Tory lashes out at his own cabinet's expenses

Tory lashes out at cabinet expenses

OTTAWA – A Conservative MP is sounding off against the expensive perks given to cabinet ministers.
And in a sharp, online rebuke of his caucus, Alberta MP Brent Rathgeber is airing a complaint other Tory MPs say they’re also hearing about on the doorsteps this summer: that the government is wasting people’s money.

Rathgeber reports he was in Grenfell, Sask., a town of around 1,000 people last month, and found that the champagne tastes of senior Tories were at the top of people’s minds.

In May, CTV revealed that more than half a million dollars in overtime was paid to ministerial drivers and some remained on standby almost all year long.

“The $600,000 in limousine driver overtime did not play well with the small prairie town sensibilities,” Rathgeber wrote on his blog. “How could the average payout be $20,000 and how could the chart-topping minister’s driver rack up $40,000 in overtime charges?

“Admittedly, I had no answers. The cabinet minister limousine service represents one of the most egregious displays of Ottawa opulence.”

Rathgeber, who represents the riding of Edmonton-St. Albert, wrote that he understands why ministers need to be driven around Ottawa, but doesn’t understand why they need such expensive car service while on Parliament Hill.

“Surely there is a more cost-effective method of getting cabinet ministers to and from meetings,” he wrote.

“Surely, as government preaches fiscal discipline, such extravagance must be eliminated.”

In the House of Commons, the government has defended the cost of cars and drivers.

“Our ministers are working long hours for the economy, long hours for jobs, long hours for the people of Canada,” Treasury Board President Tony Clement said at the time.

“Sometimes that means a bit of overtime by the drivers.”

The government is reviewing the rules, though a spokeswoman for Clement noted that the issue of overtime and salaries are governed by union agreements.

The story on driver costs followed revelations by The Canadian Press that International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda spent $16 on a glass of orange juice at a hotel and $1,000 a day on limousines during a 2011 conference in London.

Rathgeber noted that Oda apologized and repaid the money but suggested people may not be forgiving.

“In Grenfell, most of the attendees have never ridden in a limo and none of them have ever drunk $16 orange juice,” he wrote.

“Surely, they would appreciate if government took more care in spending their money.”

In an interview, Rathgeber said he was airing a complaint he’s also hearing in his own riding.

“We all have a job and my job as a member of Parliament and as a member of the Conservative caucus is to hold the government to account, even though I am a member of the government caucus,” he said.

“I still think that I have a responsibility to do what I can to ensure taxpayers get value for their dollars.”

His blog was posted as Conservative cabinet ministers, parliamentary secretaries and MPs fanned out across the country to plug the government’s budget bill at a series of events Tuesday.

Rathbeger said he knows the money spent on drivers wouldn’t make a dent in the deficit.

“It’s an issue I guess of optics, and it’s an issue of leadership,” he said.

“At a time when we are attempting to get our fiscal house in order and we’re asking Canadians to make some sacrifices, with respect to government programs and services that are offered, I think it’s incumbent upon politicians to do the same.”

Complaints about Oda’s expense claims have found their way into caucus meetings since the story broke in April.

MPs are concerned about further blowback from Canadians if the minister isn’t replaced in a widely expected cabinet shuffle this summer.

Since 2006, Harper has been expanding the size of his cabinet, which in turn increases its cost.
In 2011, the bill for salaries and perks for him and the other 38 ministers and junior ministers was about $9 million, the highest on record.

Ontario Tory MP Rick Dykstra said he, too, has received an earful about Oda’s spending and cabinet cars in the last few months.

But he said the budget is prompting questions as well and not the kind he’s used to hearing.

Ever since he’s been back in his St. Catharines, Ont., riding, Dykstra said he’s received a “boatload” of queries on the marathon voting session in the Commons earlier this month, when MPs voted continuously for almost 24 hours on hundreds of opposition amendments to the budget bill.

“It’s very rare when I get constituents actually talking to me about what’s happened in the House of Commons, actually in the House itself,” Dykstra said.

