October 8, 2012
Tony Clement clips bureaucrat spending
By Mark Dunn, Senior National Reporter
OTTAWA - Bureaucrats will have to be thriftier with government credit cards under new measures announced Monday the government says will end indulgent and misappropriate use of tax dollars.
Treasury Board President Tony Clement said ministers will be deputized to approve spending for all department-related events that cost more than $25,000. Previously, bureaucrats could wildly spend with virtually no cabinet oversight.
The new directive includes travel (transportation, accommodation and meals), hospitality, professional and conference fees, and renting space.
The rules would have prevented the Canada Border Services Agency from flying 200 of its managers from across Canada to Montreal for a retreat earlier this year.
The three-day gathering at a luxury hotel cost hundreds of thousands of dollars when inexpensive video or teleconferencing could have been used.
Clement's latest exercise follows last week's penny-pinching decision to eliminate overtime for ministers' chauffeurs while giving them a pay raise and ending subsidized parking for political chiefs of staff to save $40,000 a year.
"Our government is looking at all areas to reduce operational spending, including our own ministerial offices," said Clement, who has come under fire for what opposition MPs charge was his own waste of public funds on projects that were unrelated to a G-8 summit in his riding in 2010 - charges he denies.
The Canadian Taxpayer's Federation (CTF) said its "great that ministers will now need to sign off personally on big-ticket schmooze fests."
But the CTF's Gregory Thomas said the government should follow the lead of Alberta and Toronto and put all expenses online.
"The best way to clean up overspending is to show the spending to the public as soon as it happens," he said.
Next up on the government's chopping block is the planned overhaul of public sector pensions and taking a whack at MPs and their platinum-plated pensions.
The cost-cutting is part of a broader commitment by the government to find annual savings of more than $5 billion annually as it tries to erase the $56 billion deficit it created a few years ago to combat a global economic downturn.