Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Our goverment treats taxpayers' money with the 'upmost respect'" ... blab ... blab ... blab ... blab...

Good Day Readers:

Given the recent exploits/shenanigans of Bev "Champagne" Oda, Peter "Helicopter" McKay, Christian "Sleeping Bag" Paradis and Gerry "CWB" Ritz, maybe just maybe Mr. Harper it's time for a Cabinet shuffle.

Surely by now taxpayers are tired of being Odaed, McKayed, Paradised and Ritzed

Ministers ring up hefty travel tabs
By Steve Rennie/Wednesday, April 25, 2012

OTTAWA -- Bev Oda may be in hot water for her champagne tastes, but by no means is she the highest-spending member of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet.Oda, minister of International Co-operation, ranked fifth among all members of cabinet, with a travel and hospitality tab of $168,639. She has been under fire over a costly hotel upgrade during a visit to London last June.

She repaid the cost difference and apologized, but the controversy shone new light on how cabinet ministers handle their own budgets at a time when the government is slashing spending and cutting public-service jobs.

Of all federal cabinet ministers, the biggest spender for travel and hospitality is Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, largely because of trade missions that have taken him all over the globe.

It has cost $271,489 since March 2010 to send Ritz to such far-flung destinations as Italy, Turkey, Indonesia and Japan. He just edged out Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to claim top spot.

In a sign that the Tories may be circling the wagons over expenses, two spokeswomen defended their ministers' spending with boiler-plate responses, identical right down to the misspelling of the word "utmost."

"Our government treats taxpayers' money with the upmost (sic) respect and we require that travel on government business be done at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers," Ritz's spokeswoman, Meagan Murdoch, wrote in an email.

Travel and hospitality costs for Flaherty, who also regularly travels abroad for meetings, came to $270,119.

His spokeswoman, Mary Ann Dewey-Plante echoed her colleague on spending rules: "Our government treats taxpayers' money with the upmost (sic) respect and we require that travel on government business be done at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers."

Defence Minister Peter MacKay rounded out the Top 3 with expenses of $265,286. Like Flaherty, MacKay's job frequently takes him to international conferences as well as hot spots where Canadian troops are deployed.

MacKay's spokesman, Jay Paxton, wrote in an email that overall, government travel costs are down 15 per cent compared to the former Liberal government and hospitality spending is down by 33 per cent.

The priciest single trip was a 2010 visit by former foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon to Kazakhstan, the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Hong Kong. The 10-day jaunt cost $35,058 in airfare and $1,074 in accommodations.

Gordon O'Connor, Minister of State and Chief Government Whip, had the lowest travel and hospitality tab, with only $3,386 in expenses over the two-year period.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 25, 2012 Page A9.


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