Andrew Leslie on expense scandal: ‘I can take it’

Retired general accuses Conservatives of smear campaign

(Canadian Press)

(The Canadian Press)

OTTAWA – A retired general who once led Canada’s troops in Afghanistan is accusing the federal Conservatives of a “personal attack” over his moving expenses to undermine his new role as a Liberal adviser.

Former lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie brushed off what he characterized as a partisan smear Sunday, saying he’s been shot at by “real bullets” and can withstand the scrutiny that comes with working for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

The 35-year Canadian Forces veteran posted the comments online the same day the Defence Minister said he would ask his department to explain how it approved in-city moving expenses of more than $72,000 for Leslie — a Rob Nicholson said appeared “grossly excessive.”

“In the meantime, it is important for Andrew Leslie to explain why he believes this is a reasonable expense for hard working Canadians to absorb,” Nicholson said in a statement. “This is a matter of judgment and the responsible use of taxpayers dollars.”

Leslie told CTV News, which aired the story Saturday based on a government document, that he did not break any rules and that most of the moving expenses went to real estate fees.

CTV did not say how it obtained the document, but Nicholson’s office said Sunday it was released under the Access to Information Act.

Leslie did not explain in his statement how he concluded the Tories were behind the story.

It aired just a week before Leslie, touted as a candidate in the next federal election, is to address a Liberal convention in Montreal.

Leslie said Sunday that like all Canadian Forces personnel who retire after 20 or more years of service, he was offered and accepted a standard benefit that allows veterans a final move to anywhere in Canada.

In Leslie’s case, he and his family decided to move from their Ottawa house to a smaller one nearby.

“After moving homes 18 times in the service of my country, I was glad to make a new house in Ottawa our new, permanent home,” he said in the statement.

“Each step of the process is overseen by a third-party supplier, and independent approvals for every expenditure are required, as directed by the Treasury Board of Canada. Costs are paid directly to the suppliers (real estate agents, movers etc.) by the Department of National Defence.”

Leslie said that after retiring, he joined the federal Liberal Party because he felt “it was time for a change in how politics is conducted” in Canada.

“I saw how the Conservative Party often attacks those people that might dare to disagree with them,” adding all too often the tactic is to make the issue personal, not about differences in policy or vision.

Now that he has joined Trudeau’s team as a senior adviser on defence and foreign policy, the Conservatives have made him the target of a just such a personal attack, Leslie said.

“I can take it. I have been shot at by real bullets. What is disappointing is that this particular attack may raise questions over a military retirement benefit and I do not think veterans deserve to have another measure called into question.”

— With a file from Joan Bryden.

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Andrew Leslie on expense scandal: ‘I can take it’

  1. What, did they move the whole house? $72,000 to move from one house to another in the same city is a self-smear and an insult to taxpayers, politics be damned.

    • Real estate fees….and the same benefit that anyone retiring gets.

      • Wrong. Only people with million dollar houses get that much.

        • Good if you live in vancouver then. Million dollar crackshacks!

        • The benefit is the same….the amount varies with the house.

          However outside of Moose Posterior Alberta, and Gopher Hole Saskatchewan….a million dollars for a house is commonplace.

        • Are you suggesting senior military officers are overpaid?

          • I have no idea if they’re overpaid. I’m suggesting what I wrote. You can read two sentences, can you not?

        • He bought it for $400k. It appreciated.

          Maybe you CON loopers can fashion a nefarious plot out of that, too….

    • Yes, the put it on logs. Then, it was hauled on the backs of 100 brawny lumberjacks to its new location.

      There a house blessing ceremony where a hockey card of guy lafleur was attached to the back of a dove ensuring the house would always be stocked with pea meal bacon.

      Hope you got your tax dollars worth.

    • That’s almost exactly what Jenni Byrne said on twitter. Do you really want to be with the Cons on this?

