MP Report by Jay Hill

Another one. On Tuesday, the Auditor General of Canada issued yet another damning indictment of Liberal mismanagement of “YOUR” tax dollars.

Is anyone listening? Does anyone care? Are Canadians so immune that these reports simply no longer register? Do the Liberals have “the spin” so perfected that their “damage control” successfully counteracts any potential political harm the AG can do even before her report is actually tabled? Or do most Canadians simply turn a deaf ear because they don’t believe anyone else (such as the new Conservative Party of Canada) would do any better?

Government scandal has become so commonplace in Ottawa that I fear an increasing number of Canadians simply shrug their shoulders and turn their back on our democratic process. I wish more people were like Sheila Fraser.

Since becoming Auditor General in 1998, Ms. Fraser continues to uncover shocking revelations every year, demonstrating that the governing Liberals pay her reports little heed. Yet Ms. Fraser doesn’t give up in frustration. She gets angry. And as she read her report over one more time the night before tabling it in the House of Commons, she says she “got angry all over again.”

Ms. Fraser examined the Public Works and Government Services Sponsorship program set up by the Liberals to raise the federal government’s profile in Quebec after the 1995 referendum. She found fictitious invoices, artificial contracts and contracts made “verbally” with no paper trail.

Of the $250-million in taxpayers’ money consumed by the program, $100-million was used to pay commissions and fees charged by Quebec advertising firms for distributing cash on the government’s behalf. In some instances, advertising firms were paid commissions for simply acting as the “middle man” when Public Works wanted to transfer money to another arm of the federal government, such as the RCMP.

“This is such a blatant misuse of public funds … words escape me,” stated Ms. Fraser. She also investigated the $100-million purchase of two challenger jets for the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers and found that National Defence was essentially instructed to purchase them from Bombardier Inc. whether the department needed them or not.

Prime Minister Paul Martin’s “spin” began even before the report was released. In his ongoing attempts to distance himself from his predecessor, Jean ChrĂ©tien, he recalled former Public Works Minister, Alfonso Gagliano, from his new job as Ambassador to Denmark. He also called a public inquiry into the scandal.

Yet the inquiry will not provide the answer, at least not before the upcoming election … to the question voters are asking themselves: As Finance Minister, senior Minister for Quebec and vice-chair of the Treasury Board, it was Paul Martin’s job to protect Canadian tax dollars. So, what was he doing while all of this was going on?

There are, of course, only two possible explanations. Either he was completely incompetent if he “knew nothing” as he claims, or he was complicit in the scandal, meaning he knew about it but chose to remain silent.

Incompetent or complicit? Either way why should Canadians trust Paul Martin to run our country?