04.11.2011 09:18 AM

AG says Reformatories may have broken law (updated)

Is this a game-changer?  It sure as Hell is – just as was the RCMP income trust probe, which broke just a few days before the first debate in 2006.  And we all remember how that election turned out for the governing party.

The Reformartory war room (!) is now tweeting (!) that the report referenced in the CP story isn’t the same as the final A.G. report.  So, um, how would a political party’s war room know that?  Why do they have the final report, and no one else?  Was the Con war room withholding the report until after the election?

My, my.  What tangled web we weave.

Tories misinformed Parliament on G8 fund, may have broken law: auditor general (Auditor-General-G8)
Source: The Canadian Press
Apr 11, 2011 11:39


By Joan Bryden

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA – The Harper government misinformed Parliament to win approval for a $50-million G8 fund that lavished money on dubious projects in a Conservative riding, the auditor general has concluded.

And she suggests the process by which the funding was approved may have been illegal.

The findings are contained in a confidential report Sheila Fraser was to have tabled in Parliament on April 5. The report analyzed the $1-billion cost of staging last June’s G8 summit in Ontario cottage country and a subsequent gathering of G20 leaders in downtown Toronto.

It was put on ice when the Harper government was defeated and is not due to be released until sometime after the May 2 election.

However, a Jan. 13 draft of the chapter on the G8 legacy infrastructure fund was obtained by a supporter of an opposition party and shown to The Canadian Press.

The draft reveals that a local “G8 summit liaison and implementation team” – Industry Minister Tony Clement, the mayor of Huntsville, and the general manager of Deerhurst Resort which hosted the summit – chose the 32 projects that received funding. It says there was no apparent regard for the needs of the summit or the conditions laid down by the government.

The report provides campaign fodder for opposition critics who’ve long maintained the legacy fund was a thinly disguised slush fund for Clement to dole out federal largesse in his riding.

Among the questionable projects funded were:

_ $274,000 on public toilets 20 km from the summit site.

_ $100,000 on a gazebo an hour’s drive away.

_ $1.1 million for sidewalk and tree upgrades 100 km away.

_ $194,000 for a park 100 km away.

_ $745,000 on downtown improvements for three towns nearly 70 km away.

The draft report says that in November 2009, the government tabled supplementary spending estimates which requested $83 million for a Border Infrastructure Fund aimed at reducing congestion at border crossings.

But the government did not reveal that it intended to devote $50 million of that money to a G8 legacy fund, even though Huntsville is nowhere near the Canada-U.S. border.

The Canadian Press was not given access to the entire report on the $1 billion in G8 and G20 spending, and Fraser’s conclusions on overall spending were not available.

In the draft chapter on the legacy fund, Fraser notes the Appropriations Act stipulates that funding is supposed to be allocated based on the items presented in the estimates.

“This ensures that public funds are spent as authorized by Parliament for the purposes intended by Parliament,” she writes.

“We found that money expended for the G8 infrastructure projects under the Border Infrastructure Fund were approved by Parliament without any indication that $50 million of the appropriations for border congestion reduction would be spent on G8 legacy projects.

“Therefore, in our opinion, Parliament was misinformed.”

The report says the government disagrees with the auditor general’s finding. Treasury Board officials maintain it’s “normal practice” to aggregate expenditure information in the supplementary estimates and say it was done in this case “to avoid any delays that might occur if a new funding mechanism was created for the one-time (G8) event.”

But Fraser says lumping the legacy fund into the border fund “created a lack of transparency about the purpose of the request for funding and, in our view, Parliament was not provided with a clear explanation of the nature of the approval being sought.”

She adds that “this matter raises broader legal questions related to the use of appropriated funds by government. Parliament may wish to examine these competing interpretations to ensure that vote wording reflects Parliament’s intentions.”

The legacy fund was intended to help Parry Sound-Muskoka, the host riding represented by Clement, “enhance local infrastructure and showcase its natural beauty and support a safe, secure and successful hosting of the G8 summit.”