  2. It is a smear if a single politically connected person has been singled out for utilizing a retirement benefit that thousands of others routinely use. The problem is with the structure of the retirement benefit. It works well for those who are of average means, but when applied to someone who has a million dollar house – does not make sense. The problem is with the retirement benefit – it should be capped as the good intent of the policy is lost for those who have managed to make it to the million dollar club.

    • He SOLD his last house for a million…in Ottawa.

      He has moved house 18 times in his career.

    • I’m hardly a “rah rah rah support the troops type”, but if you spend 20 years working for the government in a program that can force you to live anywhere (and unlike other jobs I don’t think you get the option of quitting if they ask you to move) it’s reasonable to pony up for the expenses of one last move at the end of your career.

      And I assume it’s rarely going to be this much money. Military pay seems decent for the educational level but hardly generous, as a general Mr. Leslie probably made more money than most soldiers and had higher pay.

      • “and unlike other jobs I don’t think you get the option of quitting if they ask you to move”

        Actually everyone in the CF but a few privates and junior officers who owed time back for their education could do that.

        • i admit i was unaware – i figured you signed up for x number of years and couldn’t get out until those years were up.

          Too many movies, I guess :) Thank you for the clarification.

          • Although now I am wondering what another poster was referring to when she stated military personnel do not have certain rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freeoms. I just assumed people meant mobility rights. Can anyone shed light on this?

          • While CF members do give up many rights enjoyed by Canadians as directed by the National Defence Act (NDA), any member of the CF can ‘resign’ at anytime [normally with 6 months notice(4weeks if your transferring to the RCMP)]; however comma, one may be obligated to a period of service to ‘repay in time served’ for one’s advanced education, provided for by the CF.

            There used to be a time, when being ‘asked’ (Posted) by the CF to move every 2 years as an Officer/every 4 as an NCO, was actually fairly lucrative, in the sense that you could make money with every house sale [and Leslie did quite well in Ottawa of course), but increasingly over the past decade, members of the CF have taken [in some cases, VERY large] losses on the sale of their houses. There is an program in place to reimburse members in these cases, but, only to a max amount.

            A few months prior, one’s House Hunting Trip (HHT) is normally five days of frantically searching for a suitable house, and quite often your make some ‘compromises’ in order to secure a roof over one’s head; Thus, when it comes to the next move, your trying to sell to a market that has normally months to research, peek-n-poke locally to find that perfect gem.

            After 25 years, I transferred from the Regular Force, to Reserves for an additional 13; this put me more in control of ‘my options’. Frequently, I would go ‘ahead’ for up to 6 months, to find our perfect home. We happened to own a show home in Edmonton/Spruce Grove and bought a second, as the market was skyrocketing locally (150% in three years!!!)…..I took a Reserve 3 yr contract position with the Army in Ottawa, just 6 months prior to the fin crash in 2007 …. 8:) And we were fortunate enough to replicate this in Ottawa, buying two showhomes on specualtion.

            That said, I know of a Admin Sgt who was posted away from Edmonton in 2005, just before realty started to explode, and she was posted back in 2008… your can do the math on that one yourself…..Needless to say, she and many mbrs were crying justifyable financial duress being posted into Edmonton.

            So it has become a crap shoot in recent years for serving members who choose to buy.

            The pay checks nowadays are actually very good for a grade 12 education; prior to the 80′s you had to watch your expenses very closely.

            I personally enjoyed my 33 yrs running, shooting, digging, camming, rapelling, marching, drinking and belching; we worked hard and we played hard.

            I thank you for the privilidge that it was, to strap on my uniform and serve this great country for 3 decades.
            [which is rapidly turning into a fascist corptocracy under Harper's master plan].

            regards….Ole

          • We were always told that our job was to defend democracy, not practice it.

            How’s that for a non-answer to a good question?

  3. Did the Tories write the CTV exclusive story that outed him? Asking for a friend.

    • Yes.

    • What? Surely not! I thought CTV was part of the media cabal that is biased for Trudeau and against Harper?

