The missing $3.1B no one is asking about

The Senate scandal eclipsed an auditor general report that couldn’t track billions in anti-terrorism spending


Sean Kilpatrick/CP

A few billion dollars went missing in Ottawa over a period of eight years, but after a government watchdog finally uncovered the consistently shoddy accounting, only a few weeks passed before everybody stopped asking about where the big pile of money ended up.

At stake is $3.1 billion in anti-terror funding that, according to Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s spring report, lacked any paper trail. After the terrorist attacks in September 2001, the federal government budgeted $12.9 billion of anti-terror funding across several departments. The years-long effort was known as the Public Security and Anti-Terrorism Initiative. Of that sum, the auditor general could only determine where $9.8 billion was spent. At the time, the opposition raised a stink in the House of Commons, appalled at the government’s response that the money was properly reported and accounted for. They attacked Treasury Board President Tony Clement as being managerially and fiscally incompetent. Both sides of the aisle cited Ferguson’s words in their own interests, and the argument reached a stalemate.

The opposition’s pelting lasted from the report’s release at the end of April until the spring break, when parliamentarians filed out of Ottawa for a week. When they returned to the House of Commons on May 21, nobody was talking about government expenditures. By that time, the Senate expense scandal had torn a hole in the government’s armour, forced Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin to quit the Tory caucus, and spelled the end of Nigel Wright’s reign as the prime minister’s chief of staff.

The opposition smelled blood. For months, both in the House of Commons and anywhere cameras are rolling, the NDP and Liberals have milked the Senate scandal for every soundbite. Publicly, it seems as though they’ve all but forgotten about the missing $3.1 billion.

Behind the scenes, however, the NDP is still looking for answers. Repeatedly, Clement and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have claimed the PSAT money was spent and accounted for. More recently, the NDP claims to have found evidence that the opposite is true. The party acquired documents via an access-to-information request that pointed to three sums of money, packaged as part of the PSAT initiative, still being spent today. A briefing note for Clement points to three examples of initiatives “not completed under the original timelines” that “are still ongoing.” Specifically, the memo points to $104 million to arm border guards, $129 million for National Defence Marine Security Operational Centres, and $118 million for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. Those are just three examples listed in the documents. The NDP worries more money is still being spent, and wants the government to come clean.

The government isn’t playing ball. “All of the funds in question are accounted for in public documents presented to Parliament, including the Public Accounts,” says Matthew Conway, a spokesman for Clement, repeating the government’s line from last spring. “There is no indication that any dollars are missing or misspent.”

Meanwhile, the opposition has been distracted by government scandal. Liberal MP John McCallum says the opposition let go of the auditor general’s revelations because, in part, no one knows how to frame the billion-dollar question. “I think the Senate expense (scandal) is more vivid, more personal,” he says. “People can get their minds around it more easily, where as Canadians don’t necessarily fully understand the difference between a billion dollars and a million dollars.”

By way of comparison, McCallum recalls the 2005 election campaign, when the Conservatives schooled the Liberals on the childcare file. “We promised childcare spaces, and it would be $5 billion over five years. And the Conservatives promised so-many dollars in everyone’s pocket for their own young children,” he says, referring to the government’s popular Universal Child Care Benefit that gave parents $100 a month to pay for childcare. “People could understand the $100 in your pocket, but $5 billion didn’t mean anything.”

Peggy Nash, the NDP’s finance critic, agreed that the so-called missing money “hasn’t really connected with Canadians,” at least not yet. There’s no whiff of corruption: the auditor general declared the funds unaccounted for, but not misspent. Instead, Nash said, her constituents in Toronto are more concerned with Senate expenses, finding childcare, and making ends meet in an expensive city.

Neither party is willing to give up on the issue. Nash said the government’s answer to ongoing questions is “very puzzling,” and the NDP will continue to push the government at committee. McCallum’s not willing to let go, either. “I don’t think this issue has got the full scrutiny it deserves,” he says. If only they knew how to make a few billion dollars matter to your average voter.


