AS IT HAPPENS

Pork-a-Palooza: the pre-election spending rush by Conservative MPs

In the past two days, Conservative MPs have made more than 100 announcements in federal funding totalling more than $1 billion. One journalist has dubbed the spending rush “Pork-a-Palooza,” labelling it pork-barrelling by the Conservatives in the final days before the election is called.
Calgary MP Jason Kenney was in Calgary on Thursday to announce almost $583 million in federal funding for the southwest ring road. (CBC)
Listen9:31

In the past two days, Conservative MPs have made more than 100 announcements in federal funding totalling more than $1 billion. David Akin has dubbed the spending rush "Pork-a-Palooza," labelling it pork-barrelling by the Conservatives in the final days before the election is called.

Akin is the Parliamentary Bureau chief for Sun Media and he's been tweeting every federal funding announcement via his Twitter account @ottawaspends. Yesterday, he logged 108 federal handouts.

The government can't make spending announcements once the writ is dropped, so it's another indication that the Prime Minister may trigger the federal election this weekend.

Akin tells As it Happens guest host Laura Lynch that the handouts total "billions of dollars and they cannot shovel it out fast enough.

"It's not unusual for MPs to be in their ridings when the House of Commons isn't sitting, handing out cheques. That's kind of what MPs do. It's just the pace is so exceptional, the amount of money is so exceptional . . . I think we have to say there's some serious pork-barrelling going on here."

Akin notes that 80 per cent of yesterday's announcements were in Conservative ridings, totalling more than $500 million.

"This week, it really seems that Conservative MPs are saying, 'Let me hand a cheque out to improve a curling club, a hockey rink, some playground equipment, whatever it might be,' and I think this is where a lot of small 'c' conservatives, fiscal conservatives, they may start rolling their eyes because this is just out-and-out pork-barrelling," says Akin.

Funding for smaller projects, like resurfacing ice rinks and parking lots, tend to be effective with voters, says Akin, because those projects are noticed at the local level.

Many of this week's projects are funded through a new fund recently established by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to help celebrate Canada's 150th birthday.

Akin also notes that a lot of money is being spent in Edmonton and Calgary.

"For the first time in five elections at least, Conservatives are actually going to have to compete for the political affections of Albertans. Both federal Liberals and New Democrats have a good shot at winning a few seats, maybe more than a few seats, in Alberta."

He jokes that Liberal governments, in the past, have also increased spending announcements ahead of a federal election, but that Harper is doing it better. But he also notes that some of the funding has been very hard to track and laments the lack of transparency in regard to the federal handouts.

Akin keeps a database of the spending announcements, which you can find on his blog.