      I am interested in how you are going to rationalize this…

      • The Tories can write?

        • You are hilarious. Have you ever tried stand-up?

          • Hmm. I’m sure there’s a your mom joke here

      • When they wrote the story they had no idea that he was an adviser to Trudeau. It was mentioned nowhere in the story. So either they did not know, in which case they believed it would look bad only for the Conservative defense minister, or they did know, in which case it was knowingly omitted from the story in the hope that the Liberal connection would go unnoticed.

        Either way, they appeared to have smeared Trudeau inadvertently. Oops.

        • As an attempt at rationalizing, this is probably as good as you guys are gonna get.

          Thanks for the laugh. Desperate conservatives are funny.

          • Liberals are never funny. Especially you.

            Apparently you found a desperate conservative somewhere. I don’t know. Seems to me this is about Leslie and Trudeau, both of them Liberals. I’ll take your word for it that there exists a desperate conservative somewhere.

          • Except it has nothing to do with Trudeau. But I can see why you would be so desperate to smear him.

            Nothing. Not one thing the CPC have tried with Trudeau sticks.

            This won’t either. This will backfire.

          • Ok. Good to know.
            I guess people don’t mind that Trudeau’s adviser spent 72k of taxpayer money to move cross-city from his million dollar house.
            Good to know. Thanks for letting me know.

          • I am sure people will not mind that the retired General availed himself of a program he was entitled to avail himself of.

            What they may mind is the conservatives attacking someone who put his life on the line for his country.

            That would be good for you to know.

          • Wow, this is hilarious. You actually think the expense is OK?!! Wow. You do fit right in with the Liberal party. Wow.
            And you’re actually trying to make a connection between moving from a million dollar house to the war in Afghanistan? This is truly hilarious.
            Somehow I think not all of the admirable soldiers who fought in Afghanistan and risked their lives will be getting 72k as a retirement gift. Somehow I think only Leslie is getting that special gift.

          • Apparently the Conservative party has thought that the expense was OK for the past 8 years.
            If they’d now like to reduce compensation to Canadian soldiers, it’s entirely within their power to do so.

          • You can think it but you would be wrong. The benefit has been around for decades in one form or another. At least through three Conservative PM’s and three Liberal PM’s not including the next one. Leslie is pretty smart but he probably wasn’t the first to think of downsizing upon retirement.

          • Entitled to his entitlements.

          • 13 other CF Generals and Admirals have done the same thing – are they all scammers to the CONs also?

            Why does the CPC hate the troops?

        • ” So either they did not know, in which case they believed it would look bad only for the Conservative defense minister, or they did know, in which case it was knowingly omitted from the story in the hope that the Liberal connection would go unnoticed.”

          Sorry, SomeCanFloat, you fail.

          Leslie is expected to run for the Liberals in the next federal election and he is a keynote speaker at the party’s convention next week.

          • Fail what? That doesn’t say he is an adviser to Trudeau.
            You appear to be failing reading comprehension.

          • Hard time comprehending my comment? Let me shorten it and add some bold to help you:

            ” in which case it was knowingly omitted from the story in the hope that the Liberal connection would go unnoticed.”

          • Yes, in the same comment I explain the connection I’m talking about. It’s only a single comment, a single paragraph. You can read an entire paragraph, can you not? How many words until your brain is overwhelmed? 10? This is basic English. When I say “this” is basic English, can you figure out that “this” is referring to? Can you read the word “English”? I’m trying to figure out how far we can go with the big words. Don’t want to overwhelm you.

          • Right. The story made absolutely clear his Liberal connections, but omitted his advisor role hoping that the Liberal connection would go unnoticed.
            Do you play dumb or were you born to the role?
            Oh wait, I already know the answer to that.

