It is "unacceptable" for highly paid executives with Toronto's 2015 Pan Am Games organizing committee to bill Ontario taxpayers for things such as a cup of tea, even if it was allowed, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Monday.
"It's ridiculous, okay," Wynne told reporters. "I'm just going to say it's ridiculous. It is the kind of entitlement that is unacceptable."
The Progressive Conservatives demanded an auditor general's investigation after documents obtained by the Toronto Sun showed Pan Am CEO Ian Troop, who is paid $477,000 a year, billed taxpayers for a 91-cent parking ticket.
The committee's senior vice-president, Allen Vansen, billed taxpayers more than $27,000 to move from Vancouver to Toronto, including $110 to transfer a pet.
It's "outrageous" that such well-paid executives were doing exactly what others did at agencies like eHealth Ontario and the Ornge air ambulance service, said Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.
"Premier, you said that you would not follow the same pattern of behaviour or the culture of entitlement of the (former premier) Dalton McGuinty Liberals," Hudak said in the legislature.
"When I think about that kind of gross waste and arrogance, it makes me wonder what is different about Kathleen Wynne. It sounds like the same tune the Liberals have been playing for 10 years."
Officials told to tighten rules, premier says
Wynne agreed some of the Pan Am expenses were out of line, and said the government had already ordered officials to tighten and clarify the rules.
"The rules that were put in place allowed this kind of entitlement. It's unacceptable and those are the wrong rules, they shouldn't be there," she said.
"It's absolutely appropriate for people to be outraged by that kind of decision. Should be people expensing tea and coffee? No, they should not, and the rules will change."
However, the New Democrats said they worry the Liberals never learned anything from past expense abuses like the $1-billion eHealth scandal in 2009 that saw well-paid health care consultants nickel-and-diming taxpayers for muffins and coffee.
"We've seen the same kind of scandals with eHealth, the exact same kind of scandal with the Ornge air ambulance, where these folks at the very top are expensing not only things like coffee and tea and muffins, but trips all over the world," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
"The Liberal government from time to time says they're going to crack down or change the rules, but every time we turn around it's the same old story."
Execs billed for pricey hotel rooms
The Pan Am executives also billed taxpayers for expensive hotel rooms and dinners as they travelled to Guadalajara, London, Glasgow, Miami, Jamaica and St. Kitts.
The committee's senior vice-president Louise Lutgens rented a car in Guadalajara for $1,830 and also billed $9.92 for laundry and another $45 for a cover for her BlackBerry, the Sun reported. CFO Barb Anderson, who is paid $307,000 a year, twice billed taxpayers $1.89 for coffee. Troop also expensed $8,561.19 for a Mexican hotel and cocktail party.
The Conservatives demanded the Pan Am executives repay "the taxpayer money they've squandered" before the Games even start.
"What I worry about is if this is how they've started out, and there's still two years to go before the Pan Am Games, how deep is this culture of entitlement," wondered Hudak. "If we don't actually stop this in its tracks now, how bad are the abuses going to be?"
Pan Am 2015 chairman David Peterson said in a release Monday night that Troop and his team are reviewing the policy on expenses.
"TO2015 followed all the approved policies around expenses and travel," Peterson said, adding "I do understand people can interpret these expenses in different ways."
"We remain committed to transparency and openness," he said.