Politics without principle 2.0: “Just because you can,doesn’t mean you should”

And oftentimes excusing of a fault
Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse.
~William Shakespeare

Partisan snipes from both sides of the house have been fairly silent today on twitter and for good reason: once again, hypocrisy is the governing force of the legislature as news of taxpayer funded trips for both NDP and Liberal members come to light.

To be fair, it’s been ‘past policy’ for spouses to join politicians on the public dime, nothing new there. But what makes this particular revelation so hard to stomach is that it comes on the heels of other decidedly excessive spending by Liberal MLA and speaker of the house Linda Reid.

What’s more alarming is that we haven’t even heard the entire extent of Reid’s lavish spending, because she still hasn’t provided all the details of other trips taken on the public dime, along with other questionable expenditures.  

The NDP have been largely silent on all this of course, because NDP MLA Raj Chouhan was on the very same African trip, with his spouse, apparently in his role as assistant Deputy Speaker. While Chouhan had yet to speak publicly on this trip at the time of this post, in a statement to the press yesterday Shane Simpson said Chouhan offered to pay for his spouse at the outset of the trip, but Reid informed him that he didn’t need to.

 The trip in question for both members, was to the 59th Commonwealth parliamentary Conference. Let’s be blunt. There was absolutely no need for either Reid or Chouhan to even attend this conference – there were a number of other Canadian attendee’s that would more than adequately represent the country. It’s a fluff conference replete with scenic and historical tours for the participant alone,but it’s the spousal programme that really takes the cake!

http://cpc2013.parliament.gov.za/upload/ProgrammeSpouses.pdf

Not only were spouses kept amused with lions and giraffes at a two hour trip to the zoo ( keep in mind that Reid was with her husband on that spousal visit- the programme for participants allowed plenty of time for sightseeing), visits also included the Orlanda Soweto bungee jumping towers, The Museum of Africa, and last but not least, the South African Breweries World of Beer. Do taxpayers have any assurance either Chouhan or Reid even attended conference events at all? And if they did, what did they take away from this conference that benefits British Columbians? I would be asking for a full report!!

It’s bad enough that after years of cuts to education, legal services, social services, etc.  in this province, that government policy even allows for the payment of any spouse to travel with a minister – period. But it’s tragic the NDP went right along with this kind of bogus parliamentary conference at all.  In particular since the opposition is constantly calling out the Liberals for spending like drunken sailors in the name of fiscal responsibility, which leads me to not a small conundrum the BC NDP find themselves in right now.

When the first batch of lavish spending by Reid was revealed, the BC NDP surprised everyone by not jumping on her immediately.  In fact, then House Leader John Horgan instead commented:

“Are these legitimate concerns? Absolutely,” Horgan told reporters.

“Is the staff issue a legitimate concern? Yes, it is. But I believe that Linda needs to be given some slack here because she’s the first Speaker in 125 years to say, ‘This is what I’m doing.'”

Since the new revelations of  the South African trip taken by Reid and Chouhan, Horgan has been silent, having effectively painted himself into a corner with his prior comments of support – he felt the nearly $50K computer terminal expense was appropriate as well.

There will be no calling for her resignation, there will be no outrage, and likely, there will be no consequences for Ms. Reid because I doubt Premier Clark will raise the axe on this one.

Raj Chouhan has no choice but to immediately pay for his trip to retain any credibility with the public at all.

The BC NDP  and leadership contender John Horgan both lose face in the eyes of BC residents who have no stomach for the endless excessive government spending.

The Liberals will laugh all the way to the bank, having come out on top once again despite yet another scandal.

Ironically this entire debacle brings to mind the 2012 audit of the Legislative Assembly Financial Records –  hence the title of this post as a ‘2.0’ version.

At that time, the auditor general left no MLA unscathed, taking to task both the Liberal and NDP MLA’s for their inability to manage their own financial affairs- an astounding revelation to those in the province thinking the NDP were keeping the Liberals to task!

“The auditors office recommended way back in 2007, that the Legislature provide  publicly available audited financial reports, and improve internal controls to prevent fraud and misappropriation of public funds…. and it never happened.  Why?

Let me be perfectly clear. This is no way a difference of accounting standards as Falcon is futily trying to claim. This is no way a minor financial difference of opinion.. this is a lack of the most basic accounting methods for expenditures of all MLA’s in the Legislature, Liberal and NDP. Simple grade 10 accounting trial balance kind of stuff, that there was not enough documentation to even allow the auditor to determine if the figures he did get are even right or not! He cannot state if there is anything missing or untowards going on because the accounting is so bad!

