Skip to comments.GRITS CONTINUE TO HIDE BILLIONS
Posted on 02/08/2005 7:14:19 AM PST by UpHereEh
The next time Paul Martin proclaims how very, very committed he is to transparency and accountability in public spending -- watch for it ad nauseam when the PM appears at the Adscam inquiry later this week -- someone should whack him over the head with a copy of the auditor general's report.
It doesn't much matter which report.
Every year since 1996, the auditor general has pounded the Liberal government, over and over, for hiding billions of dollars of taxpayers' money in so-called "independent foundations."
Next week, Auditor General Sheila Fraser is expected to take another round out of the Martin government over the same issue in her latest compendium of government waste, mismanagement and general stupidity.
Good thing, too. At last count, Fraser tallied a staggering $9.1 billion of taxpayers' cash that the Liberals have stashed in foundations over the past eight years.
That's roughly the equivalent of about $1,000 from every taxpayer in the country. It is also far more than even the Liberals have been able to spend.
Fraser recently noted that even though the government publicly lists the money as having been spent, $7.7 billion is still in the foundations' bank accounts.
But most of all, the federal watchdog of public spending is rabid over the lack of anything resembling the transparency and accountability that taxpayers should reasonably expect.
The foundations are essentially fronts for government cheque-writing on a massive scale, providing handouts to all manner of no doubt worthy causes from garbage recycling to telemedicine.
But don't ask how it's disbursed or to whom.
The books of the foundations are conveniently exempted from the Access to Information Act, and are even off limits to the AG.
Unlike the usual flow of funds from the treasury, the government has simply filled the foundations' bank accounts and given them up to 10 years to spend it all.
But not to worry -- our money is in the good hands of foundation boards packed with qualified Liberal appointees.
As Fraser warned in one of her earlier reports: "I am concerned that these huge amounts of public money are provided up front to foundations when there is such a limited assurance of proper controls and accountability."
Last year, Finance Minister Ralph Goodale all but promised to open the foundations and their books to scrutiny. In an interview with me after the April 2004 budget, Goodale said without qualification: "I am perfectly willing and indeed very interested in having the auditor general review the foundations.
"The fact the auditor general is somehow limited in looking into them raises the spectre of concern, and therefore casts a cloud over what they're doing."
And finally: "I want to solve the issue of transparency and accountability."
But apparently a funny thing happened on the way to Fraser's office -- namely, not much at all.
Months after Goodale's published interview with me, Fraser was so alarmed by the billions still hidden from scrutiny in foundations that she refused to sign off on the government's annual accounts without adding a lengthy cautionary footnote.
The AG said she was "very concerned about the accountability and governance arrangements for these foundations.
"I urge the government to implement proper accountability structures."
Paging Paul: Please call your auditor general for an urgent message. It's not your money.
Denny Crane: "There are two places to find the truth. First God and then Fox News."
Heck no' that would require honesty (not a liberal strong suit)
Lookin' through my bowl of grits this morning and didn't find no money!
Neither did I, but then again I'm a Conservative :o)
"Grits", spooked me for a minute, thought somebody was going to mess with my groceries.
Let me know if you want on or off the Adscam ping list. :-)
Check this out from Dec., 2003....
Paul Martin: Liar, liar, pants on fire! by Murray Dobbin
Does Paul Martin have a pathological aversion to telling the truth? When it comes to his shipping company it seems Mr Martin believes he can simply deny the facts and continually get away with it. And so long as reporters asking the questions haven't done their homework, he is probably right.
In an interview with the new prime minister on December 19th, Mary-Lou Findlay, host of As it Happens, asked Mr Martin about his image problem with Canada Steamship Lines - specifically CSLs foreign flagged ships. Called flag-of-convenience ships (FOCs) they allowed Mr Martin (and now allow his sons) to pay a quarter of the Canadian wage rate, avoid paying taxes altogether, and to ignore Canadian labour standards, health and safety laws and environmental regulations. Experts in the field estimate that each ocean-going ship saves on average $700,000 a year from this unethical practice.
Mr Martins response was the same as it has been over the years when challenged on his part in this rogue industry: deny, deny deny. He told As it happens Five hundred of [CSLS] over 600 employees are Canadian. The vast majority - the overwhelming majority - of its ships fly the Canadian flag. Yet this flies in the face of numerous investigative pieces done on CSL - including a meticulously researched investigation by the CBC television program Disclosure. In a one hour documentary on CSL last spring, Disclosure revealed Today, Paul Martin's family business has expanded into a global empire. In Canada, CSL owns eighteen ships which fly our flag. It employs 500 Canadians, and pays Canadian taxes. CSL also owns, in whole or in part, eighteen foreign flagged ships, sailing around the world, from Montreal to Melbourne.
In other words, half of CSL's ships are FOC ships and half are Canadian-flagged. How does 50 per cent become an overwhelming majority? Easy. Mr. Martin simply refers to CSL Inc - based in Montreal - and tosses in the ships owned by CSL Asia. He neglects to add in the ships owned by CSL International - based in the United States - and conveniently leaves out all those ships that CSL co-owns with other international shipping companies and those that it leases and reflags as FOCs.
Its not the first time Mr Martin has cynically misled the public about the sleazy side of CSL. In 1996 he was asked by Montreal Gazette reporter Jules Richer about his foreign flagged ships and how many he had. Mr Martins reply? ``The last I looked it was about 90 per cent of CSL ships that are registered in Canada,'' But even CSLs vice-president Pierre Prefontaine told the same reporter that only 12 of the company's 17 ships were registered in Canada. That is, 70 per cent. When Martin answered the question, he also knew, from his regular Blind Management Agreement briefings about major decisions made by CSL, that it was building two more ships for delivery in 1998 and 1999. Both of these would be registered in the Bahamas. In other words, rather than ninety percent of Martins ships being registered in Canada, the figure was 63 per cent - and getting steadily smaller.
Like it or not, we are all Paul Martin watchers now. We should all keep an eye on the length of his nose.
An observation from 2 years ago!