Recent spending scandals involve politicians from various parties and levels of government including federal Conservative Cabinet ministers Bev Oda and Jason Kenney, former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe, Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau, Liberal MPs Judy Sgro, Wayne Easter, John Cannis and Andrew Telegdi. As well, London, Ontario mayor Joe Fontana was recently charged with fraud, breach of trust, and uttering forged documents following an investigation into money spent in 2005 when he was a Liberal Cabinet minister and federal MP.
These federal politicians were caught by chance. In contrast, many politicians from many political parties were caught misspending or stealing public funds through comprehensive audits by the auditor generals in England, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia leading to politicians being forced to resign, charged, and found guilty of abusing their access to taxpayers’ money.
The spending scandals involving federal politicians have revealed loopholes and shown clearly that the current system is not preventing misspending, and past audits of politicians in some provinces have shown clearly that audits catch wrongdoers.
The enforcement of spending rules is also far from transparent in some jurisdictions, such as federally where cases are examined in secret, behind closed doors, by the Board of Internal Economy which is made up of politicians from all parties who protect themselves and their party members instead of enforcing the rules and ensuring that taxpayer money is not spent inappropriately.
The spending loopholes must be closed, and auditor generals across Canada required to audit all politician spending regularly and penalize violators, to prevent politicians from using taxpayers’ money to pay their personal or political party costs.
The recent politician spending scandals involving many federal politicians from various parties, along with past scandals in England, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia, show clearly that Canada needs stronger rules, and stronger enforcement and penalties for violators, to prevent fraud spending by politicians who use taxpayers’ money to pay their personal or political party costs.
Federal politicians have been caught by chance – but comprehensive audits caught the provincial politicians, and politicians in England.
Federally these cases are dealt with in secret, behind closed doors, by the Board of Internal Economy which is made up of politicians from all parties who protect themselves and their party members instead of enforcing the rules and ensuring that taxpayers’ money is not spent inappropriately. This cannot be allowed to continue if Canada wants to call itself a democracy.
Provincial and territorial laws also have loopholes, with enforcement systems and penalties that are also too weak.
I am calling on federal, provincial and territorial politicians to make the following key changes to strengthen rules and auditing of politician spending across Canada to ensure, especially, they are not using taxpayer money to pay their personal or political party costs:
1) require all politicians, their offices and staff people to submit actual, detailed receipts and information showing the number and identity of people at any event, what exactly was purchased, by whom exactly, for what use, and at what price, for all expenses claimed;
2) require all politicians, their offices and staff people, before making significant purchases, to check early on with the federal, provincial or territorial Auditor General's office to ensure that what is being bought, and the proposed spending process, comply with spending rules;
3) require the federal, provincial or territorial Auditor General to regularly audit spending by all politicians, their office, and their staff;
4) require that all investigations of politician spending be conducted by an federal, provincial or territorial Auditor General who is fully independent from Cabinet, and fully empowered and required to investigate all alleged violations of rules, and give all the Auditor Generals the power to penalize violators and to order a correction of any wrongdoing;
5) require the Auditor General to rule publicly on every complaint and situation in which there is reasonable evidence of wrongdoing, and;
6) require the Auditor General to release the findings of their investigations as soon as they are completed regardless of whether parliament is in session.
Please let me know what you will do to ensure that these changes are made as soon as possible. I will be deciding which political party to vote for in the next election based on the responses I receive from representatives in each party. I look forward to hearing from you.