Among the issues reported on:

– lack of bank reconciliations ( pretty standard even for a mom and pop corner store) and those obtained were not done in a standard fashion. The Legislative Assembly did not even start preparing bank reconciliations until right before the 2009 audit and then failed to report millions in expenses for a prior year. Bank reconciliations are the easiest way to track cash, and cash expenditures and catch fraud or unusual cash transactions.

– expenses for one year, intentionally reclassified into another fiscal year to meet budget.

–  a repeated and consistent lack of supporting documents and receipts for MLA’s credit card travel expenses, a requirement in the Members handbook.

-lack of disclosure of MLA’s payments. There were approximately $2 million in transitional payments made to former MLA’s that were ‘misclassified’ and not included in the public disclosure of compensation, for MLA’s that had either chosen not to run in 2009, or were defeated in 2009.

– lack of inventory records for Legislative dining room or gift shop.

-No recording of appropriations and transfers between accounts for ministry of finance and the Legislative Assembly accounts. Accounting records showed one bank account had an overdraft of $133 million, another had a positive balance of $5.5 million.  In reality, bank statements showed both bank accounts had a ZERO balance.

I could go on, but frankly it makes me feel sick. You can read the full report in this PDF file: AuditorGeneralLegislativeReport

Long story short, all of our MLA’s, both Liberal and NDP, have failed the people who elected them to office by ensuring that first and foremost, they can keep their own financial affairs in order.

While the NDP have been howling and crying foul at the Liberals for lack of transparency and accountability, they have failed to bring resolution to the mess that was first revealed in 2007 by the auditors office.

They have failed to ensure they held the governing Liberals to account by ensuring their own elected members who served on the Legislative Assembly Management Committee followed up and enacted the recommended changes that give the most basic, the most basic, accountability at an MLA level.”

And here we are, two years later, legislative spending still apparently out of control and unaccounted for, few controls to ensure legislative accountability and both parties clearly still wear this mess for the lack of resolution and accountability.

At all times both sides of the house must be fiscally prudent with public funds, but in times of austerity, particularly so. At no time should the opposition put themselves in a position of not being to take the Liberals to task. Having done so now, they’ve left British Columbians floundering, asking themselves “Who is watching the house?”

 

“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody, ought not to be trusted by anybody.” ~Thomas Paine

 

45 thoughts on “Politics without principle 2.0: “Just because you can,doesn’t mean you should”

    1. Laila

      That’s the key to all of this Metro Van – really why do we all put up with it? One day of outrage and its over. And well, the NDP cant hold the Libs to the fire because they have dirty hands on this one too.

      Like

    1. Laila

      yes, but we’re not supposed to say anything about it…lol… Apparently the mindset is that the Liberals have done so much more than the NDP, we must ignore and gloss over the sidesteps the NDP does make. I”ve been getting emails implying I must have gone Liberal… but apparently they missed the list on my page of why they need to go.

      Like

  1. Shouldn’t come as to a great surprise to discover that the Speaker Linda Reid answers to a higher authority than Finance Minister Mike de Jong. According to :

    Note 10 Speaker Approved Travel
    Certain travel expenses require the approval of the Speaker. Examples include out-of-country travel in connection with specific duties (e.g. Commonwealth Parliamentary Association functions) and attendance at conferences and other meetings. Out-of-province / Out-of-country travel expenses incurred by the Speaker are approved by the Executive Financial Officer.

    The EFO, Executive Financial Officer, is a public servant under the leadership of Craig James who is the Culture of Entitlement head honcho. The man who came up with the idea in the HST application to count the SPACES between the Words to be too many characters.

    If you think that Redford, Reid, Kwan, Reid has taken leave of their senses on the public dime then check our our Man Craig James, eh.

    Like

    1. Laila

      Well that just explains so much, NVG, in so few words.

      No wonder there is absolutely no indication of contrition in her demeanor or words when speaking to the press. It’s absolutely horrible how she seems to be just assuming an air of being bothered by so many questions!!

      Like

      1. Brad

        MR. James also rejigged elections bc policies to allow him to do the exact same thing while he was ‘acting’ ceo. Believe that time, the spouses of then speaker barisoff, and claire trevana also went along. (story broke as the LMAC were coming out of a meeting discussing AG Doyle’s displeasure with their accounting…..Craig was a tad surprised being asked about his expenses, rather than the LMAC expenses. ;0)

        Like

      2. JANUARY 6, 2014

        Legislative Assembly Management Committee aka LAMC

        http://www.leg.bc.ca/cmt/40thparl/lamc/hansard/20140106pm-LAMC-Blues.htm#4:1350

        Madame Speaker: I don’t think it’s the travel. I think it’s probably what’s anticipated for the two events coming up which are probably within British Columbia — how the province celebrates the Queen’s longest tenure on the throne and what we do in terms of preparation for the 150-years-of-the-country celebration.