          • Good for you. You’re really stupid, but we’ve determined there is a limit to the stupidity, you’ve shown you can understand a simple concept.
            You appear to be siding with the possibility that the author of the article did not know that he was Trudeau’s appointed advisor.
            However, you are obsessed with coral atolls, so you are clearly completely and totally nuts.
            I’m flattered that you like my comments – maybe someday you’ll learn something from them, or even learn anything at all from anybody. When pigs fly. Just try to get off the drugs. That’s a start.

          • If by “obsessed” you mean, “find it hilarious that a grown adult thinks they float”, then absolutely!
            Communication works better if we stick with accepted word meanings, though.

          • Yes, you are obsessed. You probably find evolution hilarious as well. And you surely believe the moon landing was faked. You are a genius.
            BTW, we already had the conversation where I showed you that coral atolls float, months ago. Somehow, you are still thinking about it. Get off the drugs. When you do, start slowly, perhaps learn to read first, then later on, learn how the moon is not made of green cheese, and in a million years when you’re ready, learn a few things about coral atolls.

        • “… they appeared to have smeared Trudeau inadvertently.”

          When even a Con drone like SomeCanFloat admits it’s a smear, you know the story is done.

          • Well yes, in the same way that people like you tried to smear Harper with respect to Duffy.

            But it does say something about Trudeau’s choice of advisers. It reminds people what they get when they vote Liberal.

            But no, the story is not done. Frankly, I think most people would be appalled by this sort of spending. Personally, I don’t think that taxpayers should front the bill for moving from a million dollar house, within the same city, just before retirement. I think it’s obscene.

            I fail to see what this has to do with coral atolls, but heck, if you think there’s a link, whatever. But it does make me think that you’re completely nuts.

          • So Harper didn’t appoint the unethicalhack, Duffy, to the Senate?

          • What the heck are you talking about? First you think this has something to do with coral atolls, now you apparently don’t know that senators are appointed by the PM.
            You’re nuts. Get off the drugs.

          • You claimed Harper was “smeared with respect to Duffy”.
            Except there’s no smear there. He’s entirely responsible for appointing him to the Senate.

          • It does indeed say something about Trudeau’s advisors. His advisors know more than the Ministers who are actually in the portfolios. Harper should worry, In Canada we vote governments out, not in, and in the past we’ve tossed Governments for less than the Senate scandal.

          • Strangely, the last two elections voted governments in, not out, and it was Harper both times.
            That comment says more about you than it does about Harper or Trudeau.

      • Since SomeCanFloat has failed so spectacularly how ’bout you give a stab, john?

  4. The Minister’s statement appears intended to cast suspicion on this individual. It’s the Minister’s job to answer to the public for military benefits policy and how they handle such moves and the costs. If he didn’t know he should have asked the department how it works and if he doesn’t like the way it works he could call for a review of the policy and procedures.

    • Lesley is ‘entitled to his entitlements’………hmmmmmmmmm
      Sounds like a lieberal to me.

      • He also has a right to his rights, and his belongings belong to him.
        However, in the neadercon alternate universe even these basic truths can be ignored when convenient.

      • They’re not “his” entitlements. They’re a benefit the government gives the military, not just him, based on the government’s policy that it can change. No reason for them to smear people if they don’t like their own policy.

  5. It works out to about $2000/year for each year of his service, not unreasonable if considered to be built into the overall salary and benefits package. Ridiculously, Nicholson said it’s important for the recipient of a benefit that the government offers to all vets to explain himself – but has he suggested that the Conservative senators who expense business class flights for their wives owe us an explanation?

    • The government would have paid for those other 18 moves as well, though, so averaging over his career would be a bit misleading.

      • I wouldn’t treat payment for those 18 moves as some sort of benefit. It’s a miserable experience being posted, over and over again. Especially when you have a family to upheave. Friends of mine (husband and wife, both in the navy, with two kids) were posted from Halifax to Victoria, then back to Halifax, within a single year.

        • I would actually classify this as just one more move: #19.

