And the bills keep com­ing

Tri-County Vanguard - - OPINION -

Not ev­ery At­lantic Cana­dian agrees with some of the more right-wing views of the Cana­dian Tax­pay­ers Fed­er­a­tion (CTF). The CTF op­poses gov­ern­ment waste and sup­ports lower taxes and greater ac­count­abil­ity. Those are worthy ob­jec­tives, but the fed­er­a­tion also ques­tions the fair­ness of equal­iza­tion pay­ments, plus gov­ern­ment help for and loans to busi­nesses.

In its ad­vo­cacy to re­duce the drain on tax­pay­ers, the fed­er­a­tion oc­ca­sion­ally raises solid is­sues, as it did when — spurred by a news story in the Na­tional Post — it called on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to curb gen­er­ous ex­pense pay­ments to former gov­er­nors gen­eral. The Post has re­ported that ex-CBC broad­caster Adri­enne Clark­son, who was gov­er­nor gen­eral from 1999 to 2005, has re­ceived more than $1.1 mil­lion in ex­penses since leav­ing that po­si­tion.

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

But there’s a point at which enough is enough. Yet there’s been a pro­gram in place since 1979 that al­lows former gov­er­nors gen­eral to bill tax­pay­ers for mil­lions in ex­penses in­def­i­nitely, af­ter they have left that post. Gov­er­nors gen­eral are se­lected in recog­ni­tion of ca­reer achieve­ments and per­sonal suc­cesses. They aren’t usu­ally se­lected from low or mid­dle-in­come brack­ets and are not hurt­ing fi­nan­cially, ei­ther en­ter­ing or ex­it­ing Rideau Hall.

Gov.-Gen. Julie Payette re­ceives some $290,000 in an­nual salary. It’s 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 re­ceive a gen­er­ous an­nu­ity and a lump sum pay­ment to help them set up a char­ity.

So, they serve the coun­try well and of­ten keep busy sup­port­ing worthy causes and events af­ter they leave of­fice, of­ten in a hu­man­i­tar­ian ca­pac­ity.

David John­ston just ac­cepted a po­si­tion co­or­di­nat­ing 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 French-speak­ing 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 tax­pay­ers fed­er­a­tion — and many Cana­di­ans — is the lack of trans­parency sur­round­ing the bills sub­mit­ted by Clark­son. Her as­sis­tant de­fended those hefty pay­ments, call­ing her “Canada’s most ac­tive and in­volved gov­er­nor gen­eral.” That’s a recog­ni­tion to be be­stowed by Cana­di­ans, not by Clark­son or her as­sis­tants.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has to deal with this 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.

Oth­er­wise, it smacks of a right­eous sense of en­ti­tle­ment.

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