        I don’t think there’s anything extraordinary about travel in here.

        Like

  2. Mosko

    And where in the world is Carmen Sandiego, er – Crusty the Timid? Not a single peep from this so-called leader who heads for the hills at the first sign of trouble. How inspiring. How brave. How ethical. Both parties have their noses so far into the trough they’ll never really carve into each other.
    The game, as it’s played in BC is to quietly siphon off just enough public funds for personal use to not raise the ire of the public, and for the ruling party to dole out enough perks to the opposition to keep them quiet.

    Like

      1. Laila

        Oh don’t get me started. Yes, lets not talk about how it was her government that buggered it all up in the first place,then barged ahead preparing back to work legislation! To hear her talk about it now..lol.. wow.

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  3. christys cousin

    A pox on all their houses! Here is a golden opportunity for another political party to present a new and honest platform… Is that possible? These two corrupt political machines have more in common then any differences we might think. It sickens me to think of how I and so many struggle on fixed incomes to make ends meet. Trading groceries for meds isn’t easy. I hope they rot in hell. Miss Muffin and company I hope it comes back to bite you. Jenny Kwan your crocodile tears just don’t cut it. You couldn’t help but know what was going on. Since when did the welfare industry or as they are so nicely called “NOT FOR PROFIT” holiday in such splendour without a query as to where it was coming from? The only thing we the peons can hope for is that the MSM and Laile don’t let up on these pigs. Keep digging we need to start a full housecleaning with a full criminal investigation and Revenue Canada to dig up the bones. Surely one day somebody will go to jail for outright theft.

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  4. This is happening all over, both here in Canada and abroad. One of the worst consequences is that people check out of the business of governance (as opposed to politics) or vote for “other” when there seems little chance that “other” could or would make a difference, resulting in a system that perpetuates itself and will continue to do so as long as we continue to see voting as the entirety of our participation in governance. Does anyone think that we can all pitch in to hire Rocco Galati to pursue charges against a whole load of the political class and their fixers? Ot will it take pitchforks and scythes?

    Like

  5. Stan Mortensen

    Is anybody seeing a comparison between our elected officials and say the now gone PHS Executive in how they treat “our Money” as though it is solely their money. It’s must be like they feel they have won a lottery and gone to slop heaven.
    As a small businessman, both running a small business and holding down a full time job just to make ends meet, I am getting a little tired of paying for their “modest” trips. I guess I am supposed to say “thank you” Linda for being able to upgrade and save a few shekels to take her hubby along on what is essentially a junket.
    If I did what either of them did, Linda or Raj, and tried to claim the full ticket as a biz. expense, you can bet dollars to Tim Horton’s donuts that CRA would very quickly deny the full portion and ensure that either I or my spouse paid taxes as income on the spousal portion.
    It seems we have a whole class of folks out there who feel a sense of entitlement to something that is not theirs.
    What Ms. Reid etal are really saying is: Damnit, I got caught ARGHHH using taxpayers dollars in a way that is neither right nor appropriate.
    Keep telling us BC Libs, just how tight the budget is and how tough times are. How are we supposed to believe that with the profligate spending and lack of accountancy that is going on?
    Apparently, the NDP if given half the chance would do the same thing.
    A pox on both parties, neither of them deserve the honour and privilege of representing us.
    And Laila, you truly nailed it with the headline on this article.

    Like

  6. Jack Hackett

    Well done Laila. You have tied it all together and presented the facts that us, so called, busy people, don’t have the time or inclination to research. Plus the additional info from North Van Grumps. Thanks.

    Like

  7. No wonder so few British Columbians turn out to vote on election day! There is no ‘lesser of the 2 evils’ anymore. I’m beginning to wonder if there ever was.

    And it appears, after reading the CBC’s report on who spent what on accompanied travel expenses, that the Green Party is no better.

    Like

  8. Darrel Hunt

    I am curious as to why in the hell we are paying for a trip to the zoo? When I was hired to work in South Africa the company I worked for paid for food and lodging but when I went to the zoo I had to pay for it out of my pocket.

    Ok you can argue whether the conference should be attended or not and that is a murky mess. But that is all that goes on the public dime. Any side trips, special foods, absolutely anything that is not to specifically related to the meeting or conference is on their own dime. In South Africa a per diem of about $20.00 per day would be lots. Over that and THEY PAY.

