MP expenses need light too
Once is a chance. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is a pattern. And folks, we have a pattern. Right now, in Nova Scotia, provincial politicians are under the gun. Turns out they have an expense scandal that many people in Newfoundland and Labrador might recognize.
It’s a case of politicians taking advantage of lax expense rules – rules they set themselves – to claim video games, computer systems (as many as 12 per politician over a handful of years), home fireplaces, MP3 players, allowances of $48,000 apiece for which no receipts were required. And guess what. Just like in Newfoundland, the lax rules were set up by a secretive internal economy board of provincial politicians, and politicians are already blaming the process rather than their own sticky fingers for the excesses.
Here’s Premier Darrell Dexter: “Much of the disservice here to the people of Nova Scotia was the fact that we failed to put in place a clearly identifiable system that dealt with expenses.... Had we done that, then we wouldn’t be here today.” Blah, blah, blah. When in doubt, point fingers at the system and ignore ethics.
There’s a corresponding scandal, on a much larger scale, in Britain.
Meanwhile, in Quebec, the provincial opposition is asking why the province’s lieutenant-governor, Pierre Duchesne, is spending $800,000 – some of it for new medals struck with his own image. They’ve asked him to explain; he said he answers only to the Queen, and wouldn’t talk to the Quebec National Assembly.
Duchesne replaced Lise Thibault, who was tagged for overspending by auditors who pointed out she failed to supply receipts for some claims, double-billed for others, and spent government cash on golf games and family parties. In the end, $700,000 was unaccounted for, and Thibault has been charged with fraud, forgery and breach of trust.
It’s become clear that the urge to help yourself from the public trough crosses all party lines – and, apparently, all political consciences. ...What seems to be a constant ... is that politicians and other government representatives, given the option, will make the most of what they can get.
That’s why it’s important that they have the full-time financial oversight they apparently need to stay honest.
As legislatures across the land reveal a clear pattern of scarfing down entitlements, there’s one shoe that still has not dropped – and there’s no sign it will just yet.
Federal politicians still operate within a secret expense scheme that the federal auditor general is not allowed to review. As was the case in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Britain, Canada’s parliamentary expense funds have been ripe for the picking. We’ve seen what the other experiments in self-policing have brought – criminal charges and patterns of self-serving spending.
Who wants to bet that Canada’s parliamentarians are any different?
– The Telegram, St. John’s