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Strange issue to be wanting an election over.

I think I’m in Steve V’s camp. I don’t quite understand why the Conservatives are threatening an election because they don’t want to tell Parliament or Canada where the 3 billion $ emergency fund is going to be dispersed – even in general terms. Lack of accountability seems a rather bad issue for the government to be falling over and causing an early election on.

The Liberals – or any of the opposition for that matter – can make a very good case that accountability is needed, particularly when they remind the public of how this Conservative government loves to play pork-barrel politics:

Of specific infrastructure projects announced across Canada in 2007 and 2008, 77.8 per cent of them were in Conservative ridings.

More anecdotal evidence of the Conservative government playing favoritism with their supporters ridings can be found in Steve’s comment thread, where a commenter pointed to Members statements a day apart, in which the NDP member representing the riding in which the town of Espanola is located complained of bureaucratic delay and denials in helping with the towns infrastructure in repairing its water problems, while the next day, the Conservative member for Brant praised the government for quickly sending money to his riding to build an arena and rebuild a sports complex.

Accountability is sorely needed for where this government spends money, and if they refuse, I think Liberals would be happy to be able to point that out during an election campaign – that the Conservatives want to make this 3 billion $ a Conservative slush fund, with no parliamentary oversight.

UPDATE @ 2:54 pm – A commentator here at my thread (Big Winnie – same person who brought up the Members statements over at Steve’s blog) mentions another good reason this 3 billion dollar fund needs accountability. Ignatieff mentioned in QP yesterday that the government has already got money authorized to spend on projects from the 2007 Budget, but has had a couple billion $ lying around that they haven’t spent. As I noted in comments, accountability is also needed for this 3 billion $ fund not just to see where they spend this 3 billion $, but when; as the government has been lax in spending other monies already approved in prior Budgets. However, I think the more important issue is where, and not when. If the Conservative government is refusing to issue even general guidelines on where they plan to spend these funds, I think it’s generally assumed they ARE going to spend this money – they just don’t want anyone knowing where. It would be rather embarrassing for them if it was revealed the large majority of money was again being doled out to Conservative ridings prior to the fact, rather then a year or 2 later in an auditor-general’s report.

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13 comments to Strange issue to be wanting an election over.

  • kwittet

    Dam Harper..he must have read Chretiens notes…on how to spend in friendly ridings. anyone remeber the road to gold? Shewanigan or how dam ever it is spelled?

  • Ted

    HAHAHA!

    Love it. How bloody typical. This is working with Parliament????

    “The PMO subsequently admitted that they did not read the Liberal motion before criticizing it.” (http://www.liberal.ca/story_15648_e.aspx)

  • Wilson hasn’t been over my way in a while leaving her comments.. or elsewhere at her usual haunts.. interesting that she’s chosen to show up now.

    By the way, I could add to Big Winnie’s quoting of Ignatieff that accountability is needed for this 3 billions fund not just to see where they spend this 3 billion $, but when… as the government has been lax in spending other monies already approved.

    However, when the government is refusing to allow general guidelines where they plan to spend these funds.. I think it’s generally assumed they are going to.. they just don’t want anyone knowing where (would be rather embarrassing for them if it was revealed the large majority of money was again being doled out to Conservative ridings)

  • Failing which, what? That’s my question. Are we ready for an election? Are we?

  • wilson, you need to read the motion again. There’s nothing in there about holding up funds, or committees approving funding. It’s merely all about reporting, and transparency.

    There are two elements.

    One, before this $3B fund is approved (and it can’t be legally spent until April 1 anyway) provide a list of the departments and ministries that can spend the money. That shouldn’t take two long to do.

    Second, once the $3B fund is approved and is in force, whenever project spending from the fund is approved by the government, it needs to report it to the House, the committee, the AG and the public. None of them will have a veto, they’re not going to approve it. It’s already approved by the government, and ready to flow as soon as the government wants it to. All the motion requires the government to do is report on what it’s spending where and why.

    What’s so onerous about all that?

    BTW, the only part the Conservative spokesperson objected to was the first part. They’re find with the project reporting, apparently. They just don’t want to produce “a comprehensive list of all the departments and programs which will have access to this extraordinary authority” before they’re given $3B.

    Try explaining to Canadians why we need to have an election because we don’t want to tell people which departments will have access to a $3B infrastructure fund. I know which side of that fight I’d like to be on.

  • Ted

    “So I ask, unless the opps are going to hold up the funds in a committee for their approval, why this motion?”

    To make sure it does not become a partisan slush fund as intended.

    If the Conservatives continue to direct 80-90% of infrastructure spending on Conservative ridings, we will be in a position to redirect that.

    “The Harper government has been in power for 3 years, so being able to get infrastructure money out the door that was announced a year ago, is just not possible, but you all know that, right?”

    Wrong. I’m really glad you wrote that because it highlights the very real accountability concerns with this government and how they have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted with our money with no accountability.

    The Conservatives have sat on $3B in infrastructure spending that was approved in the 2007 budget. This money is ready to be used but expires at the end of the month. If they can’t get that out the door in 2 years, why is there a need to rush this $3B without any accountability?

