Monday, April 11, 2011

Did Conservatives Break Law?

Auditor General Sheila Fraser

A January 13 draft of the Auditor-General's report looks to shake things up in the Leadership debates over the next two days.

In the report, Sheila Fraser looks at the spending on the G8 summit in Toronto and finds some of the spending didn't meet the sniff test and may in fact broken the law.

One thing is clear and that is Industry Minister Tony Clement's riding received $50 million in federal spending. Quite a lot of it was far away from summit activities.

The Tories are saying the report was an early draft and other drafts are less damning. However, even the Conservatives have not seen the final report and by law, they won't see it until Parliament is back in session.

Michael Ignatieff has blasted the Tories over the spending and has said they lied to Parliament and they could have broken the law. Jack Layton's NDP and the BQ have said they believe the Auditor's report should be released and Tories are agreeing with this.

It is possible that they all know that the Auditor's hands are tied on releasing the report.

One thing the Auditor felt compelled to respond to was a claim by the Tories that she approved of their spending. This proved not to be the case at all. They lifted a quote she made about the Liberals from years before. Yeesh. Stockwell Day ended up apologizing for that comment but it took a letter from Fraser to get them to retract.

The debate on Tuesday will be interesting. The Canadian Press reporter who broke the story on the Auditor's report said the Opposition has to be wary of blowing up the significance of the the story. She might be right but the spending during the G8 meeting is fair game as it seems hard to justify. It may be important to get Harper on the record what he will do if the Auditor believes the law has been broken.

Timing is everything in an election. In 2006, the RCMP announcement that they were investigating Ralph Goodale's office was a bombshell. As we later found out, the Finance Minister was not involved in any wrongdoing but it was a huge factor in the the polls in the days after.

The Tories might not be guilty of anything other than huge spending. However, the huge spending at the G8 is an issue all by itself.

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Anonymous said...

Just to be clear. The quote the tories used to defend their spending was not 'doctored AG' report as some have suggested. It was contained in a report by the tories before a commons committee. Massively stupid move.

As for the AG's report, she has indicated that it's draft only, and there are changes made based on other information. I'll wait until final is released before formulating any opinion.

John Dobbin said...

I haven't heard mention that the defence of the the spending was doctored. It looked like spin and would have gone unnoticed, it seems, had the Auditor not directed a letter to Parliament to have the claim withdrawn.

I think we can all agree that the final report needs to be seen.

However, one thing is clear: Money was withdrawn from the border infrastructure fund, spent on the summit and some of it was no where near actual summit activities.

It will be up to the Conservatives to convince people that it was merited and that is a legitimate question for the leader's debate.