In the Halls of Entitlement: Conservative perks and benefits

Julian Wolfe
June 23rd, 2015

On January 24, 2006, Stephen Harper won his first mandate on the promise of making Ottawa accountable. Nine years and countless scandals later, accountability is back in the spotlight and the tables have turned.

Stephen Harper’s choices in MPs, Senators and high-ranking bureaucrats not only show questionable judgement, they reward a culture of entitlement that strives off the taxpayers’ backs.

For a man who promised to clean up Ottawa, as we reach the end of his decade, we see his legacy may very well make him one of the most corrupt Prime Ministers in Canadian history.

The Senate Fiasco is only the Tip of the Iceberg

Stephen Harper hand-picked Mike Duffy, one of his veteran Conservative fundraisers and renowned journalists at CTV, to serve as a senator only to watch as Duffy allegedly made false spending claims. To make matters worse, Canadians learned of a $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright, Harper’s former chief of staff – allegedly a backroom deal to make Duffy look good on the condition of his silence. The list of offending senators grew, but the predominant denominator: the majority were appointed by Harper. The Senate is Harper’s senate, despite vowing to only accept elected senators and reign in Senate reform.

It isn’t just the senate…

The Senate will make most of the headlines this election season, but it is only the tip of the iceberg. From abusive usage of limousines to $16 orange juice, the list of the Harper Government’s gross abuse of governmental privilege has grown.

In 2012, former International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda made the headlines for her gross abuse of taxpayer money in a time of austerity and cuts to foreign aid. Dissatisfied with the hotel that had been booked for her in London, she got a pricey upgrade and to make matters worse, decided it was a good idea to add the bill for a glass of $16 orange juice to the taxpayer’s tab. At least when former Defense Minister Peter Mackay did it, he was wise enough to pay for his own orange juice. Oda eventually resigned her post but was one of the many MPs entrusted in Harper’s new accountability regime. This should never have happened in the first place.

We all understand that there are bad apples in every pot, but Oda and Duffy aren’t alone in their entitlement-driven joyrides.

Former Chief of Defense staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk amassed $1 million in plane rides between 2008 and 2011 to attend sporting events, fundraising galas and dinners in major cities. Rather than own up to it, he made excuses saying the planes would have flown anyway and he put them to good use.

Former Treasury Board Minister Tony Clement converted security funding into goodies for his riding 50km away from the 2011 G20 summit. Part of the expenses included a $50,000 gazebo and the infamous fake lake. When the abusive spending became subject to a probe, his colleague John Baird condemned it as a PR stunt.

As the list continues, we note that Stephen Harper too has used his government’s privilege to have taxpayers foot the bill for his personal ventures. Despite paying the commercial rate for his flights, the government challenger still costed significantly more.

Hope the baseball game and hockey game were worth it, Mr. Harper!

Entitlement killed door-to-door mail service

Given these MPs and Senators as an example, it didn’t take long before public services took the hit. Harper’s chosen CEO of Canada Post, Deepak Chopra is paid an annual salary of $440,900 to $518,600 – more than the Prime Minister himself. He runs an executive with 19 Vice-Presidents. As the crown corporation started to go in the red, they decided cutting door-to-door mail service was more pressing than cutting their outrageous salaries and bonuses. This was a decision fueled by a culture of entitlement. Both the Liberals and NDP have promised to overturn this decision if elected this fall.

Who want’s to go to Cancun?!

As we head for the October election, Harper’s accountability regime which ushered in a renewed culture of entitlement has now effected the Royal Canadian Mint. Former CEO Jim Love was appointed by the Conservatives in 2009 and has charged Canadians for a slew of extras including luxury resorts and post-conference tours.

The election is fast approaching and after nearly a decade of Conservative rule, Canadians can now see the halls of entitlement within our government. A mandate granted on the basis of accountability is seen to have been anything but. Under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, Canadians have footed the bill for outrageous abuse of government privilege and on October 19, they will have the choice on whether they will allow that to continue.

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On Monday, the longest campaign in modern history will come to a close and if current polls are any indication, Canada may be seeing a change in government after 9 years of Conservative rule under the leadership of Stephen Harper. Accountability was his calling card in 2006 and today, accountability may very well be one of the defining reasons for his departure.

In its length, in its cost and in its debate schedule, this election is unusual. The first and possibly only real debate of the campaign ended and here are the highlights of what happened.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper left Rideau Hall this morning with Governor General David Johnston’s approval to drop the writ and Canadians are now officially headed to the polls on October 19. For the first time since fixed election date legislation was brought in by the Conservative government, a fixed election date has been followed.

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