October 22, 2012
Spending watchdog calls for stringent MP scrutiny
By Mark Dunn, Senior National Reporter
OTTAWA - Accusations a former liberal cabinet minister paid for his son's $20,000 wedding tab with government money has renewed calls for recalcitrant MPs to open their office expenses to microscopic scrutiny.
Joe Fontana, now the mayor of London, Ont., is the subject of RCMP queries after QMI Agency reported two Public Works Canada cheques totalling more than $20,000 were cut to pay for a reception in 2005.
On Monday, Fontana used his website to say he's hired a lawyer who has instructed him not to comment until the RCMP complete a preliminary review of the charges.
But a spending watchdog says that while recent changes obligate elected officials to post some of how they spend tax dollars, they are not required to go into detail.
"The Fontana situation is another big example of how the Old Boys network on Parliament Hill looks after its own and keeps the public in the dark," Gregory Thomas of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said.
Thomas called on MPs to follow the examples of Toronto and Alberta - two jurisdictions that post all invoices to the web as soon as they're paid.
Thomas said "there's no way" it would take so long for Fontana's expenses to become public if a similar system was in place in Ottawa, where even the auditor general can't name and shame MPs or senators who abuse the public purse.
In 2009, British politicians were named in a spending inquiry that led to a major political scandal there. MPs were fired, quit, tried and convicted for spending tax dollars like they were their own - from buying houses to having their moats cleaned.
Two years ago, Nova Scotia was swept up in its own scandal that lead to jail terms for politicians after tax dollars were spent on patio furniture and electronics.
The most recent case of federal abuse was last year when former Liberal senator Raymond Lavigne was convicted of using thousands of tax dollars to spruce up his lakeside retreat.