Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Will the financial rape of taxpayers by politicians ever end?

Good Day Readers:

Here's the latest Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell - she's right up there with Senators Wallin, Duffy, Harb, Barzeau, others the Auditor General of Canada is likely to identify, Alberta Premier Alison Redford etc., etc., etc. But the cake must go to, yes, Stephen Harper and the at least $1.2 it cost to fly his armoured vehicles to India.

Every notice he doesn't walk, rather, waddles like a duck. Perhaps if he got more exercise - walking, cycling, rollerblading, stakeboarding - his gait would look normal. Why not a special prime ministerial bicycle he can ride surrounded by his RCMP security detail also no bicycles. That would be a hell of a lot cheaper for taxpayers.

The population of Brampton is about $524,000 - Jeezus lady! And while this was going on you were where City Council?

Clare L. Pieuk
Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell travels first class all the way - at taxpayers' expense

Freedom of Information documents reveal jet-setting Fennell's taste for wide seats and five-star hotels: $50,000 expensed just last year, on top of other discretionary spending.

By Stan Grenwal
Urban Affairs Reporter
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell has come under fire in recent months for her discretionary spending. She and her office racked up costs of $85,000 over the course of five years, on top of the $186,000 she is revealed to have spent over less than three years on community sponsorships and items such as Mandarin lessons and personalized barbecue aprons. (David Cooper/Toronto Star)

Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell and her staff have expensed more than $185,000 in travel costs over the past five years — $50,000 of that in just the first 10 months of 2013.

Among those costs were dozens of first-class airfares and hotel stays, including a $1,847 ticket to Ottawa, $2,832 spent on four nights at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, and $5,975 for a flight to the Philippines, according to documents obtained by The Star.

Over the same January-October period in 2013, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford had no travel expenses at all, while Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion had $10,232 in travel expenses for her office.

Most of Fennell’s trips were for Federation of Canadian Municipalities meetings, to which, unlike other mayors, she often takes several staff.

Other examples of Fennell’s spending included a $1,847 “flight pass” to Saskatoon in October 2012 (the same $1,847 for airfare for each of her two staff on the trip); $2,069 for Fennell’s three-night stay at the Fairmont Empress hotel in Victoria, in spring 2009; and $3,030 for the mayor’s airfare to Iqaluit in September 2010. And she didn’t hesitate to charge the taxpayers for trifling items, for example expensing $2 for an airport luggage cart.

“I don’t know what she’s doing taking two staff to FCM meetings, flying first-class and staying at five-star hotels. It’s ridiculous,” said Councillor John Sprovieri, an outspoken critic since the scope of Fennell’s spending, salary and perqs began to be revealed in recent months.

The City of Brampton’s travel policy did allow her to expense the cost of first-class airfares only on flights over five hours, yet there were about four dozen first-class fares billed for herself and her staff on much shorter trips.

A spokesperson for Fennell responded to questions about this by saying that “Airfare for these destinations was booked using flight passes.”

Fennell was also asked to account for several unexplained airfare expenses, such as nine “Prepaid Flight Passes” totalling almost $13,000, which were expensed in December 2011. No specific travel dates or destinations were listed for these charges in the documents provided by the city under freedom of information law.

Fennell stated that the flight passes were used to transport her and her staff to meetings across the country, but offered no details. “Meetings are held in communities throughout Canada,” she said in an email Monday.

“It’s kind of embarrassing that all this happened on our watch,” said Councillor Elaine Moore in response to the latest revelations. “When I read the mayor’s travel expenses it’s like, wow! …

“We took some measures during the recent budget deliberations, but clearly we should have had a handle on this before. Taxpayers are really angry. This is just more reason to get the audit done as soon as possible.”

In 2012, Fennell was Canada’s highest-paid mayor, earning more than $213,000 in combined salaries from the city and Peel Region.

Documents released in November and since obtained by The Star showed Fennell charged taxpayers more than $186,000 in discretionary expenses in less than three years for items such as $1,500 worth of orchestra tickets, $1,300 Mandarin lessons, $2,100 for barbecue aprons personalized with her name, and $1 for an iTunes download. That figure didn’t include the bulk of her transportation spending.

Outraged councillors unanimously voted for a forensic audit of Fennell’s spending, and of their own much more limited spending.

After learning that she’d flown first-class to Asia three times in four months, council ended all first-class air travel, regardless of distance. Councillors also cut her discretionary expenses by almost 70 per cent, and tried to chop $10,000 from her annual car allowance after it was learned taxpayers are covering the lease for her $1,400-a-month Lincoln Navigator SUV. (Staff later said the city is stuck with the lease.) Fennell also has a taxpayer-funded $46,000-a-year limousine driver service.