The report notes that similar legacy funds have been set up in the past but the amounts allocated were much smaller. For instance, Quebec City got $4.5 million to host the Summit of the Americas in 2001. And Alberta’s Kananaskis region got $5 million to host the G8 in 2001.

In an attempt to find out why $50 million was deemed necessary for Parry Sound-Muskoka, Fraser’s auditors interviewed senior officials at Infrastructure Canada, Industry Canada, Foreign Affairs, the RCMP and the office responsible for co-ordinating security for the summit.

“Senior officials were not able to provide us with an explanation as they explained that their input was not sought as part of the process,” the report says.

That proved to be a pattern as Fraser’s team attempted to find out how projects were chosen and what possible support they might have provided to the summit.

Clement’s local liaison team was responsible for identifying and proposing projects worthy of funding. To win approval, the team was supposed to work with Foreign Affairs’ summit management office to ensure the proposed projects supported the needs of the summit.

“We asked the Summit Management Office to provide us with any documentation showing how they were involved in the review of projects but were informed that they were not involved,” Fraser says.

Fraser’s auditors also asked Infrastructure Canada, which provided the funds, for documentation demonstrating how the projects were chosen and how they fit with the purpose of the fund.

“The department was not able to provide us with any documentation as they were not part of the selection process and informed us they were not provided with supporting documentation when given the recommended list of projects to be funded.”

Indeed, the report notes that Clement announced several projects would receive funding before the government actually spelled out the conditions for funding.

``We are concerned by the lack of documentation around the selection of projects for funding,” Fraser says, adding that documentation is vital to “demonstrate transparency, accountability and value for money” in the expenditure of public money.

Fraser’s team also examined the list of 32 projects that received funding but “(we) were not able to determine how they supported the needs of the summit or met the conditions set out by government.”

For instance, the report notes the government devoted $26 million to create a Huntsville G8 Centre, which was supposed to be the command centre for co-ordinating logistics for the summit.

“We were informed that at the time of the announcement for this project, (Foreign Affairs) had already determined the centre would not be suitable as it was not expected to be completed on time,” Fraser says.

In the end, other facilities were rented for the command centre.

The report is likely to turn up the heat on Clement, who’s already been accused of funnelling disproportionate amounts of federal cash into his riding.

The Liberal party has calculated that Clement’s riding has received about $92 million in federal infrastructure funding, including the legacy fund and other economic stimulus programs – more than four times the average $15 million to $20 million most ridings in the country received.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff last week urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to authorize release of Fraser’s report before the May 2 election.

In an interview late last month with a local media outlet, Clement suggested he had nothing to fear from the eventual release of the auditor general’s report.

“I’m quite confident that every penny that was spent in Muskoka and Parry Sound and in Toronto was accounted for,” he told CottageCountryNow.

INDEX: NATIONAL POLITICS

© 2011 The Canadian Press


73 Comments

  1. MontrealElite says:

    That smashing sound you hear is Harper’s lego hairdo shattering as his head bangs against the wall.

    http://tinyurl.com/43ghzg8

  2. MontrealElite says:

    I like the flashing lights…very Drudge-like.

    Or is it the cops coming after Steve-O?

  3. Lipman says:

    Love the flashing lights! Do you have audible sirens?

  4. Northern PoV says:

    Just a little leak, and only the tip of the iceberg.
    Hey Stevie, that’s what you get for trying to muzzle Sheila Fraser!
    More leaks to come? Schadenfreude in spades!

  5. Annie says:

    Couldn’t the Governor General release it all, being it was the taxpayer’s money they used. It will be too late after the election.

  6. Harith says:

    I can’t wait to see this come up in the debate tomorrow. Pleasepleasepleaseplease…

    • Warren says:

      It’s going to be front page in every paper the day of the debate. You don’t need to pray for it. It’s now the agenda for the debate – unless Paikin chooses style over content.

      • Harith says:

        And Harper will deflect with the usual BS that you see in the tory talkpoint-o-rama. This should be really entertaining.

