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article imageOp-Ed: Health Minister Jane Philpott should resign after limo deception

By Marcus Hondro     Aug 22, 2016 in Politics
With her recently exposed exorbitant travel expenses and attempts at a cover-up in the House of Commons, Health Minister Jane Philpott has placed her integrity under question. Not long on the job, she has already let us down.
Limo service fees
Ms. Philpott and her Liberal government were brought to power by Canadians in part to end the kind of politics the minister has shown herself to engage in. It is not simply her craven spending upon limousine travel but her attempts to cover it up by playing with semantics.
The minister has been using a limousine service — she pretends it is something else — and it has cost taxpayers a large sum. Further, the service she used is owned by a man who volunteered on her election campaign.
Executive Sedan Livery Service Inc. is owned and operated by Reza Sirani, who gave time to Philpott's fall campaign. Make no mistake, his is a limo service with expensive, chauffeured cars. Philpott used it for rides in a luxury vehicle to Toronto's Pearson Airport from her home in Stouffville, Ont., and on other excursions.
Earlier this year, over the course of two days, she racked up charges of $3,700 for getting about Toronto and driving to Hamilton and Niagara Falls. She now, after being exposed, admits the cost was too high and says she will pay it back.
MPs get an allowance to set up in Ottawa but it seems Ms. Philpott is still spending a great deal of time in Stouffville. For 20 trips from her home there to Pearson Airport she paid — Canadians paid —another $3,815.
She has not spoken of reimbursing this sum. Of course most of us haul ourselves to work on our own dime and when we take a job in another city, we do not get an allowance to ease the financial burden of doing so. And few of us could afford to pay a limo to take us to the airport — or fool the taxpayer into paying for it.
Phipott misled Canadians
Those on the far left may point out that these sums of money are trivial in comparison to the sums involved in the lopsided distribution of wealth in Canada and the western world. Fair enough. But nonetheless her actions speak to her integrity, or her lack thereof.
For in the case of Ms. Philpott the issue of her having misused taxpayer money pales in importance next to her shameful attempts to cover it up. Her sly effort to deceive us into believing she incurred no expenses out of the ordinary.
When the opposition has a question for a minister, a member often uses a House of Commons order paper to ask it. That was done in this case, with the health minister being asked if she used a limo service. Playing semantics — she blames her answer on advice from her staff— Philpott said no.
Bollocks. She hired a Lexus luxury sedan, vehicles that retail at about U.S. $75,000. The car included a chauffeur. When questioned by media about her denial, she said she did "not want to get into the semantics of definitions of types of vehicles." That response is clearly aimed at avoiding accountability.
The NDP's ethics critic Charlie Angus called Philpott out for those transgressions and quite rightly insists she intentionally deceived her fellow MPs and Canadians. He implied that what she has in gall she lacks in understanding.
“She needs to understand that as a minister of the Crown, when she signs off on an order paper question it is because it is true, not because they’ve come up with some dodgy language to make it convenient,” Angus said.
“She is responsible for this," Angus added. "This is not credible behaviour from a minister with such an important portfolio.”
The health ministry is an important portfolio but a change in ministers can be affected without damage to its current functioning, ministers are moved from portfolios with regularity and staff manage while the new minister is acclimatized to the job.
There are another 181 Liberal members of parliament and Ms. Philpott must resign and allow one to step into the ministry. Down the road it seems reasonable she be given another chance at a ministry, but not until she's had time to reflect on exactly what Mr. Angus calls "credible behaviour from a minister" is.
And to understand fully the kind of leadership Canadians deserve.
Since this article was filed it has come to light that the health minister also billed Canadian taxpayers $520 for access to Air Canada's executive airport lounges. Aaron Wudrick of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation told CP that he "cannot see what the possible connection would be between her needing lounge access and ability to do her job." Philpott said she will repay the $520.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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