But these latest travel expense revelations, Sprovieri says, have pushed things “way too far.”

“I went on the trip to India (in January 2013). I flew economy with Brampton residents I recognized on that trip. The mayor said, ‘Why don’t you let me upgrade your seat to first class?’”

Fennell charged taxpayers an extra $3,200 to upgrade her seat to India.

“What kind of disrespect for the taxpayers who are paying for your ticket does that show?” Sprovieri said. “And who flies for $1,800 to Ottawa — a 40-minute flight? Even smart businesspeople who value a dollar earned wouldn’t think of doing that.”

“We need to get this audit done to find out what else this mayor has been up to, living high on the taxpayers’ back.”

On Thursday, the day registration opened, Fennell was the first candidate to register for the 2014 mayoral race. She’s seeking her fifth term.

Highlights of Fennell’s travels

  • 3-night stay at Fairmont Empress Hotel, Victoria, British Columbia: $2,069 
  • 4-night stay at Fairmont Chateau Whistler Hotel: $2,832 
  • 4-night stay for two staff at Fairmont Chateau Whistler: $3,150 
  • 5-night stay at Sheraton Centre Toronto: $1,743 
  • Airfare to Iqaluit: $3,030 (for Chief of Staff on same trip: $1,734) 
  • Airfare to Manila: $5,975 (for Chief of Staff on same trip: $2,396) 
  • Airfare to Saskatoon: $1,847 
  • Airfare to Bagotville, Quebec: $1,847 
  • Airfare to Ottawa: $1,847 
  • 3-night stay for Fennell's Chief of Staff at Delta Hotel, Saskatoon: $2,374 
  • Airfare to Montreal: $732 (for each of the two staff who went with her: $732) 
  • Steak dinner at Hy's restaurant, Ottawa, for Fennell and two staff: $310 
  • Airport luggage cart: $2
Now meet the parliamentary king of taxpayer financial rapists!
Stephen Harper's 2012 India limo tab raises to $1.2 million

Military charged RCMP to fly 3 armoured cars to India

James Cudmore
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Prime Minister Stephen's armoured Cadillac is pictured in Delhi, India in November 2012. RCMP documents released to CBC News show the costs to fly this vehicle and at least one more were more than $1.2 million. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The final, official price tag for shipping Prime Minister Stephen Harper's armoured limos to India in 2012 is in and it's even higher than previously thought.

The RCMP said it paid $1,200,260 to the Canadian Forces to transport two armoured Cadillacs and a bulletproof SUV to India in November of last year. That cost was provided to CBC News in documents released under the Access to Information Act.

While in India, Harper visited Agra, Delhi, Chandigarh and Bangalore. On each stop, the RCMP provided the prime minister with an armoured car or SUV. CBC News also reported on the presence of a Canadian Forces C-17 in India, which the government later admitted was used to transport the cars from Canada.
A Royal Canadian Air Force C-17 sits on the tarmac in Bangalore, India during Prime Minister Stephen Harper's November 2012 visit. The Massive cargo plane was used to fly armoured vehicles from Canada for Harper's use during the trip. (James Cudmore/CBC News)

The question of whether the cars were even necessary dogged Harper during his news conferences in India, especially after it emerged that the Indian government had offered to provide cars.

At one point sources suggested the car offered by India for Harper's use was an unsuitable Hindustan Motors Ambassador car, a vintage-looking white sedan, several of which were seen in the PM's motorcade during the trip. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is frequently pictured travelling in an armoured BMW. And just a few weeks before Harper's visit, then Australian prime minister Julia Gillard was pictured during her own official visit travelling in a black Mercedes.
'The RCMP evaluates these things and they make the operational decisions.'- Andrew MacDougall, former Harper communications director.
Harper refused to address the issue himself during the trip, but his spokesman at the time, Andrew MacDougall, told reporters on the tour that the Prime Minister's Office had no role in the decision.
"The RCMP evaluates these things and they make the operational decisions," MacDougall said.

The RCMP is responsible for the prime minister's security and provides protection both at home and abroad.
"The deployment of RCMP resources are dictated by operational requirements, including public and officer safety considerations, and a threat assessment of the events/environments," RCMP Corporal Lucy Shorey said in a written statement released in November 2012.

In January, the government released a different set of numbers for the use of a military C-17 aircraft to transport the limos.

Back then it said the total estimated cost was $1,061,448. The government based that number on 48.5 hours of flying time for one C-17, between October 29 and November 10, 2012.

The documents also show RCMP officers were paid $286,779 in overtime during the trip.


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