  7. fritz says:

    This provides an interesting choice for Harper. Does he release the full report and take the hit on what it contains now or does he sit on it and take the hit on why doesn’t he release it and what does the report contain that is so bad that they are willing to spend the rest of the election campaign answering questions about it.
    What we have here is an early draft of one chapter of the report. How much more does CP have and when will it emerge.
    My guess is the Tories will wait until just after the debate to release the full report and hope it gets lost in the post debate news stories. something very unlikely to happen.
    If the rest of the report is as bad as this chapter then it’s not a decision they want to be making at this crucial period in the campaign.
    Put this latest mess together with the Carson affair, the F35 cost debacle a very poor day to day Tory campaign and a very well run Liberal campaign and you have the makings of major changes after the debate when most voters will start to pay attention.

    • kyliep says:

      My guess is that Harper will use this finding to open up and have an honest conversation with Canadians and will apologize, act conciliatory and promise not to…not to…sorry my fingers couldn’t even type the words without laughing.
      Hoping that, at the very least, the Tories have to spend the next week or so answering questions about this report and that it causes some centrist voters to question the premise that the Conservatives are trustworthy fiscal managers.

  8. MontrealElite says:

    On the upside, it seems the Fake Lake was legal…………just stupid.

  9. Kasey says:

    For Roger…..you will have to ask Mr.Guite’ about the adscam money since he was the organizer….is he still in jail …if you cant find his address the Conservative Party will have it for you as he like the others is ONE OF THEM….I believe Mr.Carson was also a buddy from the Mulroney era…cheers greatgranny

  10. Elisa says:

    Annie, I think you meant “AuditorGeneral,” but your point makes sense

  11. Alberta Liberal says:

    What’s the matter Gord, are you questioning the AG’s integrity? I thought she was the CONS’ best friend, lol
    Can you say Liberal gov’t?

    • Cat says:

      This from Rosie Barton tweet:
      RosieBarton Rosemary Barton
      Tories say draft AG report and final version are different. #elxn41
      https://twitter.com/#!/RosieBarton/status/57468969258455040

      • JStanton says:

        … of course they are different. Mr. Harper’s version has the word “NOT” inserted where he deems appropriate.

        .

        • JenS says:

          This is what I don’t understand: if no one has seem the report, how do the Tories know it and the final draft are different? Did they exert pressure to have it significantly altered? Are the facts not the facts? Or is the meme re. the final report being very different just safe because they know there’s not really a process under which the final report, which is a report to a Parliament that is not sitting, can be released?

  12. Harith says:

    The Star posted the list of things the 50 mil went to:

    • Muskoka Tourism gateway signs: $408,000

    • Muskoka Tourism visitor information centre: $260,000

    • Road improvements: $1,800,000

    • Jack Garland North Bay Airport improvements: $3,510,745

    • Highway 11 upgrades: $350,000

    • Bracebridge Sportsplex emergency backup: $40,000

    • Gateway signage: $150,000

    • Annie Williams Park upgrades: $500,000

    • Dowtown Bracebridge revitalization: $800,000

    • Downtown Gravenhurst revitalization: $1,200,000

    • Hunstville beautification and lighting: $106,100

    • Port Sydney Beautification: $250,000

    • Reconstruction of Deerhurst Drive: $1,989,088

    • University of Waterloo G8 Centre expansion: $9,750,000

    • G8 Centre: $17,110,912

    • Town of Kearny Main Street beautification: $730,000

    • Parry Sound beautification: $178,000

    • Parry Sound downtown streetscaping: $1,143,750

    • Town of Sundridge pedestrian crossing: $125,000

    • Beautification of Sundridge: $750,000

    • Burk’s Falls Town Centre improvements: $150,000

    • Port Severn Gateway feature signage: $1,000,000

    • Port Severn streetscape/linear parks: $1,000,000

    • Roofed heritage plaque in Baysville: $38,500

    • Baysville Community streetscape improvements: $117,000

    • Lake of Bays Band Shell and public WC: $299,850

    • Muskoka Lakes tourism signage: $250,000

    • Bala Falls Road updgrades: $386,000

    • Paignton House Road upgrades: $424,000

    • Township of Perry road improvements: $100,000

    • Seguin Township beautification/streetscapes: $745,000

    • South River Community Beautification: $65,000

    http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/972765–g8-infrastructure-fund-list-revealed

    • JStanton says:

      These are probably all prudent economic development expenditures, but I’ll bet that Liberal ridings, or even ridings of Conservative back-benchers, don’t get even a fraction of this funding from Mr. Harper.