  6. And where is the Tory outrage over Ted Opitz spending FOUR TIMES the legal limit just to win the nomination in 2008.

    Opitz is the guy who ‘won’ election by 26 votes!
    Where are the press on this? iPolitics has a story….that’s it!

  7. Considering the realty commissions [which is highway robbery] on his million plus property, would have eaten up the vast majority of this 70+K, it’s not unreasonable at all.

    Given he was under the 40 kilometer distance, he would not have been entitled to a House-Hunting-Trip (HHT), nor Home Equity Assistance (HEA), nor Misc expenses (=1 months pay)[replacing curtains etc).

    The crime here is not what Leslie was entitled to [like every other Forces/RCMP/federal-Prov employee], it primarily how the reality industry has highjacked commission rates [5-7%] for baby sitting prospective buyers whilst your at work…

    http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/about-policies-standards-benefits-relocation/2011-2012-directive-ch14.page?

    • I was sure there used to be a 40Km minimum distance, for one to be moved at crown expense, even on one’s final retirement move; However, a cusory scan of the relevant docs [link above] makes no reference to this limitation. If it was in fact ever the case, it would seem that, it has been removed.

  8. The final move policy is a good one, but spending $72,000 in this case defies logic.

  9. The Liberal partisans are coming out in force. Lots of great reasons why a single payment of 72k for in in-city move is fine, while 90k for a Senator’s multi-year living expenses in the same city is not.

    The cutoff of good vs bad must be 73k (it difference can’t possibly be explained by bias).

    • Uhhhh . . . because said senator was claiming expenses on a residence that was already his primary residence . . . you know, making a false claim.

      Same appears to be the case for Harb and Brazeau.

      • I can’t believe you want to go over Duffy again. There has been 10,000 articles in Macleans about Duffy, 1 about Leslie. Yes, we all know Duffy sucks, it’s been repeated ad-nauseum. Hello?

        • You’re the one who brought up the Senator…

    • If General Leslie’s expenses were unaccounted for campaign spending and a third party paid to try and keep that out of an audit, by all means the general should be trouble.

      Since he is not, it doesn’t seem similar at all.

      you are an idiot.

      • Yes, of course. One is a Liberal and one isn’t. Good point.

  10. “— a Rob Nicholson said appeared “grossly excessive.”

    “In the meantime, it is important for Andrew Leslie to explain why he
    believes this is a reasonable expense for hard working Canadians to
    absorb,” Nicholson said in a statement. “This is a matter of judgment
    and the responsible use of taxpayers dollars.”

    Wow! When you unpack Nicholson’s statement – the guy who’s supposed to be responsible for the DND – you come up with: it’s the General’s job to explain himself and justify “grossly excessive” policy that Robbie is himself apparently unaware of until this convenient point in time. At what point if ever will a minister in SH’s govt accept responsibility for mistakes, and just get on with the job of fixing mistaken policy?

    • Never. Being conservative is about making other people accountable for stuff. No conservative actually takes personal responsibility for anything.

      Biggest lie of all…

    • This is the twin of the PM declaring Pamela Wallin’s expenses totally appropriate – both based on zero knowledge of the facts and offered up for purely political purposes. They don’t learn from their mistakes, this crew.

  11. I just want to say thank you to all the veterans that fought and died for this country!! This man seems to be doing this legally and I wonder if every service man has this offered to them? Moving from province to province when your enlisted and uprooting your family must be very stressfull . If we as Canadians don’t agree to what these people are entitiled to then the rules should be reconsidered!! Maybe a list should be made available to see the break down of the $74,000.

  12. Welcome to politics General Leslie. You’ll soon learn for yourself how to generate gobs of outrage over the slightest act or word by your opponents.

  13. I bet that every currently serving member of the military is feeling quite unsettled right about now, and fully expecting the rules are about to change very much against their favour. Nicholson’s comments are not at all likely to produce much confidence in the rank and file of the military.

  14. This has backfired nicely on the HarperCONs…

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