Monday, June 29, 2015

Time to amend the Canadian Constitution and Charter of Rights!

Good Day Readers:

Can you imagine if the Supreme Court of Canada were to amend these documents so that any elected official had to sign a vow of poverty. Budgets would be balanced and surpluses generated virtually overnight. Dreaming in quadruple technicolour.

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk
Kelly McParland: When in doubt about expensing something just ask, "Would the Pope claim this?"

Friday, June 19, 2015
Does your publicly funded orange juice cost more that a couple bucks. Maybe get a water. (Getty Images)

It shouldn’t be that hard to avoid making a stupid mistake when submitting business expenses: Just ask yourself, “Would Pope Francis claim this?”

For a man committed to a vow of poverty, the Pope has shown pretty sure footing when it comes to the perks that come with the job of being God’s chief executive for the planet. Recently he dumped the Vatican’s bubble-topped Mercedes-Benz popemobile and replaced it with a Hyundai, built by those budget-conscious folks in South Korea rather than the upmarket Germans.

The bubble is gone, the bullet-proof glass is gone, and it’s not even a top-of-the-line Hyundai, but a modified Santa Fe, which retails at about $27,000. The Pope rejected the lavish living quarters of his predecessor in favour of a modest apartment, and recently, while out for a spin in the popemobile, gladly accepted a pizza handed to him from the crowd. (He’d been quoted moaning about how he missed going out for pizza.)

If Mike Duffy had the good sense of the Pope, would he have demanded repayment for living in his own home? Would Bev Oda have insisted on staying at the Savoy Hotel at $665 a night and billing for $16 orange juice? Would David Dingwall have insisted he was entitled to his entitlements?

First rule of not being stupid about expenses: it’s not an entitlement. If you have a job that comes with unavoidable costs, it’s fair to expect the employer to pick up the charges. It’s not fair to expect to be treated like the Nawab of Udaipur. Here are some rules:

1. Don’t treat yourself better than you would if you were picking up the bill.

So, when you’re on vacation you park your car in the long-term lot because it’s cheaper, you never buy food in the terminal because it’s absurdly overpriced, you put up with economy class and you stay in the best hotel you can find at a reasonable rate. But when it’s business, you book a limo, order a steak in the terminal (and maybe a few drinks), book yourself into business class and stay at the Ritz. Any Ritz. You are a bad person, and if the accountant catches you, you’ll get what you deserve.
2. Don’t convince yourself that no one will notice.

No one gets away with anything any more. A ticket clerk on the subway nods off due to a cold, and it’s all over the Internet in eight seconds. People are watching. Ask yourself: what happens if I get caught? You think you can slip through that muffin on expenses? Imagine how you’ll explain it if the snarky guy in accounting makes an issue of it. What, you can’t afford a muffin? Here’s the official mathematical equation: the lower the claim you’re making the bigger a cheapskate you’ll look like when people find out.

3. Being elected to public office doesn’t come with a direct claim on the Treasury.

No matter how impressed you are by the fact you’ve been elected mayor of Greater Euphoria, or appointed minister of regional giveaways, get over it. There is no reason you should have a better office, a fancier car, more extensive travel or less hassle at the border than the rest of us. People don’t elect politicians to provide them with a new and improved lifestyle. The Queen gets to travel in style because she’s the Queen, symbol of a nation and its people. Mayors, premiers and prime ministers come and go, and usually not soon enough. Here’s the rule for politicians thinking of expensing a fat lunch or similar indulgence: if the other party was in power, would you let them get away with it?
4. It’s not someone else’s responsibility.

OK, you’re a hot shot. Big salary. Nice clothes. Underlings aplenty. Why should you keep track of your own expenses, isn’t that a job for minions? Answer: no. Alison Redford thought she was too good to share a government plane with lesser lights, and now she’s ex-premier of Alberta. People rarely have as high opinion of you as you have of yourself. If you can’t keep track of what you spend, you shouldn’t be in a position to spend it.

Closing note: A couple of years ago I was stuck in an endless line-up at Pearson airport. It was a holiday period and the place was jammed. Everything took forever. Everyone was grumpy. The guy in front of me looked familiar, and after a moment I realized it was Jim Flaherty. He was finance minister at the time, second only to the prime minister, but he was lugging his own suitcases, getting shuffled from line to line, treated with the usual disregard by Customs. What a decent guy, I thought. When he passed away, I wasn’t surprised by the outpouring of affection and respect. It’s hard to imagine the same reaction would greet the passing of senators appalled that they have to drive a whole hour to work without special compensation.

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