Canada

ANALYSIS: 5 questions Clement must answer on G8 spending

The federal minister responsible for cutting government waste is being called before a parliamentary committee Wednesday to explain how his own Ontario riding became paved in $45 million of political pork.
Treasury Board president Tony Clement is expected to be questioned at a parliamentary committee on Wednesday over how money slated for G8 summit expenses ended up going toward projects in his Ontario riding. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The federal minister responsible for cutting government waste is being called before a parliamentary committee Wednesday to explain how his own Ontario riding became paved in $45 million of political pork.

Treasury Board head Tony Clement certainly has a lot to answer for.

The $45.7-million spending spree was supposed to provide essential facilities to host last year's G8 summit of world leaders in Clement's riding in Muskoka cottage country north of Toronto.

Instead, almost all of the money was scattered across Clement's electoral domain for local pet projects that had little or nothing at all to do with the summit — everything from a $17-million community centre expansion to a $100,000 gazebo in the middle of an empty lot an hour's drive from the meeting site.

So far, Stephen Harper's government has successfully stonewalled all attempts by the opposition parties to get to the bottom of the great Muskoka pork barrel.

That may help to explain why the Conservative government's master of political bafflegab, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, will be seated next to Clement at the committee hearing.

At the time of the G8 spending, Baird was the minister responsible for managing billions of dollars of infrastructure money, allegedly including giving final sign-off on what is unaffectionately known in political circles as Tony's Porkfest.

With Clement and Baird in the hot seat at committee, opposition MPs will be after answers to five key questions:

Auditor General Sheila Fraser, in her final report released just after she retired in June, revealed that the $50 million used for the so-called G8 legacy projects in Clement's riding had been wrongly, if not illegally, taken from funds Parliament had approved for Canadian border crossings.

Question: Exactly who in government approved the pilfering of the border improvement fund, and given the severity of the auditor general's findings, what disciplinary action has been taken against those responsible?

The auditor general also reported that public servants were not involved in selecting the 32 projects in Clement's riding that received the $50 million.

Question: Who selected the projects, by what criteria, and who authorized those responsible to circumvent all of the normal government funding procedures in place to ensure the prudent use of taxpayers' money?

The auditors who dug into the G8 spending were unable to find any of the usual government documentation showing how the projects were selected for funding.

Question: What happened to all the paperwork, and if it was destroyed, has the government called in the RCMP?

Documents obtained by Postmedia journalists and NDP researchers suggest Clement was personally involved in getting at least one friend hired to work on a G8 contract, and the minister may have also tried to pressure federal officials not to conduct a routine review of G8 spending.

Question: How do Canadian taxpayers benefit if a minister becomes involved in nepotism and meddling with officials trying to protect the public purse?

As head of the Treasury Board, Clement is now responsible for ensuring the Conservative government adheres to stringent rules intended to get the best value for Canadian taxpayers in all federal spending.

Question: Given all that has happened on the G8 spending file, if Clement cannot clearly and convincingly answer all of the above questions, why should Canadians trust him in such a pivotal cabinet role?

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