The G8/G20 report: let's see the final version

G-8, G-20 - juin 2010 - manifestations et dérives policières

Federal Auditor General Sheila Fraser is technically correct in maintaining that it would be improper for her to release a report her office compiled on government spending on last summer's G8 and G20 summit meetings while Parliament is dissolved for the duration of the election campaign. However, under the extraordinary circumstances that have arisen in this case, it would be both advisable and proper to make an exception.
Two draft versions of a chapter of the report that is critical of the government's handling of $50 million that was spent in conjunction with the G8 meeting in particular have fallen into media hands this week and become fodder for the campaign debate. It is noted that the millions were spent on assorted infrastructure and beautification projects in the home riding of Industry Minister Tony Clement, who was chiefly responsible for selecting the projects, and that quite a number of them were in locations far from the summit site, where summit participants never set foot.
The leaked section of the report also says that the money was appropriated without clear specification of its purpose. The G8 spending was part of a requisition for a Border Infrastructure Fund whose stated purpose was to reduce border congestion, yet the bulk of the money spent under that title was not disbursed anywhere near a border. The first draft version of the report was scathing in its critique of the government's handling of the matter, saying it had misinformed Parliament and possibly broken the law in the process. The second version, however, did not make mention of any illegality and suggested merely that the government had been less than transparent in the matter.
The leaders of the opposition parties were quick to accuse the Harper government of pork-barrelling in a minister's riding with funds obtained through subterfuge. The Conservatives have been able to brush off the attacks on the grounds that the leaked chapters are merely drafts and that the final, official version might well not support the opposition's insinuations.
The auditor general has said she will not release the final version until after the May 2 election, when Parliament is reconvened. This is in keeping with the law governing her office, which stipulates that her reports must be tabled to a sitting House of Commons. (Incidentally, there has been no suggestion that the leaks came from Fraser or anyone in her office. Drafts of her reports or segments thereof are routinely sent to entities under audit for validation of facts, and the likely source is some disgruntled bureaucrat in an affected department.)
Expert opinion, however, suggests that an exception to the standing rule might be made with the agreement of all party leaders, which has already been forthcoming, and at the request of the Commons speaker who still technically holds office.
To help them make a fully informed choice this election, now that this potential can of worms has been partially spilled, Canadians should be told the full story.

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