well as around London."

Baird's office said he also took a vacation in New York city December 28, 2011 and January 2, 2012, using the residence of the Canadian Consul General John Prato. 

"The minister has two friends who happen to be heads of missions. He has taken them both up on their offer to stay as a personal guest of theirs," Lavoie wrote. "On both occasions, no expenses were incurred and no taxpayer monies were used."

Conservative Senate leader Marjory LeBreton defended Baird's visit during yesterday's senate question period, saying he saved taxpayers money. "This trip did not cost taxpayers a single dime. Minister Baird has saved taxpayer dollars in recent years by staying at official residences rather than in expensive hotels when travelling on official business."

Liberal Senator Jane Cordy responded the visits weren't business-related. "Those are pretty good accommodations for an eight-day stay in London. Eight days of accommodations, free of charge, in a mansion that is owned by the taxpayers of Canada and that is valued at more than $500 million. Who can sign up to stay there?"

Baird's professional management has also come under scrutiny. Contradicting LeBreton's statement, on his last official visit to London in 2012, Baird charged taxpayers $300 per night at the Carleton Club.
What do you think of the recent news that John Baird is part of the Conservative culture of entitlement? Are you fed up of politicians using taxpayers' money and assets for personal and/or partisan use? Who were the six guests that accompanied him in London? Share this article and join the discussion and let us know what you think: Facebook, Twitter, Google+.