The Commons: Tony Clement comes clean

The government knows which gazebos, toilets and bike racks were built with that $45.8 million

The Scene. Tony Clement, his suit tightly buttoned up, arrived at precisely 3:30pm in the appointed room where the public accounts committee was scheduled to demand some kind of public accountability of him. The next hour and 45 minutes would mostly be spent trying to explain why there was little reason to be there.

He did not sit at the far end of the table alone. Beside him sat John Baird, the Foreign Affairs Minister who now officially splits his time between representing this country on the world stage and speaking on Mr. Clement’s behalf in the House of Commons. Around the two cabinet ministers sat a total of four previously anonymous bureaucrats. To the left of this group sat no less than eight Conservative MPs, here as members of the committee (or rather, as would soon become clear, loyal representatives of the Conservative Party of Canada). Behind these Conservative MPs sat their dutiful aides. And in the area reserved for the spectators appeared to be still more professional supporters, including at least one young man from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Opposite the Conservative brigade sat four New Democrats, one Liberal, their own dutiful aides and, for whatever reason, Pat Martin. Later, Elizabeth May stopped by, though her attempt to ask a question was foiled after the debate about whether she was allowed to ran so long that there was no time left for her to actually do so.

“It is indeed a pleasure to be here,” Mr. Clement said by way of opening. The rest was smiles and laughs and sighing.

In between enthusing about the greatness of everything done so far as the G8 Summit was concerned, Mr. Clement stressed his irrelevance. His office had merely been a “depository” for funding applications. He himself had merely been an “interlocutor” between the federal government and the mayors who sought to beautify their communities. (These words presumably brought to you by whoever in the Harper government is responsible for minding the official thesaurus.) In hindsight, he said, “it might’ve been better” if the G8 Legacy Fund had been handled entirely through official government channels. But, rest assured, every penny was accounted for. Indeed, if it should make you feel any better, know this: the Harper government knows exactly which gazebos, toilets and bike racks were built with that $45.8 million in public funds. This much would be noted regularly and repeatedly throughout the afternoon.

When it was Mr. Baird’s turn, he explained that unnamed “officials” of his had advised him that he should use the Border Infrastructure Fund for the purposes of funding these trinkets. “Informed by the best advice,” he had acted. Not that he was redirecting responsibility—”The buck stopped with me,” he declared—but not that it was his idea. And, anyway, apparently this sort of thing has gone on for 100 years. And, for that matter, if not for those gazebos, he seemed to suggest at one point, Canada might have slipped into a depression. (It is a well-known fact that FDR’s national gazebo strategy is what ultimately pulled the world out of the last depression.)

The Conservative members of the committee proceeded then to take turns honouring their primary responsibility to the party to whom they are pledged. When not sorrowfully lamenting for the official opposition’s tone, they lobbed friendly queries to the assembled witnesses. So far as they seemed to feel, we were here only to clear up the misunderstandings propagated by the NDP. At one point, Mr. Clement was asked to explain how the personal emails of his now in the possession of the NDP were only obtained by the official opposition because he had signed off on their release, as apparently required by the access to information law employed here.

The New Democrats, suffering no doubt from a certain pent-up desire to question Mr. Clement directly, tried variously to make his version of events seem preposterous. Most of this seemed to hinge on a form that bore the contact information for his office. It was Mr. Clement’s contention that he had nothing to do with this piece of paper. It was the NDP’s opinion that that was kind of odd.

Charlie Angus, wearing his nicest skinny tie, demanded to know the whereabouts of the “paper trail.” Mr. Clement managed to venture that “the trail is very clear,” while sidestepping the fact that said trail seems not to have been committed to paper. Asked by Gerry Byrne, the committee’s lone Liberal, why his office, however uninvolved it apparently was, had sent out rejection letters in regards to some projects, Mr. Clement allowed that “maybe we were being too polite.”

Some amount of discussion between Mr. Byrne and Mr. Clement seemed to establish that the communities involved had arrived at the final list of projects all on their own, with no input from the government. Indeed, it was eventually established that Mr. Clement’s primary involvement was advising the mayors in his riding—”my mayors,” he called them—that they could only have as many projects as could be funded with about $50 million. Mr. Clement said that the 242 projects they originally asked for would have cost something like $500 million. So in a way, you see, Mr. Clement had actually saved taxpayers something like $450 million. At one point, Mr. Baird noted that the government had not even spent the full $50 million it had allotted itself. In other words, you’re welcome, Canada.