The missing $3.1B no one is asking about

  1. People are asking.

    Just that government isn’t talking.

  2. No, no, no. We have been told by our opinion leaders that
    it is a matter of no import nor substance. Justin smoked pot.
    Get with it, please.

  3. “A briefing note for Clement points to three examples of initiatives “not
    completed under the original timelines” that “are still ongoing.”
    Specifically, the memo points to $104 million to arm border guards, $129
    million for National Defence Marine Security Operational Centres, and
    $118 million for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority”

    And each of those guys are gonna need some gazebos too…this is Tony C we’re talkng about here. The original no paper trail kid.

  4. Conservatives should go to some developing country…. there will be less medias there

    • Ummmm, corporate owned and controlled media is why we have Harper the corporate ho in power to begin with.

  5. Where is the money, .001 Billion would be great help for me :).

  6. Did they check Clement’s trunk?

  7. If the funds can’t be accounted for, how does he know they haven’t been misspent?

  8. I know a certain government that owes Theresa Spence an apology.

  9. Who stop the money and why isn’t nyone doing anything about it.

  10. I know where the $3.1B is but I’m not telling until a $0.1B reward is offered.

  11. It was 3.1 billion missing, “lost” up until 2009.

    Now it’s got to be more like 5 billion missing.

    Snip snip: Ferguson’s audit of the PSAT program stops in
    2009. So when we say that $12 billion was spent under PSAT and $3 billion has
    gone missing, what we actually mean is that’s what was spent, and what went
    missing, as of 2009. And what about after that?


  12. The money is still being spent. Is that really so hard for you people to understand? You budget money in 2007, but it doesn’t get spent until 2015 likely due to legislative gridlock. This is hardly scandalous. But whatever, continue with the faux outrage.

    • and if there was money missing from my company’s accounts and our accountant could not tell me where it went he would be fired and not long after the police would be called to investigate.

      • Yes sir, and that’s what should happen here

    • That makes no sense whatsoever. If the funds are still pending, they can still be accounted for.
      The problem is that, wherever the money is, it CAN’T be accounted for.

    • Yea and what would pay for a bridge ?

    • “All of the funds in question are accounted for in public documents
      presented to Parliament, including the Public Accounts,” says Matthew

      All they have to do is open these accounts and show folk where that $3.1B is. If they really are in public documents presented to parliament that is. Why haven’t they done this and dispelled all our concerns?
      This comment sounds very much like the comments Harper made in the commons over the Harper-Wright-Duffy affair, carefully parsed so that the truth can be hidden and accusations of overt lying can be avoided.

      • yup

    • THE question is… where the hell is it? And why DON’T they know where it is? We know it’s still there, but it is incompetent not to have the answer to where it is. don’t you get it? And this outrage is not faux it is as real as the 3.1 bil.

    • Then what is the money being spent on? There’s no accounting for it.

    • Unaccounted for means that it can’t explain why it’s gone. Unspent or future money is accounted for. Giddy up Dudley, the mounties always get their man/women.

  13. Look – Pandas!

    • HA! (even heard that in Rick Mercer’s voice)

      Had my laugh for the day! Cheers! :D


  15. What really pisses me off more than anything, is that the idiots who support this gang of thieves and incompetents, think that they are great with the economy. How do you figure that, I’d like to know. They have th largest deficit in Canadian history, in spite of being handed a surplus at the beginning of their time as chief plunderers.

  16. I am angry and disgusted that the Harper government is not responding in an open and transparent way to Canadians asking about where these funds are – and we are asking time and time again for an accounting of $3.1 billion, and we are not receiving an acceptable response. I fear these funds have been spent in ways similar to Tony Clement moving CBS funds to build gazebos in his riding. This was supposed to be the most transparent government in Canadian history but we can’t get any appropriate response to any request for information from the Prime Minister or his MPs – cabinet or backbencher. Canadians are the employers of the Prime Minister, Cabinet and all MPs. It seems that has been forgotten and we are treated like dupes. BIG changes have to happen and soon. Two years is not a lot of time for any party to convince us, the voters, that we are not just pawns in the work of government – government charged with working in the best interest of Canadians.

