Tory MP slams government ‘opulence,’ limo perks
Published Tuesday, June 26, 2012 9:55PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 26, 2012 11:44PM EDT
A Conservative MP is lashing out at his own caucus for allowing cabinet ministers to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars on perks like limo drivers, saying the expenses are “egregious displays of Ottawa opulence.”
In a blog post, Edmonton-area MP Brent Rathgeber said he travelled to the small town of Grenfell, Sask., last month for a family funeral and got an earful from local residents about ministers’ spending habits.
Shortly before Rathgeber’s visit, CTV News reported that drivers hired to shuttle federal cabinet ministers around Ottawa charged taxpayers more than $600,000 in overtime above their annual salaries last year.
Timesheets from April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011 showed that almost every chauffeur racked up hundreds of overtime hours, with payouts averaging more than $20,000. One driver racked up more than $40,000 in overtime.
A CTV investigation showed that drivers spent much of that time waiting for ministers in between meetings and events in Ottawa.
The extra $600,000 paid out to limo drivers “did not play well with the small prairie town sensibilities,” Rathgeber wrote in his blog post. “How could the average payout be $20,000 and how could the chart topping Minister’s driver rack up $40,000 in overtime charges???”
“Admittedly, I had no answers,” he wrote. “The Cabinet Minister Limousine Service represents one of the most egregious displays of Ottawa opulence.”
Rathgeber wrote that he doesn’t have a problem with ministers being chauffeured to events around town “for security reasons.” But he said “there is little justification” for driving ministers across Parliament Hill since the House of Commons operates a shuttle bus service for MPs and their staff.
Rathgeber also noted the scandal surrounding International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda after The Canadian Press revealed she spent $1,000 a day on limousines during a 2011 conference in London, England, and had her staff re-book her in a more expensive hotel, where she expensed a $16 glass of orange juice.
Although Oda apologized and reimbursed taxpayers for the orange juice and the costs associated with switching hotels, Rathgeber said ordinary Canadians may not be quick to forgive.
"In Grenfell, most of the attendees have never ridden in a limo and none of them have ever drunk $16 orange juice," he wrote.
"Surely, they would appreciate if government took more care in spending their money."
The National Citizens’ Coalition, a non-partisan group that advocates government accountability, applauded Rathgeber’s blog post.
“It’s up to MPs like Mr. Rathgeber to express our disdain and discomfort with what we are seeing as just absolute entitlement when it comes to abusing the public purse,” director Stephen Taylor said.
With a report from CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife