While Canadians and Brits alike have been tut-tutting Prince Harry for behaving salaciously with a bodacious bar belle in Calgary, a more serious monarchical mess has been unfolding. In a report recently completed by Canada's Auditor-General Sheila Fraser, former Quebec lieutenant-governor Lise Thibault is accused of misspending in excess of $700,000 during her 10-year tenure, which ended last week.
This is not the only disturbing content in the A-G's report. Ms. Fraser also claims that the former federal Liberal government could have checked Ms. Thibault's spendthrift ways by using standard accounting measures, but chose not to do so.
"A total of more than $1.7-million was paid to the former Lieutenant-Governor," Ms. Fraser writes. "Of this amount, approximately $1-million was spent on official duties. We were unable to determine whether the remainder, some $700,000, was spent on official duties."
That $700,000 includes $239,000 on activities unrelated to her official position; $129,000 on housing and food already paid for by Quebec; and $343,000 on undocumented expenses -- including $45,000 on gifts for unidentified people, $44,000 on tips left by Ms. Thibault's bodyguards at a ski lodge and $4,000 on a party for a family member.
This newspaper is a defender of our monarchist traditions and political structure. But support for the monarchy is thin among many Canadians. Like the controversy surrounding Adrienne Clarkson's $5-million 2003 circumpolar junket, this week's news will encourage the idea that the monarchy is a sort of hoitty-toitty ermine-trimmed social club for spendthrift snobs (and left-wing CBC alumni). It is therefore imperative that the government get to the bottom of this case and ensure it is not repeated in other provinces.
If Ms. Thibault is guilty of wrongdoing, she should be prosecuted. But the government's role must also be addressed. "Between 1 April 1997 and 31 March 2004, the [federal Heritage] Department authorized the reimbursement of questionable or inadequately supported expenditures on the part of the former Lieutenant-Governor," Ms. Fraser writes. "In so doing, it implicitly approved these spending practices."
In light of Ms. Fraser's report, the government should revamp its oversight protocols to ensure that lieutenant-governors are held to the same budgetary scrutiny and accounting standards as other recipients of government largesse. Canadians won't continue to support the monarchy indefinitely if this is the way their tax dollars continue to be spent.