      Heck, Mr. Clement would have been re-elected even if he had spent less than a tenth of the amount, so, if it wasn’t political, and if the money was not actually targeted to G8/G20 requirements, then why else was his riding saturated with so much cash?

      .

    • Derek K Richards says:

      Not a Scandal,

      Money actually went to projects that benefit an Ontario community. Thank you Star.

      • Brian says:

        Borrowed money. From a government that promised not to run a deficit.

        Clement: “I’m quite confident that every penny that was spent in Muskoka and Parry Sound and in Toronto was accounted for.”

        Nice deflection.

      • Harith says:

        It was a pork barrel that was covered up by calling it G8 spending you silly goose.

      • sharonapple88 says:

        Money actually went to projects that benefit an Ontario community. Thank you Star.

        The fund was from a Border Infrastructure Fund. Huntsville’s nowhere near the border.

        Money was given to past G8 sites, but around a tenth of what was showered on Clement’s riding. Actually, some reports note that Clement’s riding got $92 million (average riding $15-$20 million).

      • JS Rothwell says:

        What happened to the Keef Derek? Did Mick get mad?

      • George says:

        exactly Derek and improving Ontario helps one – Dalton McGuinty quite a bit I’d say. Many of those projects have been long needed even well before the riding was held by the CPC.

    • ben burd says:

      And the G8 Centre was never used it appeared to late for the conference – millions pissed away – maybe it went on the market with the Hoteland Lodge!

  13. Warren says:

    I don’t recall you taking this position when the income trust probe leak took place, Gord. I must have missed that.

  14. George says:

    this is simply another distraction from a few problems dogging Ignatieff today.
    “I am an American Democrat. I will vote for Kerry in November,” Ignatieff told The Glasgow
    Herald in 2004.Today he says….”I am a commonwealth citizen and voted in Britian a few times but don’t
    remember how many times. I liked John Kerry over George W Bush, but couldn’t vote”.

    Not to mention Forbes isn’t going away quietly.

    An end could be put to this. Ask Sheila Fraser. I’m not concerned but then again I don’t live in Toronto where I’m guessing this might have some minor traction but not the ROC.

  15. WesternGrit says:

    Can’t WAIT for the DEBATE!!! We knew this all along. I think the public is finally going to start seeing the hypocrisy, and the secretive way Harper’s gov’t operates. Accountability, our collective asses!

  16. Ted H says:

    It’s not about anyone kowtowing to any one, it’s about telling the truth, period. As my mother used to say ” if you tell the truth you don’t have to try and remember what you said”.

  17. Sean Cummings says:

    Might be a game changer, might not. So far all I’m reading into this is the government funneled money into Clement’s riding and it may or may not have been illegal but that its up to Parliament to decide. Sheesh, it’s not like someone was getting a paper bag filled with money in a hotel room or anything like that because that kind of visual is something Canadians go ballistic over. Dumping money into a riding to win votes? That’s “how to get reelected 101” Liberals did it when they were in power and now it’s the Conservatives turn. It’s why CF-18 contracts went to Quebec instead of Winnipeg. It’s why there’s a lot of road construction in certain ridings right now that have a lot of pot holes.

    Sorry, I just don’t see the scandal in this, because this is just another government in a series of federal governments that likes to blow our money. Will have to watch the polls and see, I guess.

    • Ted H says:

      Sure this may be construed as typical government behaviour but Harper’s Conservatives were elected on a platform of doing things differently, of providing “clean accountable government” in Harper’s own words. It’s the holier than thou hypocrisy that is the issue.

      • Lance says:

        Everyone gets elected to “do things diferently”, they all say it. Does it make it right? No. Does it justify it? No.

        It is something people should care about, but in the end, they will just say “they all do it”.