Rathgeber is the latest backbencher to pop his head over the wall of silence that usually keeps Tories from public criticism of the government.

Earlier this month, Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney spoke out against planned cuts to coast guard services being made as part of the government’s overall drive to slash spending.

And in May, another B.C. Tory, David Wilks, raised concerns about the budget and the lack of say backbenchers have in overall government policy.

Tory lashes out at cabinet expenses | Metro

Here is the full blog:

Of Orange Juice and Limos

Last month, I returned to Grenfell, Saskatchewan for a family funeral. The event was, of course, tragically sad. However, returning to small town Saskatchewan is always an eye opening experience. Grenfell is a small prairie town of about 700 people, a little more than an hour east of Regina on the #1 Highway. In many figurative ways, Grenfell could not be farther from the Ottawa Bubble. Residents of Grenfell generally, and certainly those in attendance at the funeral, were almost exclusively seniors and without exception, without any pretension.

There is a certain amount of common sense amongst prairie folk, an instinctive wisdom and moral compass that is frequently absent in the hustling city of Edmonton and in the Ottawa Bubble.

It was the beginning of May and admittedly we Conservatives were having a rough few weeks in Ottawa. Alleged underestimates in a military procurement were dominating national headlines. But the topic of mind had nothing to do with accounting discrepancies at DND and everything to do with Executive extravagance on Parliament Hill. During my trip to Saskatchewan, a story broke that Cabinet Ministers in Ottawa had collectively racked up $600,000 in overtime for limousine drivers—the vast majority of which was for “waiting time”, as Ministers attended to the nation’s business. Access to Information Records revealed that some Ministers’ drivers were logging as many as 20 hours/week in overtime and that one Minister charged taxpayers 1000 hours of overtime on top of an average salary for limousine drivers of $48,000.

This news came on the heels of well publicized reports of the misadventures of CIDA Minister Bev Oda, who on a Business Trip to London, charged taxpayer for $16 orange juice, $1000 a day limousine service and an upgrade to a hotel that allowed smoking. Ms. Oda’s indiscretions have been well publicized. She has apologized to the House (and to Canadians) and paid back the money.

But the $600,000 in limousine driver overtime did not play well with the small prairie town sensibilities. How could the average payout be $20,000 and how could the chart topping Minister’s driver rack up $40,000 in overtime charges???

Admittedly, I had no answers. The Cabinet Minister Limousine Service represents one of the most egregious displays of Ottawa opulence. Every Minister is entitled to a vehicle and a driver. For security reasons, I do not take issue with Ministers being chauffeured to events around the Nation’s Capital. But there is little justification for Ministers being driven around the Parliamentary Precincts, especially when the House of Commons also operates a continuous Shuttle Bus Service for MPs and all Parliamentary Staff.

But the worst waste of taxpayer money involves the 6,548 hours of standby service limo drivers recorded in 2011. The House of Commons frequently sits until late at night and if votes are being recorded, conceivably more than 30 limousines complete with drivers, will be parked outside Center Block for hours; the whole time overtime being charged for this standby “service”.

Surely there is a more cost effective method of getting Cabinet Ministers to and from meetings. Surely, as government preaches fiscal discipline such extravagance must be eliminated. Surely, having limo drivers on standby for hours is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Surely, there are taxis available in Ottawa.

In Grenfell, most of the attendees have never ridden in a limo and none of them have ever drunk $16 orange juice. Surely, they would appreciate if government took more care in spending their money.
Free Thinker
#2  Top Rated Post
It'll be interesting to see what happens to these guys,we all know how steve reacts to criticism of his open and transparent government.
Quote: Originally Posted by relic View Post

It'll be interesting to see what happens to these guys,we all know how steve reacts to criticism of his open and transparent government.

For my part, I had no idea that the Cons were being picked up in limos after QP.
No Party Affiliation
I always thought the limos were for foreign visitors. Ottawa isnt that hard to get around. They should be driving themselves.
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalfloss View Post

For my part, I had no idea that the Cons were being picked up in limos after QP.

