Show Me The Money

Allowing the Auditor General to oversee his parliamentary budgets makes Gilles Duceppe Parliamentarian of the Month, says Rex.

Allowing the Auditor General to oversee his parliamentary budgets makes Gilles Duceppe Parliamentarian of the Month, says Rex.

Read the transcript of this Rex Murphy episode

Rex Murphy

May 13, 2010

Three Cheers for Gilles Duceppe.

It's a strange time when the honour of the Canadian Parliament is defended solely by the one political leader who has no time for the Canadian Parliament.

The leader of the Bloc Quebecois has been the only party leader in the House of Commons who has both the sense and decency to give easy consent to Shelia Fraser's request to oversee the parliamentary budgets of MPs and Senators.

The Auditor General can examine expenses in virtually every other domain of government. She is Parliament's very own officer for doing so.

But, the MPs who make up that Parliament, who give her that terrific power over everyone else’s government spending --- don't allow her to look into theirs. In fact they’ve confirmed, by press release, that they are off-limits to her, as of 5:00 today. Who is advising them?

Messing around with office and constituency expenses has a very powerful history recently. In Britain a gigantic scandal emerged after it was revealed that legions of MPs in the Mother of Parliaments were claiming expenses for the most outré projects – the most famous being the cleaning of the private moat of one aristocrat, Vicount Hogg (that’s ‘Hogg’ with two ‘g’s) a close runner-up was expensing a house for a family duck.

In Newfoundland the MHAs of all three provincial parties were entoiled in a horrendous saga of expenses abuse – with claims vastly exceeding what was legitimately allowed – accompanied by an hilarious scam of nearly 2.6 million dollars spent on "non-existent" key chains, lapel pins and fridge magnets. Back home the traffic in fridge magnets is bigger than the seal hunt.

Nova Scotia has had its own slightly less inventive version of the same, with one MLA claiming, I found this one rather touching, Dance Dance Revolution for an X-Box 360. In each case the public response was outrage and an inevitable tsunami of the wildest cynicism towards politics and politicians.

One would think with all the barking about "transparency" and "accountability" in the Afghan detainee issue, not to mention the ferocious posturing about "influence peddling" and lobbying in the desperate melodrama of the Jaffer-Guergis story, that the crowd in Ottawa would be pleading with the Auditor General to come in to show how clean and rigorous about their own budgets they are.

But, of course not. Our MPs are as the driven snow, and while it is under their authority that the Auditor General scrutinizes, reviews, investigates and challenges the spending of every other operation of government --- it is not be thought she should be let loose to monitor the spending of those who authorize the spending of everyone else.

Mr. Layton hems and haws, Mr. Ignatieff temporizes, and Mr. Harper maintains that charming silence which he applies to nearly every situation that threatens a 1% shift in the polls.

Only Gilles Duceppe, separatist, has no problem with the Auditor General of Canada. Gilles Duceppe: Parliamentarian of the Month.

For the National, I’m Rex Murphy.