Liberals call for probe into Tory G8 spending

The Liberal Party is alleging the Conservatives may have broken the law when they spent money meant for border infrastructure on G8 legacy projects hundreds of kilometres away.
A federal Economic Action Plan sign promotes a gazebo built as part of the G8 infrastructure spending in Orrville, Ont., about an hour's drive from the site of last year's G8 summit. (The Canadian Press)

The Liberal Party is calling for an investigation into the Conservative government spending of money meant for border infrastructure on G8 legacy projects hundreds of kilometres away.

In a letter written to the director of public prosecutions, the Liberals allege that $40.5 million authorized by Parliament for the Border Infrastructure Fund was misappropriated without Parliament’s knowledge, and claim the government may have broken the law.

"It has come to my attention that the actions of one or more Ministers of the Crown may raise several potentially serious violations of the law for your consideration," Liberal MP Marlene Jennings writes in a letter to Brian Saunders.

The letter singles out former minister of infrastructure and current House Leader John Baird and Industry Minister Tony Clement, alleging the two appear to be responsible for the "apparent misappropriation of funds."

The Conservatives released a statement Wednesday, dismissing the letter as a "desperation ploy" by the Liberals to "try and change the channel from [Michael] Ignatieff's open musings about a coalition."

The party defended the costs relating to the G8/G20 summits, saying they were justified to ensure security of world leaders, adding the party has been transparent about the expenses.

"In fact, this level of transparency in disclosing all costs down to the penny involved in hosting summits is unprecedented, in Canada and internationally," party spokesman Ryan Sparrow wrote.

Jennings and Liberal candidate Ralph Goodale pointed to government budget documents voted on in the House of Commons last year. Several documents show the House voted to approve nearly $150 million for the Border Infrastructure Fund, with $121,332,454 spent in the 2009-10 fiscal year.

But a more detailed breakdown shows $40,569,173 of that money went to G8 legacy projects around Muskoka, Parry Sound and Bracebridge, Ont.

"How much more basic does it get? They received legal authority to spend money for the Border Infrastructure Fund. For the border. Not for pet projects in Tony Clement's riding," Jennings said at a press conference Wednesday.

"They used money that they were not allowed to use ... and they tried to hide it."

Conservative spokesman Sparrow did not respond to a question about the movement of the $40.5 million from the approved fund to a different budget line.

The federal auditor general 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. Sheila Fraser's report was due to be tabled in Parliament April 15, but has been delayed by the election.

After leaks of early drafts of the report two weeks ago, all parties called on the auditor general to release her final report. Fraser said that is not possible under the law governing her office.