Enough is enough

Annapolis Valley Register - - OPINION -

It’s not of­ten that At­lantic Cana­di­ans agree with some of the more right-wing views of the Cana­dian Tax­pay­ers Fed­er­a­tion (CTF). In prin­ci­ple, the CTF op­poses govern­ment waste, and sup­ports lower taxes and greater ac­count­abil­ity. Those are wor­thy ob­jec­tives, but the CTF also ques­tions the fair­ness of equal­iza­tion pay­ments, plus govern­ment help and loans to busi­nesses.

In its ad­vo­cacy to re­duce the drain on tax­pay­ers, the CTF oc­ca­sion­ally raises solid is­sues, such as when it re­cently called upon the fed­eral govern­ment to curb the gen­er­ous ex­pense pay­ments to for­mer gov­er­nors gen­eral. Ex-CBC broad­caster Adri­enne Clark­son, who served as gov­er­nor gen­eral from 1999 to 2005, has re­ceived more than $1.1 mil­lion in ex­penses since leav­ing her post.

Yes, there is some obli­ga­tion to as­sist our for­mer vice-re­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tives, since there is a gen­eral con­sen­sus that they never re­ally stop be­ing gov­er­nor gen­eral. Af­ter their term ex­pires, in what­ever they do, re­flects on the na­tion and the po­si­tion.

But there is a point where enough is enough. A pro­gram – in place since 1979 – al­lows for­mer gov­er­nors gen­eral to bill tax­pay­ers for mil­lions in ex­penses in­def­i­nitely af­ter they have left that post. Gov­er­nors gen­eral are se­lected for the po­si­tion as a recog­ni­tion for ca­reer achieve­ments and per­sonal suc­cesses. They don’t come from low- or mid­dle-in­come brack­ets and are not hurt­ing fi­nan­cially en­ter­ing or ex­it­ing Rideau Hall.

Gov.-Gen. Julie Payette re­ceives some $290,000 in an­nual salary. It’s a gen­er­ous re­mu­ner­a­tion and over her five-year term, she should be able to in­vest and save a fair por­tion of that amount. And upon leav­ing of­fice, gov­er­nors gen­eral also earn a gen­er­ous an­nu­ity and a lump sum pay­ment to help them set up a char­ity.

They serve the coun­try well. And they re­main busy sup­port­ing wor­thy causes and im­por­tant events af­ter they leave of­fice. Cana­di­ans hope they con­tinue to serve the na­tion in a wor­thy role or hu­man­i­tar­ian ca­pac­ity – es­pe­cially if we are go­ing to keep sub­si­diz­ing them. For ex­am­ple, David John­ston just ac­cepted a po­si­tion to co­or­di­nate lead­ers’ de­bates go­ing into the fed­eral elec­tion next fall. Michaëlle Jean re­cently served as sec­re­tary gen­eral of La Fran­co­phonie, an or­ga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sent­ing more than 40 French­s­peak­ing na­tions. Ed Schreyer still does char­ity work with men­tal health and ad­dic­tion char­i­ties, and Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity – 34 years af­ter de­part­ing Rideau Hall.

But what bothers the CTF – and many Cana­di­ans sup­port it on this is­sue – is the lack of trans­parency on the bills sub­mit­ted by Ms. Clark­son. Her as­sis­tant de­fended those hefty pay­ments be­cause she was “Canada’s most ac­tive and in­volved gov­er­nor gen­eral.” That’s a recog­ni­tion to be be­stowed by Cana­di­ans, not by Ms. Clark­son or her as­sis­tants.

The fed­eral govern­ment has to deal with this some­what del­i­cate is­sue. Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau says there will be a re­view to de­cide on best prac­tices for sup­port­ing for­mer gov­er­nors gen­eral. There must be con­trols, ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency to jus­tify th­ese gen­er­ous perks.

Ex­penses billed to Cana­dian tax­pay­ers must be rea­son­able and jus­ti­fied – even those com­ing from for­mer gov­er­nors gen­eral.

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