Expense accounts, the politicians’ trip wire

Posted August 14, 2013

The case of the iconic Pamela Wallin, who went from prison social worker to Canadian Senator with a few stops along the way in journalism, proves the old saying that “absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

Tinkering with her calendar and returning some money to the Senate accountants is tacit evidence there is trouble in Wallinland. Her colleagues on the Senate committee investigating the breaches of expense rules decided that the Senator from Saskatchewan (with frequent stops in her Toronto condo) could no longer claim any expenses except for travel to her home province.

On top of that, her audited file has been turned over the RCMP for investigation relating to criminal charges.

Ms. Wallin joins Senators Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb on the Mounties list of members of the Chamber of Sober Second Thought being investigated for conspiracy and fraud.

It would be ironic that Ms. Wallin would wind up behind bars instead of being in front of them.

The local angle of course, is that as Chancellor of the University of Guelph, Ms. Wallin charged her Senate expense card $2,011 to travel to address a university convocation. Her explanation was she was on Senate business. Now that’s chutzpah!

What happens to people who feel they are entitled to rip off the public purse?

One might ask about our members of city council who travel at public expense to conventions, trade shows and visits outside the country. Are they conducting the city business?

One trip that comes to mind occurred in 2007 when the Mayor, her husband and her mentor Ken Hammill, and his spouse, traveled to Italy to visit a city that was twinned with Guelph. The purpose, stated at the time, aside from the peremptory glad-handing, was to promote foreign investment in Guelph.

The cost to the taxpayers was never revealed. Nor were there any tangible results of the trip announced then or since.

With a resounding majority of her supporters on the newly elected council, the Mayor must have felt the flush of power and entitlement to make the decision to go to Italy.

Perhaps now is the time for the Mayor, who has commissioned $100,000 to a Toronto consultant to create an “open government” plan for the city, to open the expense claims of both staff and elected officials for public scrutiny.

Taxpayers have a right to know the details of elected official’s expense accounts. A good start would be right in the Mayor’s office and how much that trip to Italy cost.

Do you get the feeling the “open government” consultant won’t touch that with a barge pole?

Or is this an issue for the Integrity Commissioner?

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10 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

10 responses to “Expense accounts, the politicians’ trip wire

  1. Why do people like Wallen get a pass and simply have to pay back an amount? She referred to Deloitte’s audit ‘flawed and unfair’. When in fact the senate is flawed and ANY abuse of Taxpayer’s money AT ANY GOVT. level is unfair.

    • Boomer: This party is not yet over. Ms.Wallin’s sterling reputation as a national figure may be tarnished forever regardless of what the RCMP decides regarding criminal charges. What intrigues me is that two Harper appointed Senators, Duffy and Wallin, are both veteran TV news persons who spent long careers commenting on exactly what they have got themselves into. Ah! The smell of napalm in the morning.

    • paul

      Some people report the news and some repeat it!!!!!

  2. paul

    Expenses for all elected officials should be transparent and available to all public to view and analyse. So sick and tired of being screwed by municipal, provincial and federal politicians….and they don’t even offer reach arounds!!!!!

  3. Glen N. Tolhurst

    When one becomes a “high faluting” big wig living on the taxpayers dime, one becomes “entitled to one’s entitlements”. If anybody in the private sector fiddled their expenses, they would be out the door so fast with their sorry butt skidding across the pavement. Why not the same for politicians and their minions at all levels? Are there 2 sets of laws? By all means, all expenses of Guelph politicians and administrators should be published at least quarterly. With modern computerized reporting systems this is readily accomplished. Don’t hold your breath waiting for this to occur in Guelph.

    • paul

      I don’t hold my breath waiting for anything positive to happen in Guelph as long as Farbridge is the mayor. She has destroyed what was once a very viable and affordable city to live in. A crack head who hangs out at the fountain downtown would have been a wiser choice to run the city…at least we know what they are spending money on!!!!!!! Lots of transparency there.

  4. Tony

    Unaccountable public servants at every level + taxpayers money = pigs around a feeding trough.
    They spend our money like drunken sailors on shore leave and then there’s a smoke screen, feeble excuses and closed ranks when questions are asked.

    • Tony: You’re right about closing ranks. Fortress Farbridge raised the drawbridge almost seven years ago when they took over the city. But like all governments, they eventually run out of gas and become tired and complacent. Our turn is coming to retire them at the ballot box in October 2014. Let me be clear, I’m talking about the members of council who have steadfastly supported the Mayor, not those five councillors who are in opposition, most times.

  5. Glen N. Tolhurst

    I would not disparage “drunken sailors” by a comparison with the Guelph councilors and administration. The “sailors” may wake up with a hangover after their binge, but it’s the taxpayers who have the hangover after the Guelph politicians and minions binge.

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