'Like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank'

If Tony Clement won’t stand to take his questions, Charlie Angus seems determined to shame him for it. This from QP today.

Charlie Angus: Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board seems incapable of standing up in this House and explaining his $50 million pork spree in Muskoka. It is so bad that he has friend, the foreign affairs minister claiming that the Muskoka gravy train was developed by public servants. It is simply not true. The Auditor General’s report is clear, and I will quote: ‘Senior officials said their input was never sought.’ This deal was cooked up by the member from Muskoka. Public servants were deliberately frozen out. When will this minister take responsibility for his abuse of public trust?

John Baird: Mr. Speaker, just because the member opposite says something does not mean it is true. Here is what we did. We supported investments to help Canada host the G8 with infrastructure, resurfacing the runway of an airport, resurfacing a provincial highway, and building the G8 centre which is now a community centre. Each of those projects was approved by the minister of infrastructure of the day. Each of those projects came in fully on budget. For each of those projects, there is a full contribution agreement that was negotiated with the municipality. These are all good projects. The Auditor General has given some advice on better transparency and better clarify, and we fully accepted that counsel.

Charlie Angus: Mr. Speaker, there is a number of disturbing elements to this scandal. First, of course, is this minister’s flagrant abuse of the public trust. Second, now that he has been caught, is the way he hides behind the foreign affairs minister. Given the sheer scale of this dubious spending and the fact that he is in treasury board, how can we trust this minister? It is like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank. Where is the accountability? Where is the transparency?

John Baird: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the member for Winnipeg North Centre that we should give him a pass on the civility for that question, because it was quite funny. Here is the reality. We supported 32 public infrastructure projects. Each of them had a negotiated contribution agreement with the local municipality. The Auditor General has come forward and given us counsel and advice on what we might do better on the intake process for public infrastructure projects and on reporting to Parliament, where there could be greater clarity and greater transparency. We thank the Auditor General for her work and fully accept her recommendations.

Charlie Angus: Mr. Speaker, I am listening but I am not hearing accountability. I am hearing bafflegab. Since the member from Muskoka cannot stand up and defend his actions, I will turn to his friend and I will ask him why he allowed this minister to cook up this deal to bypass all the checks and balances? Why did he allow $50 million in border infrastructure to be divvied up by the three amigos, the mayor, the minister and the hotel manager? Since the member from Muskoka will not apologize to this House, will his friend take responsibility and apologize to the Canadian people for his partner’s misuse of public funds?

John Baird: Mr. Speaker, as to the three individuals the member mentioned, none of these three individuals approved a single project. All of the projects were approved by the minister of infrastructure, by me. All 32 projects are public infrastructure projects, things like paving provincial highways, constructing a new runway, and a community centre. We used the existing authorities under the border infrastructure fund. The Auditor General has made advice and counsel that we could more open and more transparent in terms of Parliament. We fully accept the Auditor General’s advice and thank her for her good work.

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