EX-GGS must still be ac­count­able for money

Simcoe Reformer - - OPINION -

canada’s gov­er­nors gen­eral have some­times been se­lected for rea­sons of crass po­lit­i­cal po­si­tion­ing, rather than for their pro­found un­der­stand­ing of the core re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the of­fice. so it should not re­ally sur­prise us if they some­times stum­ble into con­tro­versy — ei­ther on the job or later.

cur­rent Gov­er­nor Gen­eral Julie Payette, for in­stance, has been crit­i­cized for her low pro­file, ne­glect of char­i­ta­ble groups, staff prob­lems and a lighter-thanex­pected work sched­ule. she may fix these things, but in the mean­time, let’s agree she wasn’t cho­sen for her deep knowl­edge of what it means to act as the Queen’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in canada.

be­fore her, michaëlle Jean, also was not noted for her ex­per­tise on con­sti­tu­tional mat­ters. af­ter leav­ing of­fice, she be­came head of the fran­co­phonie, from which she was re­cently dumped in favour of an african can­di­date. among other is­sues, Jean faced ac­cu­sa­tions of ex­ces­sive spend­ing.

Which brings us to rev­e­la­tions by Post­media that for­mer gov­er­nor gen­eral adri­enne clark­son, now more than a decade out of of­fice, is still ring­ing up an­nual bills of more than $100,000 in uniden­ti­fied ex­penses, all cov­ered by the gov­ern­ment of canada.

clark­son also got $3 mil­lion in startup grants for her char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion, the in­sti­tute for cana­dian ci­ti­zen­ship.

it seems, in re­cent times, only for­mer gov­er­nor gen­eral david John­ston has un­der­stood his role — not only con­sti­tu­tion­ally and sym­bol­i­cally, but in terms of ba­sic re­spect for pub­lic money.

We say “seems” be­cause we don’t know whether John­ston is also still mak­ing claims on the trea­sury be­yond his pen­sion. The pub­lic ac­counts broke out clark­son’s ex­pense claims only be­cause they ex­ceeded $100,000. an an­nual claim from any for­mer GG of less than that amount wouldn’t be made pub­lic.

but they should be. all ex­penses un­der this unique pro­gram should be trans­par­ent. clark­son, for ex­am­ple, has been heav­ily crit­i­cized this week for her con­tin­ued spend­ing, even though it’s pos­si­ble that a full ac­count­ing would per­suade cana­di­ans their money has been put to good use. (she was a pop­u­lar gov­er­nor gen­eral and an ar­tic­u­late am­bas­sador for many cana­dian val­ues.)

in ad­di­tion, rideau Hall it­self should be brought un­der the fed­eral ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion act. The ad­min­is­tra­tion of this act is of­ten wob­bly, but it would send a mes­sage.

fi­nally, po­lit­i­cal lead­ers should re­view who and how they ap­point gov­er­nors gen­eral. is it a pop­u­lar­ity con­test? a pa­tron­age job? some­thing more sub­stan­tial? an over­haul is needed.

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