If there was a climax to the proceedings it came when Mr. Angus came directly at Mr. Clement with a simple question: As it pertains to the auditor general’s contention that “rules were broken,” who broke the rules? Back-and-forth they went on this without much in the way of a direct answer. Of the auditor general’s concerns, Mr. Clement allowed that “I would like you to know that I take that to heart.” The paperwork, he conceded,” “was not perfect.” The paperwork, Mr. Angus shot back, “doesn’t exist.”

“I take my share of responsibility,” Mr. Clement said.

And that will have to do. Because whatever trinkets were spread around a cabinet minister’s riding with public funds, whatever rules were broken and whatever notion of parliamentary accountability subverted, Mr. Clement’s having to say this much would seem to be the only consequence on offer.

The Commons: Tony Clement comes clean

  1. It is almost as if you are writing a Monty Python script, alas this fiasco is all to real.

  2. Clueless Clement controls his chuckles over corruption.

  3. This comment was deleted.

    • Bravo!!!

    • Gazebos and toilets and fake steam ships in Northern Ontario is border security spending?

    • OK but explain why it needs to be done quickly…. There is no reason why a legacy fund needs to be spent quickly!

    • So you’re saying Tony saved us $5 million -AHAHAHAHA!  

    • I agree… when the government spending rules become inconvenient, they should be ignored. And transparency in government? Overrated.

    • And the Conservative party pays you how much?

    • Localmedia – no matter how hard you try polishing this turd, it’s never gonna shine. Your gallant efforts on behalf of the Conservative Party of Canada are just stinking up the comments board here.

      You’re like a salesman trying to sell a home next to a pork rendering plant.  “Oh, that smell. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it!”

    • Do Not Like (no button for that choice).

    • Yup, and AdScam was merely a regional business subsidy. Nothing to see here, folks, just move along.

  4. You can have important people rave of the restaurant’s credentials
    They can praise the breadth of the dining experienceThis delicacy can be served on a gilded platter, surrounded by gourmet treats
    But when you raise it to your lips
    It is still a cracker smeared with sh!t courtesy of Chef Tony
    And if you like the taste
    You’ll always get a table at Harper’s House of Fine Dining

    Bon Appétit

  5. The whole thing is a transparent sham; a whitewash that insults the intelligence of Canadians.

    This government cannot be trusted to investigate itself; nothing short of a full RCMP investigation has a hope of getting to the truth.

  6. I listened to all of the committee hearing, and personally felt satisfied with the explanation of how the fund was handled.  It seemed to me to be straight-forward. The opposition didn’t want answers to their questions.  And true to their style, the media (i.e. Wherry, here) won’t accept the answers either.

    • So then perhaps you can clarify for us. Who was the one who broke the rules as noted by the auditor general?  Which person was it that decided that the standard government rules as to how to track what government spending was authorized, by who, and why, no longer need apply? Also, will you be quite as happy when the NDP say they’re spending money on border security, and by that they mean a rally of the CUPE?

    • Do Not Like (no button for that choice).

    • bettie1 (and localmedia and leo), take a step back.  Remember that the political party is there for Canada, not Canada is there for the political party.

      Now imagine in your mind that the minister is a member of the HATED OTHER party, and that you were listening to the explanation of how, lets say just for an example, a fund designed to increase awareness and good feelings toward the country in a particular province, ended up going towards things that in anyone’s wildest fantasies could not be said to have had anything to do with the goal in question.

      Now look at the actual situation where border security funds were used to build gazebos and toilets well outside the area of the G8, ostensibly as a legacy of the G8.

      And after you do all this, tell me if you still feel you haven’t had a bit too much Kool-Aid.

  7. What a lot of smoke and mirrors.  Its dead simple…  
    Clement ‘misappropriated’ funds that were ear-marked for the G8 summit to beautify other areas of his riding and buy his next election.  
    Its got nothing to do with ‘paper-work’ or all the other red herrings he is throwing out and the media are biting on.
    If you ‘diverted’ funds like he did in a private corporation, you would be fired and possibly sued.

    • It’s criminal.

