What do they have to hide?

For­mer gover­nors gen­eral and judges should dis­close ex­penses to tax­pay­ers

Toronto Sun - - NEWS - AN­DRE MARIN

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

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