    • I am as disgusted as you, but it has been two parites and three leaders who “lost” the money since 2001, not just PM Harper. I am still waiting for PM Jean to come clean on the 2billion lost on HRSDC, Ms Jane Stewart never did answer that one..”Its been properly spent, just unable to tell you how because we did not track it”, I’m sorry what the #@&* did you say. Our money, yes our money is misspent by all levels of gov’t and its time for us, to say enough. send a letter to you MP or MPP, its free postage and in the letter instruct them to copy other MPs or MPPs you wish to be copied and they must comply. Let them know we are watching, not just on CBC…

  17. Of course, some of the reasons the Liberals aren’t talking about this is that:

    a) They, unlike the NDP, have been in government and understand what this gap actually is, how it doesn’t translate into actual dollars missing, and therefore is a scandal with no legs.

    b) the “missing 3.1 billion” is over a timespan where they were in power longer than the Conservatives were, so if Harper is on the hook for his $1.2B then Martin’s on the hook for his $1.8B

    c) It’s awfully hard to harass the government on a scandal where the opposition says “what about the auditors report” and the government replies “we agree, they identified a problem which we acknowledged as needing fixing and therefore we fixed to the auditor’s satisfaction”.

    • Even within that timespan, it’s still a lot of money.
      And fine, the Liberals and Tories are equally incompetent and corrupt.

      You’ve just made a great argument for an NDP government. Let’s make it happen – it’s the only way we’ll ever get Clement behind bars.

      • There is never a good argument for an NDP government.

        • Except that they’ve actually done well in most provinces that they’ve run.

          • Yes I remember Bob Rae and the stellar job his NDP did in Ontario.
            The only one worst is Dalton McGuinty (where is that bum anyway)?

          • The Harris government’s policies directly resulted in unnecessary deaths in Walkerton. Hard to compare other governments to that level of greed and stupidity.

          • Sad to hear that you’re repeating the usual crap about Rae Days during the NDP’s reign in Ontario. During the economic crunch, Rae had hard choices. I’m grateful that, instead of layoffs, we only had to stay home and not get paid for a few days every now and then. I preferred being employed and getting the Rae Days instead of being unemployed and getting the axe. Apparently, Sully99, would have preferred being laid off. Dumb.

          • Apparently you don’t don’t remember Bob Rae.

        • only argument is against the NDPQ…

        • Because they would actually combat the Liberal-Tory legacy of corruption and cronyism, and invest in communities, innovation, the environment, culture and education?

          The Liberals and Tories have proven for decades that they are not up to the task. We’re tried the right, now we’re trying the far right. Let’s go with the center-left. Face it, you’re a secret NDP supporter! Time to come out of the closet and join the growing majority of Canadians. Democracy vs gazebos. Make the right choice.

          • The NDP are a farce and will be wiped back off the political map in the next general election. Bank on it. Relegated to perennial third place status where they and their backwards policies belong.

    • So what is this gap? Apparently you know something the rest of us don’t.

      • The Auditor General and his office had full access to all documentation
        from the PSAT initiative and they were left with a specific conclusion:
        that the reporting process was not as exhaustive as it should have been.
        However, the AG said that he “did not find anything that gave cause for
        concern that the money was used in any way that should it should not
        have been”.

    • The program under Combating Terrorism Act was run in 2001-2009, meaning for 5 out of 8 years it was run by the Liberal government.

  18. The Canadian people are asking about it. But the politicians and the media are not reporting on it.

  19. To quote Jean Chretien. A billion here a billion there.

  20. I ask every chance I get.
    Where is OUR $3.1 billion?

  21. If the $3.1 billion disappeared during the Liberals, why did not one AG ask about it through their ANNUAL reports, including the respected Sheila Fraser? Why?