    To get a trip like that with one fare paid is a great bonus and a ton of us would give up a pile to do it but this bunch, wow, pigs at the trough is just being polite.

    Like

  9. Laila

    Yes, you know I saw Kootenay Bill on the news last night talking about how important it was for spouses to travel with MLA’s saying he doesn’t want to get divorced because of his job.

    But I doubt there is any politician who doesn’t take those considerations seriously before committing to the job.

    I doubt very much they are thinking of the many families in BC, all over the lower mainland, interior and the north, where dad has to go work in Fort McMurray 3 weeks on, 1 week off, simply because they cant get decent work here in BC.

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    1. Darrel

      I am not at all against spouses going along and if the spouse is stay at home and no other occupation then the public could pick up half of the spouses fare. Only to the event and back, not off on some tour, cabs not to and from some side trip.

      The other thing is that pay them BC wages and see how they like 10% minimum less than everybody else in the country. Just smile and tell them that it is the “sunshine tax”.

      Like

      1. persey

        Darrel, I doubt anybody in the public service in BC is aware of what the term “sunshine tax” means. That term only applies to people who work in industries that have to answer to a marketplace.

        Like

  10. workforfun

    “I doubt very much they are thinking of the many families in BC, all over the lower mainland, interior and the north, where dad has to go work in Fort McMurray 3 weeks on, 1 week off, simply because they cant get decent work here in BC.”

    I doubt very much that they think of anyone but themselves – at least that is the way it looks to me.
    Most ordinary people find it very difficult to get by on the wages that are being offered these days.
    I am also disgusted about how the “politicians” talk but don’t do the walk. Once elected their memories are very selective or they plain just don’t care.
    Another good expose on the stewards of this province – may they all catch a dose !!!!
    Thanks – sorry about the outburst 🙂

    Like

  11. luigi

    You know the MLAs that quit before the last election, especially the Liberals who decided they weren’t going to be embarassed by defeat, or who weren’t going to see their egos bruised by sitting in opposition (oh horror of horrors), must be supremely peed off with how the election turned out.
    They could have had another full term siphoning off public funds and having their premier turn a blind eye to it all. But alas, they f—ed up! Pity!

    Like

  12. Pingback: Politics Without Principle 2.0 – Abbotsford Today

  13. Mike

    Another home run Laila.

    I would only suggest that each of us look to our respective municipal governments and demand honesty, integrity and accountability.
    This level of governance routinely operate just under the media radar.They are fond of setting their hair on fire when asked anything they don’t want to discuss and can be somewhat intimidating.

    The frightening part is these same politicians hope/wish to become tomorrows Provincial and Federal leaders.

    In my own limited experience, I have been referred to “…as a voice in the wilderness” when questioning large scale developments in Surrey B.C.
    Too often taxpayers questions and concerns are shouted down or denied outright. This was my experience.

    The absence of civility is bad enough. Anywhere else it would mark the behavior of a bully.

    Entitlement is not a prerogative for elected officials. They are elected by us ” to do no harm and make better choices” than we might otherwise make for ourselves.

    For each of us, it is our job and responsibility to ask questions, demand answers and be respectful in the process.

    I will get off my soapbox now, thank you for demanding better, we all deserve it.

    Like

    1. Laila

      Very thoughtful comments Mike, as always. Thank you for thinking demanding better isn’t a bad thing.. I get a lot of flack from people who think I should just be happy with the way it is. 😉

      Like

  14. persey

    Laila, thank you for being here. For providing a topic, then for providing a forum for the above discourse.

    In my opinion, “what did they take away from this conference that benefits British Columbians?” is the essence of your article, and a question that all of us taxpayers should be asking civil servants and elected officials. Pretty much anybody working for the public purse should be prepared to answer the question, “How did your activities today benefit British Columbians?”

    Just the same as anybody working for a non-public business should be able to answer the same question, except insert “your employer” in place of “British Columbians”.

    Many of us are missing Tsakumis. Mainstream media is serving its financial masters. Your presence is now more valuable than ever.

    Thanks,

    persey

    Like

    1. Laila

      Thank you for your very kind words persey. You are right on the money with the suggestion we should all be asking” How did your activities today benefit British Columbians?” over every politician, municipal or provincial. And we should be asking of our federal politicians as well.
      I would very much like to know what Raj Chouhan, Linda Reid and Craig James gleaned from this conference other than how to make friends with zoo animals…

      Like

  15. Pingback: Politics Without Principle 2.0 – Langley Today

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