I always assumed they transformed into bat form and flew home.
Free Thinker
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalfloss View Post

For my part, I had no idea that the Cons were being picked up in limos after QP.

And so were the Liberals when they were in power. They have been taking the bus for quite some time now. Wonder if 34 passes counts as a group discount
Quote: Originally Posted by WLDB View Post

I always thought the limos were for foreign visitors. Ottawa isnt that hard to get around. They should be driving themselves.

The NDP keeps bringing this up in QP, but apparently people don't mind their tax dollars being wasted -- as long as it's the CPC wasting those dollars and not "greedy union bosses" lol
Pirate Party wants 'fair deal' for independent candidates

It appears that former Conservative turned Independent MP Brent Rathgeber's campaign to level the playing field for non-aligned candidates has won the support of at least one federal party.

Earlier today, the Pirate Party of Canada put out a press release reiterating Rathgeber's concerns over the institutional bias against independent candidates in both the current campaign rules and the changes proposed by the Conservatives:

The current system already stacks the odds against these types of candidates and the proposed changes significantly increase that difficulty. A hurdle that independent candidates already face is the requirement that all remaining funds at the end of the election must be surrendered to Elections Canada. This handicap is placed upon independent candidates alone and is not shared by candidates running under a party banner. As a result of this, while party candidates can retain these funds for the next election, independents are faced with having to rebuild their entire funding with each election.

Currently, elected MPs that take a public stand against their party, their leader, or their party's position on any number of issues are left with a choice to make: leave their party, risk being ejected by their leadership for standing their ground, or backing down on the issue. With the proposed changes, and the current rules, MPs will find if even more burdensome to leave their party, whether by their own choice or not, and thereby further strengthening party discipline.

They've even come up with a possible solution -- a sort of electoral escrow that would have Elections Canada hold in trust all unspent funds from an independent campaign until the next federal election.

"If the person runs again as an independent candidate, the money that is held in trust will be returned to them for use in their campaign," the release notes.

"If the person decides not to run at all or runs as a candidate under a party banner, the money held in trust will be forfeited to Elections Canada in whole."

Elections Canada would also keep any and all interest accrued between campaigns.

"The Pirate Party of Canada values the independent voices in Parliament, whether they're independent by choice or by circumstance," the release concludes.

"We urge Parliament to work towards giving them a fair deal."

Pirate Party wants 'fair deal' for independent candidates - Inside Politics
Free Thinker
Sounds reasonable to me.
Rathgeber is an Independent now, due to irreconcilable differences between he and the Conservatives on open and transparent governing.
Some people will get riled over the supposed 'money conscious' CONS ignoring the austerity rules they want the peons to abide by, but, what kind of 'work' are you accomplishing while eating?

The Prime Minister’s Office isn’t following the rules when it comes to hospitality expenses.

Over the span of the past three years, taxpayers have been on the hook for $67,789.48 to cover weekly catered lunch meetings for PMO staffers and ministerial chiefs of staff — an apparent violation of Treasury Board policy.

“If it was a working lunch that was not scheduled or predicted but based on an emergency, one could understand,” Byrne said. “If it was an occasional get together, one would be a little bit more understanding of it. This is regular, it is consistent. [Staffers] probably put it in their calendar, week after week this lunch will occur and it will be paid by taxpayers. That’s what makes it contrary to Treasury Board Guidelines for hospitality,” he added.

Byrne said he didn’t think public servants would be allowed to expense such hospitality expenses and he noted there were several restaurants nearby for staffers to grab a bite.

“These staffers are surrounded by some great restaurants, take-outs and fast food establishments and they could bring their own bag lunches, so it does seem rich,” he said.

“It’s a breach of the rules. It’s a free lunch."

“The Prime Minister and his entourage came to Ottawa preaching that there would be no free lunches, and this is in stark contrast, both literally and figuratively, to what the Prime Minister’s stated objectives were,” Byrne added.

PMO Charged $67,789.48 In Questionable Lunch Expenses
Politicians "lashing out". . .


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