  22. Well the $3.1 billion matters to me.
    Good on the NDP for pursuing this important matter. We await the NDP’s findings.

  23. Oh, I’ve been asking…

  24. McCallum hit the nail on the head. This will never grab Canadians’ the way DuffWall did. Watching Wallin, her hair in disarray, plead for mercy with the caring Peter Mansbridge to help her through it is far more appealing to watch than a boring committee meeting in which the cut and thrust is expressed in accountant-speak.

    This says a lot about Canadians, and it isn’t good. It shows us to be a petty, gossip prone bunch, bored by grown-up stuff like climate change and inequality, but avid for more details on DuffWall’s REAL residence, the “luxurious” lifestyle of these two political hacks, and how to punish, punish, and punish them again.

    It’s also kind of interesting that we get outraged, unlike our neighbours to the south, not by “scandals” over the morally doubtful usage of our leaders’ sex organs, but by their clumsy attempts to make a little cash on the side by taking a broad view of the rules governing expense accounts.

    In my opinion, the real scandals have nothing to do with sex or trivial amounts of money, but with the reluctance of Canadians or their government to take any real action to fix the large and growing problems we face together: climate change, inequality, militarism, etc.

    If only some Senator were making, say, an extra $125,000 a year by secretly cashing in on climate change, or taking bribes to promote inequality. Maybe then Canadians would take an interest. But I doubt it.

  25. Land of The Lost!

  26. That money is for Anti-Terrorist activity. Why would the Government be irresponsible enough to tell the public how it’s being spent? I suspect the opposition leaders have been told and that’s why they’ve been quiet about it.

    • Here here… not even certain as to why the ‘missing’ money ever became public knowledge. Best to keep reading about those expensive hotel restaurant expense claims… sheesh! Wake up folks… very serious stuff going on in the world these days…

  27. Money missing in Ottawa? You’re kidding, right?

  28. The missing $3B was re-allocated to expedite the immigration of Tamil and Islamist terrorists. The Charter demands it.

  29. What does – unaccounted for but not mis-spent – mean exactly?

  30. Is that the amount that these idiots have squandered on that farce; when you look at the cost of education and the wait times to get into hospitals and specialists it is no wonder that the Federal Cabinet in masse is not sent to some sort of Siberia or Guantanamo. Eisenhower warned people about the military industrial complex; a professor of mine warned us years ago about the security complex and in my first year of University in the late seventies he stated that one day we would live in a police state justified under the ruse of fighting terrorism.

  31. Check Mulroney’s safe?

  32. $3.1 billion !!! Don’t you think it’s a bit too many gazebos, Tony Or too many mansions for the friends in the Caribbean. We need a Quebec-style enquiry into corruption in the federal government. .

  33. The NDP are worried money is being spent?!? What is the world coming to???

    • Troll.

  34. More tax and more lost spending. Yep welcome to canada! Canadians are too soft on parliment. Look how other countries react when major things happen. We need to send a big message to those on top to spend OUR money wisely. If every canadian pledged to not submit their taxes owed for 2 years if things don’t clean up fast, it might get the governments attention. It’s like not tipping a waitress for bad service.

  35. If this was a native band not having the bills for a $100,000 It would be first page news for months in all the newspapers

  36. If the majority of Canadians are too stupid and elected Harper’s cronies and then re-elect them again, do you really think they are smart enough to care about this? They are too busy drinking his Kool Aid while he creates the worse deficit in history!

  37. What do you mean, no-one is asking about? Everyone is asking, no-one is doing anything. It is criminal negligence. No more taxes to the federal government until it proves it can behave responsibly with money it has stolen under false pretenses from the people, seventy-eight per cent of whom work retail. Poverty pal.

  38. You can’t blame the Injuns this time.

  39. I think we should all refuse to pay BS income tax until government is accountable and charged with fraud and theft.