It’s a shame the Auditor General’s report on the boondoggle that was the G8 summit spending spree didn’t come out before the election. It might have cost Stephen Harper the election.
Am I serious? Nah. Canadians have become so blasé about outrageous government spending and gross misuse of public funds that even the AG’s mind-boggling report wouldn’t have made any difference. But let’s take a look at it anyway.
You all remember the G8 and G20 summits, don’t you? Something around $646 million spent on a couple of international chinwags that resulted in some ponderously written communiqués about stuff that nobody remembers. The Harper government saw the twin summits as a chance not only to host the world’s leaders and make Canada look like a playa but to show off Ontario to the world’s media. The world’s media, of course, came to the summit, used some pretty Ontario backgrounds for their stand ups, threw in some footage of the predictable riots in Toronto, and promptly left. This is the kind of exposure that people in the tourism industry call “incalculable” because it has no real value. It’s the same excuse we hear when the city pours millions into the Indy car race.
Anyway, the Harperites decided to spend a little money on a few buckets of paint and some brooms to spruce up the surroundings a bit. The Conservatives set up a blue-ribbon, high-level group called the “2010 G8 Summit Liaison and Implementation Team.” The “team” consisted of Industry Minister Tony Clement, the mayor of Huntsville (where the summit took place) and the general manager of the host Deerhurst Resort. That’s a hell of a team.
This “team” spent about $50 million on a variety of improvements into the area, which, by extremely happy coincidence, just happened to be in Clements riding. No bureaucrats were involved in the decision making, and no government departments were consulted. The money for this spending spree came from $83 million earmarked to reduce border congestion. Muskoka has about the same problem with border congestion as Edmonton.
Among the more than 200 projects, which were not approved by parliament or anyone in government other than Clement and Harper’s favourite attack dog, the ever-foaming at the mouth John Baird, included $260,000 on improvements to the Muskoka Information Centre, which was not used for the summit. Then there was the Huntsville G8 Centre ($16.7 million), and a $9.75 million expansion that were constructed for the summit. The expansion was never used.
Then there was $274,000 on public toilets 20 km from the summit site in Huntsville, $100,000 on a gazebo an hour’s drive away (who wouldn’t drive an hour to sit in a gazebo?), $1.1 million for sidewalk and tree upgrades 100 km away from the summit site (I guess they were needed in case the media flew over the area), $194,000 for a park 100 km away, and $745,000 on downtown improvements for three towns nearly 70 km away.
None of this was approved by parliament, all of the money came from a fund for something else entirely, and all of it went to the riding of one minister.
Disgusting, right? Appalling, correct? A shocking abuse of public money and power, agreed?
So, what will happen? Absolutely nothing. The Tories (in a majority now, remember) will stonewall a few questions in the house, and the whole thing will blow over. Besides, the government has bigger fish to fry, like reigning in its spending and firing civil servants.
And the man in charge of getting our spending under control?
Yep. Tony Clement.
The mind boggles.