RCMP probe allegations gov't misappropriated funds
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Tuesday, June 21, 2011 9:44PM EDT
Allegations that the government misappropriated federal funds to pump $50 million into a minister's riding just before the G8 summit have become the subject of an RCMP probe.
The development follows this month's auditor general report into the summit, which stated that the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper "did not clearly or transparently" show how funds were allocated.
The money in question is linked to a so-called G8 legacy fund for Conservative Tony Clement's Ontario riding.
The investigation will look at a formal complaint made by former Liberal MP Marlene Jennings. She told CTV's Power Play that she spent an hour speaking about the allegations with three RCMP officers last week.
"I'm confident that they are taking my complaint seriously," she said Tuesday.
Jennings added that she believes police are checking to see if there was any wilful intention to mislead Parliament.
A spokesman from the RCMP said that investigators will evaluate the information at hand before a decision is made to launch a formal probe.
Jennings made the complaint during the federal election campaign in April, following the release of a draft of the auditor general's report that was leaked to The Canadian Press.
A final version of the report was made public on June 9, and it stated that the Harper government "misinformed" the House of Commons about the legacy fund. It also alleged that the government may have acted illegally.
In the complaint, Jennings alleged that the government may have wilfully ignored the Financial Administration Act and two appropriations acts. The tone of those acts is that the government must disclose how federal funds will be spent when seeking approval from Parliament.
In 2009, Parliament approved an $83-million fund for border infrastructure, which aimed to relieve traffic and congestion at the crossings. However, the government did not say that $50 million of that fund was to be used in Clement's riding in Ontario cottage country.
The money was used on 32 projects, including construction of parks, gazebos, public washrooms and several beautification projects in and around Huntsville.
While the leaked auditor general report said the government "misinformed" Parliament, that word was removed from the final draft. Instead, the report stated that it appeared the government did not deliberately mislead, and was motivated by "expediency" instead.
"Having said all that, going to Parliament requesting money for one thing and using it for something else is a serious matter which we think deserves parliamentary attention," said John Wiersema, the acting auditor general, earlier this month.
"I think the legal profession could have an interesting, long debate about the wording of the Appropriations Act and whether or not this was inside or outside of the Appropriations Act. We chose not to go there."
In response to the developments, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said that the matter was "a public relations stunt" by a Liberal who was defeated.
But Jennings said that the complaint wasn't filed for personal reasons, and she stressed that the government should be accountable for every penny of the tax dollar.
"It's not an issue of revenge for me," she said, adding that the auditor general should launch a "value-for-money" probe into how every bit of the fund was spent.