  8. I think we can all now see that the well-trained DMs at the table are part of the cover-up, however, apparently somewhere below them in the system there appears to have been some more-conscientious and law-abiding lower-level bureaucrats who must have refused to personally sign off on releasing these funds (as they usually do) because they felt doing this was not allowed under any existing legislation, or approved programs or any parliamentary vote.

    From the pattern of denials and misinformation we saw at committee, it appears that these unknown officials likely forced the two ministers (no doubt with with PMO approval and accompanying silence by their toady DMs) to adopt the rare practice of ministers signing off personally under their own signatures on releasing funds under contribution agreements that lacked paperwork and were not authorized by parliament.

    This means that as the political and media focus remains on trying to force
    the lying ministers and their DM posse to be honest, we will get nothing but misinformation and never see
    the truth behind this $50 million heist. 

    If/when these principled officials start singing and/or leaking, however, or if/when the opposition or media identify them and turn the spotlight on them, only then will the truth on this sordid tale of abuse of office come out.

  9. “I take my share of responsibility,” Mr. Clement said.”
     
    “What do you know about this business?’ the King said to Alice.

    `Nothing,’ said Alice.

    `Nothing whatever?’ persisted the King.

    `Nothing whatever,’ said Alice.

    `That’s very important,’ the King said, turning to the jury. They were just beginning to write this down on their slates, when the White Rabbit interrupted: `Unimportant, your Majesty means, of course,’ he said in a very respectful tone, but frowning and making faces at him as he spoke.

    `Unimportant, of course, I meant,’ the King hastily said, and went on to himself in an undertone, `important–unimportant– unimportant–important–’ as if he were trying which word sounded best.

    Some of the jury wrote it down `important,’ and some `unimportant.’ Alice could see this, as she was near enough to look over their slates; `but it doesn’t matter a bit,’ she thought to herself.”

  10. Clement was, no doubt, hoping his little charade at committee, delivered under the watchful guidance of John Baird (Tony isn’t allowed out unsupervised) will finally be enough to put this farce to bed.

    I hope the opposition doesn’t let them get away with this travesty.

  11. In hindsight, he said, “it might’ve been better” if the G8 Legacy Fund had been handled entirely through official government channels.

    Ooooh, so close, Tony!  All you needed was to sub out “been handled entirely through official government channels” and sub in “never existed in the first place.”  Better luck next time.  I’m sure there’s a consolation prize we’ll throw at you after the show.

  12. Tony Clement and John Baird are so full of it no wonder they needed all those new toilets. What a sham and the Canadian taxpayers pay for what these clowns do with our tax dollars, no wonder we are so in debt. Shame, shame.

  13. Hey,c’mon,the Harps are full of s…  and just need a place to dump it.Before they are finished dumping you might find toilets on iceflows. You asked for it !

  14. Isn’t Clement the very same CONservative wonk who promised he’d have all the oil execs in his office to get to the bottom of why the cost at the pumps are so high? What’s wrong with the press that they let Clement’s lame deflection back then, stand…even until this day! I’d love to see a real investigation into this G20 matter and while they’re at it, hold this twerp’s feet to the fire re how we’re all still being gouged by Big Oil. Haven’t we had enough of these jokers yet!? Perhaps the only way to finally get a good government is to really hammer the sitting government whenever such flagrant misuses of taxpayer’s money occur. Indeed, hammer these swine so that it’s unlikely they will win another election for some time.

  15. This is all fairly predictable behavour considering the circumstances.  You can just sense that the Conservative majority does not want to know the facts as they trickle out of Muskoka. 
    It is easy for Canadians to believe that everyone is Muskoka must be jumping for joy at the windfall,  but there are  lots of reasons why they are not overjoyed. 
     Millions of dollars was spent here, mostly in Huntsville and primarily on two projects the Summit Center and University of Waterloo  building  totalling around $ 28 million from the G8 Legacy Fund.  The Summit Center recieved a grand stone facade ready for the  photo op and the other building that is only loosely  connected to the University sits mostly empty , all of which is  costing the taxpayer a lot of money to maintain including  the debt the Town of Huntsville incurred for the G8 Legacy projects
    Mr. Clement is apologizing all over this and deferring to the Mayors for all of these spending decisions. I suspect a real search of the details on these projects would not reflect well on Mr.  Clement or the Mayor of Huntsville Claude Doughty.  Shovel ready projects were the order of the day and the excuse of the day for the lack of protocol and  paper trail federally and locally.

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