    The other day in the House we had two separate but very interesting and revealing discussions. In the first, Carol Hughes (MP, Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing) reported that there were projects in her riding that were shovel ready and had been waiting for Conservative approval for ages for essential work to fix a brown water problem. “The town of Espanola in my constituency [ed note: not CPC obviously] is a prime example of what has gone wrong. Faced with a brown water problem, Espanola has done the necessary legwork to pursue a fix. It has gone through the application process and waited, shovel ready, for the federal government to pony up its share of the project funding through the building Canada fund.
    Despite seeming to match all the criteria for a project to be able to draw funds from that program, Espanola has been denied funding again. Not only was it denied funding, but it received no feedback to indicate

    Meanwhile, hockey rinks in Conservative ridings seem to have no problem getting funding:

    Statements by Members – Mar 4th – Infrastructure
    “Mr. Phil McColeman (Brant, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, I wish to draw the attention of the House to the recent announcement of the government of over $10 million to build a new twin-pad arena in my riding of Brant and to rebuild the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre.”

    So they sit on spending that is ready to go. When they spend it, they spend it in an extremely partisan way. The Information Commissioner just presented a damaging report on how dangerously unaccountable and nontransparent and nonresponsive to questions the Conservatives have been. And now they want a $3 billion slush fund with no questions asked.

    Not on your life.

  • wilson

    ‘they really don’t have a clue where to spend the money or what to do about the economy’

    The Premiers and Mayors submitted lists, including shovel ready projects,
    a week before the budget was released.
    The government has since been consulting the levels of government involved, to pick projects where red tape can be cut.

    It can take 4 years to get an infrastucture project started, due to multiple assessments.
    The Harper government has been in power for 3 years, so being able to get infrastructure money out the door that was announced a year ago, is just not possible, but you all know that, right?

  • wilson

    Ted, did you read the entire motion?
    Every project, once picked for funding,
    must be tabled in the House the next day (before the money is spent), sent to a government website AND
    ‘ be referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates and to the Auditor General’

    So I ask, unless the opps are going to hold up the funds in a committee for their approval, why this motion?
    The government can be held to account after the money flows.

    If the opps aren’t going to hold up the funds and just rubber stamp the projects in committee anyways, Harper gets a stamp of approval, and the opps share the ‘blame’.

    the motion
    ‘..on each occasion that the government uses Vote 35, the President of the Treasury Board shall cause to be tabled in the House,
    within one sitting day of each use, a report disclosing the name of the project to which the funding is being provided,
    the nature of the project and what it is intended to achieve in fighting the recession, its location (including the federal electoral district in which it is located), the amount of federal funding involved, any other funding partners and the amounts of their contributions, the department and program under which the federal funding is being provided, and an explanation of why the project is urgent and requires the use of Vote 35 rather than any other source of funds; and

    THAT each such report shall automatically and immediately be posted on an accessible and interactive government website, and be referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates and to the Auditor General…’
    http://bcinto.blogspot.com/

  • CWTF

    Seems more like trying to set optics for the general public.
    I have the feeling this is more of putting the government on “probation” and Iggy will somehow weasel out of any sorely needed accountability.

  • Ted

    I find watching the Blogging Tories these days very revealing.

    Whenever the Liberals take on Harper and Conservative supporters think either that (a) the issue is weak but might make Harper vulnerable or (b) Harper is on and in the right on an important question, you will see no end of blog comments excorciating the Liberals and praising Harper. Most especially and most consistently so if it is a confidence/election matter.

    But what is interesting and very telling here is the complete silence. Ever since the budget passed, the bulk of BT political commentary has been about Israel and Obama.

    What that tells me is that they are finding it hard to defend Harper on the budget, generally, and this new slush fund in particular. He’s in the wrong and he’s losing his base over it.

  • Big Winnie

    I found this question by Ignatieff during QP yesterday somewhat disturbing in the fact that if the Cons already have money that is available, Why isn’t it being used?

    “Mr. Michael Ignatieff (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.):
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is asking the House to authorize vote 35, which is a $3 billion blank cheque, but he already has $3 billion ready to go for immediate stimulus. Parliament approved that money in the 2007 budget, but the government has not spent it.

    What is the Prime Minister doing to ensure that this funding flows before it lapses at the end of the month, or is he holding back needed stimulus to the economy in order to hide the size of his deficit?”

    Am I missing something?

  • Ted

    Wilson:

    You either have not read the motion or are being extremely disengenuous.

    The Liberals are not asking for a full accounting of each project ahead of time. Read the motion. All they want right now – and it is not asking that much accountability at all – is for the government to tell us the aggregate dollar amount to be allocated to each department. Right now, all they want is “a comprehensive list of all the departments and programs which will have access to this extraordinary authority”.

    And this is what the Conservatives want to fight an election on. Most people are assuming they are opposing any accountability on this because they want to use the slush fund for strictly partisan purpuses. I’m a little more generous and my guess is that their concern is that that requirement will show they really don’t have a clue where to spend the money or what to do about the economy, i.e. the slush fund is just for show just like 95% of the infrastructure announcements that have been made but not spent.

  • wilson

    The Liberal motion does not set out consequences for non-approval, so what is the reason for the motion?
    It asks the government to list the departments and each project but stops there.

    Are Liberal intentions to hold up each and every project until they fully investigate it?
    The entire purpose of the $3B Emergency Fund is to get money out in April, that won’t happen if the opps want to second guess every project.

    Libs can get just as much mileage criticizing the projects after they are started,
    so is the real objective to hold up the Emergency Fund, period?

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