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article imageCanadian government misled parliament on G-8 costs: AG report

By Andrew Ardizzi     Jun 10, 2011 in Politics
Ottawa - An Auditor-General report found Canada's Conservative government misled parliamentarians on the appropriation of funds leading up to last summer's G8 summit.
According to the Auditor-General report released June 9, the Conservative government used $50-million of an approved $83-million appropriated for border infrastructure investment to spruce up Huntsville, Ontario for last summer's summit.
"This categorization did not clearly or transparently identify the nature of the approval being sought for G8 infrastructure," the report stated.
Section 2.11 of the report states in November 2009 Supplementary Estimates were tabled in the House of Commons, among them being an $83-million "border infrastructure fund."
However, documentation supplied by the Treasury Board of Canada indicated the intention of using $50-million for summit projects, although the intention was not explicitly made in the Supplementary Estimates, the report stated.
The report, prepared by outgoing Auditor-General Sheila Fraser whose term ended May 31, later cites when the Estimates were tabled it was suggested the funds would solely go towards alleviating border congestion.
Interim Auditor-General John Wiersema told reporters during a news conference that of the 242 projects proposed for the G8 Legacy fund, 32 of those proposals were put forward by Tony Clement, then Minister of Industry, for his riding.
The report could not conclusively determine the process through which the 32 projects were chosen nor why they were selected in the absence of supporting documentation, he said at the press conference.
Wiersema said he was very concerned with the lack of supporting documentation for the approval process for the initiatives in Huntsville and surrounding towns.
"There's no paper trail for any of the 32 projects," he said.
CBC News reported the projects were selected by John Baird, then Minister of Infrastructure, based on the advice from Clement who had asked the mayors in his riding to come up with infrastructure projects eligible for federal funding.
The CBC report noted the projects were agreed upon between the ministers, which is unusual since bureaucrats normally evaluate project proposals and then forward their recommendations to their ministers who make the final decisions.
Wiersema said the audit indicated public servants were not involved in the decision-making process, a reality he felt was very unusual based on his experience, said CBC news.
He said it presents "serious issues" because a paper trail is necessary to form the basis for accountability and transparency, CBC reported.
Although the government potentially misled parliament when requesting funds, they ultimately were used as intended towards the G8 Legacy fund, he said.
Baird and Clement, the Industry Minister and Treasury Board president respectively, held a joint news conference where they addressed the audit report.
Canadians have been able to go online to see how the 32 projects are fairing and can visibly see the results, said Baird, who was accepting of the report's calling for greater government transparency.
"We accept that advice and we'll try harder to do a better job next time," he said.
When asked how Canadians could be sure the funds didn't go to Conservative Party supporters, Baird said there is documentation indicating the money went where it's intended.
Moving forward, Clement said he wants to ensure Parliamentarians have the information they need to make sound decisions and has directed the Treasury Board staff to assess how the process can improved and made more efficient.
"I agree that it could have been better," he said, reaffirming not a penny was misappropriated and went where it was intended.
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae also held a press conference Thursday morning and was upset parliament had been misinformed.
"You can't tell people you're going to spend money on one thing and then switch it over to something else," Rae told reporters. "This is politically wrong and there is a responsibility that should apply to the Prime Minister and the Minister."
Rae called the report a "monument to waste," adding that in an era of fiscal restraint the Auditor-General's report shows the government ignored rules and procedures as it dispensed funds to Mr. Clement's riding, the Globe and Mail reported.
More about Stephen Harper, Canadian government, G8 summit, John baird, Tony clement
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