        This iosn’t going to go anywhere. How many “gotcha” “or gamechangers” that have fizzled out, in this campagin alone? And the numbers still don’t move?

    • ben burd says:

      Scandal how about the Lodge and Resort that was renovated went up for sale minutes after the G8 conference – where did the profit on that one go?

    • Jamie Rothwell says:

      Hey Sean,

      How come, as a writer, you are unable to write more than one post for every blog you have commented on. Also, what type of application are you using that allows you to mass post an identical post on multiple blogs without coming off as spam… er sorry.

      • Sean Cummings says:

        Hey Jamie –

        Shh – I’m on the Tory payroll. Actually, most political bloggers are essentially regurgitating amongst themselves information they themselves fervently believe – I think they call it “believing in your own bullshit”. It’s actually a bit weirder over in Blogging Tory land but only a smidge since they have a “they’re all out to get us” mentality. I haven’t yet made up my mind who to vote for… tough when you’re in Saskatchewan and the federal liberal party is pretty much non-existent.

  18. Mike London says:

    “the CP story isn’t the same as the final A.G. report. So, um, how would a political party’s war room know that? Why do they have the final report, and no one else? Was the Con war room withholding the report until after the election?”

    Silly Tories, they speak before they think about the consequences. I agree with what Warren said a few days ago, they truly are making it up as the go along.

  19. michael hale says:

    No paper bag??? Three guys walk into a room – one’s a Cabinet Minister, one’s a mayor and one owns a resort – and start dividing up $50M of tax payer money. That’s the image that will stick and it has all the hallmarks of a good scandal – money, private sector influence on Cabinet, back rooms, etc.

  20. wannabeapiper says:

    WOW WEE-it looks like the worm has turned. I dig the flashing lights too

  21. Windsurfer says:

    You forgot Orrville – and its kiosk or park sitting area as part of the distributed pork. Someone can dig up the amount for the pavilion but it was widely discussed last year.

    Try to find Orrville on a map of anything anywhere. I happen to know where it is because I have a Muskoka map.

    Orrville !

    I call this the Orrville Massacre !

  22. fritz says:

    The one Tory politician that may do well from these revelations is Tony Clement. Many voters in his riding will be only too pleased that he brought home the bacon so to speak. Tory candidates in neighbouring riding’s that didn’t partake in the Tory gravy train may not be so happy.

  23. C.W. says:

    Perhaps Pamela Wallin will try and discredit the Auditor General as she did this morning with ‘the Liberal speaker’ of the House, Peter Milliken. And can’t Harper fire Sheila Fraser, as he’s done with the long list of others who’ve done their job?

  24. Bruce Wayne says:

    YAWN

  25. Lance says:

    The AG is now saying that the final report is differerent from the draft, telling the public to wait until it is tabled. Too bad the government was defeated by the Opposition who now want so badly to see it. Now even the Tories are saying that they want the final report released, too. Why would they do that if they had anything to fear?

    In addition, apparently Fife is saying on CTV that the leaker is someone with deep connections to one of the Opposition parties.

    Boy guys, this isn’t turning out exactly they way you though it would, is it? “Gamechanger”, eh? Yeah………..

  26. Sam Gunsch says:

    Tories used praise for Liberals to defend summit costs: Fraser

    By Greg Weston, CBC News
    Posted: Apr 11, 2011 4:07 PM ET
    Last Updated: Apr 11, 2011 4:59 PM ET

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/04/11/cv-election-weston-ag-fraser.html
    “…The Conservatives’ report, presented as a dissenting opinion to the Commons the morning Parliament was dissolved last month, quotes Sheila Fraser giving high marks to the Harper government for prudent spending on the summits.

    The report quoted the auditor general as saying: “We found that the processes and controls around that were very good, and that the monies were spent as they were intended to be spent.”

    But in a scathing letter addressed to members of a Commons committee on Friday, which was received by the clerk and members on Monday, Fraser said the quote had nothing to do with the summits…”

    ===================
    reading this news item… transparency seems to be bouncing back into a few corners of democracy.
    Sam Gunsch

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