What do they have to hide?
Former governors general and judges should disclose expenses to taxpayers
In last week’s column, I argued the 1979 program compensating former governors general for “reasonable and justified expenses” needed a major revamp.
The first step would be to apply proactive disclosure for expenses claimed by ex-GGs so we can all see for ourselves whether they pass the smell test.
Kudos to former governor general David Johnston for stepping up to the plate and agreeing to do so.
I always admired the former scholar for his downto-earth approach to his office. He came across as the kind of guy you’d enjoy having a beer with.
Johnston said: “It is very important for the public to take an interest in that to be sure the money is well-spent. In my own case, we have just finished the first year since I stepped down and we will be posting a report.”
In contrast, the other living ex-governors general have shied away from any endorsing reforms.
They act as if Rideau Hall is a place time forgot.
Proactive disclosure means public servants must post their expenses online. It applies federally and in Ontario. It’s been the rule for well over a decade.
It means taxpayers like you and me get to know how public servants spend on travel, food and booze, without the red tape of making some kind of formal request.
It also has the tendency to keep people honest, knowing that money spent will be posted for all to see. Restraint inevitably kicks in.
Why does former governor general Adrienne Clarkson think she should be dealt with differently than politicians and public servants?
Lotta dollars, little sense
Her spending in some years is said to have exceeded $200,000. The total amount claimed may be around $1.1 million, but could be much higher.
In a lame piece published in the Globe and Mail a couple of weeks ago, she spoke at length of all the hard work she’s been doing “serving Canada” since her term as GG ended. Clarkson wrote: “Given that taxpayers’ money is involved, I want to address this matter.”
What she artfully dodged in her op-ed are the more basic questions: How much did you spend, and what did you spend it on?
Pretty simple stuff. Clarkson apparently vehemently opposes the notion of former GGs proactively disclosing their expenses. I can’t think of any sound public policy reasons to insulate her from transparency and openness.
The two other former
GGs still kicking around, Michaelle Jean and Ed Schreyer, have remained silent on the issue.
It would be interesting to have a peek at Jean’s expenses. In her last year as leader of la Francophonie, her spending came under a critical microscope. She spent $500,000 renovating her $13,000-a-month apartment in Paris and bought a $20,000 grand piano to better entertain guests.
One can only wonder what she billed Rideau Hall since her term ended in 2010.
Meanwhile in the Senate, judges are pushing back against a new bill, C-58, which would legislate proactive disclosure of expenses by federal judges.
Ironically, this is happening in a secret hearing. Their main argument is that disclosure would put them at risk, even though there are provisions in the bill to edit out portions if the federal judicial affairs commissioner concludes there’s a security risk.
Let’s face it, the real obstacle to proactive disclosure is the fear of embarrassment.
Imagine headlines such as why did a former GG or a judge stay at the Shangri-La Hotel in Toronto at $600, instead of the Holiday
Inn at $200? Call it the
Bev Oda factor, after the Conservative minister who resigned over $1,000-a-day limousine expenses and a $16 glass of orange juice.
Former GGs and federal judges should take the lead from Johnston and simply recognize they are accountable for their public expenses, just like all other public servants.
CLARKSON “Serving” at a price