Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What's for lunch "taxpayer Wednesday" in the Prime Minister's Office?

Good Day Readers:

Get this, Treasury Board President Tony "Business Card" Clement insisted no rules had been broken the same fellow who twice had his business cards rejected because they were gold embossed (below). You've got to figure those attending today's taxpayers' free lunch in the Langevin Block must be a tad paranoid. Hopefully, one of the family of moles buried deep within the Conservative Party will tell us on what they dined.

CyberSmokeBlog's Plan For Rescuing The Freeloaders

Everyone by now knows Stephen Harper's attempt at video has been an abject failure with ratings going through the floor because, like him, it's so b-o-r-i-n-g, therefore, here's what CSERT (Conservative Strategic Election Readiness Team) should immediately swing into action to do:
(1) Since Laureen Harper is going to be leveraged as a proxy for her husband's cold fish, humourless personality, she should Chair next Wednesday's lunch. In front of each attendee would be a brown paper lunch bag familiar to millions and millions and millions of Canadians. Those present will be shown eating dry sandwiches they brought from home

(2) She displays a firm hand at the helm cutting directly to the chase not ...-balling around hike her husband. On her agenda? An update on the PMO's role in the Wallin-Duffy-Wright-Brazeau-Harb (and others to be named) senate scandal. An in depth discussion of the Jason Kenney-Jim Flaherty-Stephen Harper feud over income splitting. The Conservative strategy for managing the rising debate and public anger over the "Fair" Elections Act legislation. How to dig up more dirt on Justin Trudeau. Stemming the Party's dwindling support in the polls ..... etc., etc., etc.

(3) If Laureen Harper can pull this off the 24 SEVEN series be re-named 24 SEVEN With Leveraged Laureen.

Sound like a plan?

Clare L. Pieuk
Conservatives defend questionable lunches for political staff

Althia Raj

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
The Conservative government defended the practice of spending taxapyers' money for political staff Tuesday despite being hammered over the three-yeaty $68,000 tab by opposition parties. (Canadian Press)

OTTAWA — The Conservative government defended the practice of spending taxpayers' money on a weekly free lunch for political staff Tuesday, despite being hammered over the three-year, $68,000 tab by opposition parties.

"Regular people don't try to get hard working Canadian taxpayers to pay for their lunch," NDP MP Dan Harris told the Commons.

NDP MP Charlie Angus told HuffPost the Prime Minister's Office has blatantly disregarded the Treasury Board's rules about hospitality expenses.

"Here is a government that is telling veterans, senior citizens that the cupboard is bare. And they are breaking their own guidelines and dining very well off the taxpayers," he said.

"These Conservative staffers are not being held in a budget lock-up, there is not an emergency session," said Liberal MP Gerry Byrne.

"[Tomorrow] like every Wednesday for the last ten years, they will enjoy a free lunch from taxpayers. Will the President of the Treasury Board end this practice? Will he comply with the rules?" he asked.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement insisted the rules had not been broken.

"This has been referred to officials, politicians don't get to make these decisions," he said.

Neither his department nor the Privy Council Office, however, have responded to HuffPost's questions on the matter.

The costs, $67,789.48 over three years, for a weekly Wednesday lunch meeting with the PMO and Ministers' Chiefs of Staff, was first reported by The Huffington Post Canada Tuesday morning.

The vast majority of staffers who took advantage of the free lunch earn six-figure salaries. Chiefs of Staff are paid up to $178,800, according to guidelines posted on the Treasury Board website.

The Treasury Board's hospitality policy states federal employees can only be provided hospitality in situations that "extend beyond normal working hours," where employees are required to work during their normal break and meal periods, where there are no nearby facilities to obtain meals, or where staff dispersal is not efficient.

There are more than a dozen restaurants and lunch counters within two blocks of the Prime Minister's Office.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Prime Minister's Spokesperson, Jason MacDonald, told HuffPost the "rules allow meals for working lunches when, for example, staff need to attend a meeting outside of normal working hours (during a meal period, for example.)"

Byrne told HuffPost that he could understand if it was an occasional get-together or an emergency situation where staff were required to work through lunch. These lunches, he said, were not that, they were a routine occurrence and therefore were contrary to Treasury Board guidelines for hospitality, he said.
"It's a breach of the rules. It's a free lunch."

The weekly Wednesday lunches - bi-weekly in the summer - began in July, 2010. The costs of the lunches were disclosed on a government website and include bills up until October 31, 2013. The practice was still in place last week when staff ordered almost $500 worth of food from Indian Express.

And then there was this from "Business Card" Tony ..... Dhhhhh?

Tony Clement pays back taxpayers for 2nd set of gold business cards

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Treasury Board President Tony Clement

Among Tony Clement's stack of Christmas bills this year was one to pay back taxpayers for a second set of gold-embossed business cards that broke government rules.

Clement, the Treasury Board President, used his personal credit card last week to reimburse his department $195.98 for gold-embossed cards that were ordered back in 2011, when he first took the cabinet post.

The January 8 payment was in addition to the $434 he reimbursed taxpayers last month for another set of forbidden gold-embossed cards. Clement has now paid back $630 for improper stationery, which he says was ordered in error by a staff member.

Each set of his cards featured the Arms of Canada decorated with gold leaf, a costly stationery option that has been banned across government since 1994.

Minister repaid costs of earlier order in December

Through the Access to Information Act, the Canadian Press obtained invoices, emails and other documents on December 3 showing Clement's office ignored the rules shortly after the Conservatives won a majority in 2011.

The same day the documents were released to the news agency, Clement used his Visa card to pay back taxpayers for the first set of business cards. The amount repaid was calculated as the extra cost for having the gold leaf applied.

Other documents released this month, however, reveal a second set of Clement business cards with the same gold-leaf problem. The second set, also ordered in 2011, added a reference on the card to the Minister's secondary portfolio, the FedNor Development Agency.

'No remaining amount owing': spokesperson

Clement paid back the second amount on January 8, a day before these other documents were released to The Canadian Press.

"We have been assured by Treasury Board officials there is no remaining amount owing," the Minister's Spokeswoman, Heather Domereckyj, said in an email Monday.

"Minister Clement personally reimbursed the cost as soon as he was alerted. This was brought to the Minister's attention when the department provided additional documentation for the ATIP (Access-To-Information request)."

Not the first card controversy for Conservatives

Laurie Hawn, a Conservative MP appointed temporarily to a cabinet cost-cutting committee, also got his own set of gold-embossed cards in 2011.

His spokesperson, Jordan Fraser, has said Hawn also reimbursed taxpayers for the error but did not provide the date or amount.

Another cabinet member, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, in 2011 ordered a set of English-only business cards, violating government policy against unilingual communications.

Ministers' business cards must include French and English. Baird's cards also featured a gold-embossed Arms of Canada, breaking the same stationery rule as Clement and Hawn.

Clement's Department, the Treasury Board, sets out the rules for all Ministers' stationery, which specify that Canada's coat of arms on business cards must be in black.  The only colour permitted is the red of a small Canadian flag above the Canada wordmark. The rules date from 1994 during the Liberal government of Jean Chretien.

Baird has never acknowledged any "error" for his unilingual, gold-embossed cards.

He has defended his unilingual cards by saying he also ordered a second set of bilingual cards that were always available for distribution.

Baird yet to respond to language concerns

Canada's official-languages commissioner, Graham Fraser, issued a report last August slamming Baird for ignoring language policies, and demanded the English-only cards be dumped.

Fraser's office, which rejected the argument there was no violation because other bilingual cards were also available, said this week the commissioner was still waiting to hear whether Baird will abide by last summer's ruling.


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