Doug Millroy: Canadians Should Be Outraged!

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The Canadian people should be outraged.

Not only because Adrienne Clarkson, who was governor general from 1999 to 2005, has billed more than $1 million in expenses since leaving the viceregal job, but that she was allowed to do it.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says people who serve as governor general offer great service to Canada and deserve support in the years after they retire, but also that Canadians expect accountability and transparency when public money is spent

Trudeau says he’ll reconsider the perks and supports Canada gives former governors general.

Yes, we do expect accountability and transparency when public money is spent but I don’t think our expectations have been met at any level of government.

And in this situation it took a story in The National Post to get Trudeau’s attention..

The Post pointed out Clarkson has billed more than $100,000 to the government nine times in the 12 years since she left Rideau Hall. She also has received another $1.6 million to date as a government pension

Besides their pensions, former governors general get lifetime public funding for office and travel expenses through a program that has existed since 1979, on the premise that governors general never truly retire.

The Post explained that the expenses do not include the $3 million in a start-up grant (plus up to $7 million over 10 years to match donations from the private sector) that was paid to establish Clarkson’s charitable organization, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. Both the pension and the start-up grant are standard for outgoing governors general.

The Post should get Kudos for bringing this situation to light now but I have to ask, was there no complaint from the media or the opposition when this program was put in place in 1979.

In surfing the Internet, I couldn’t find anything about how it came about. Was it actually passed by Parliament? Was it the Liberals or the Progressive Conservatives, as the Conservative Party was known at the time, who were in power.

Clarkson’s case may be special in the amount that she has billed, but I believe the program on its own doesn’t pass the smell test.

The idea seems to be that governors general never really retire, that they are still at the beck and call of the public.

Well, I say, then find a way to retire them.

I, of course, am speaking from a pretty jaundiced view already implanted solidly in my mind.

I don’t believe we have any necessity as a nation to carry the expense of a governor general, not only the salary of $288,000 a year but the expense of keeping up Rideaul Hall and any travel involved.

I consider the governor general to be well paid while in the job with a good pension after, which leads me to the belief that when they step out the door for the final time that they should simply return to public life. If they have any desire to continue to be involved in the wordforce, it should be in an area where they are paid for their services by whoever is acquiring the services, not by the Canadian public.

I suppose the national media can be let somewhat off the hook in that the only public disclosure of the expenses of a retired governor general is in the public accounts, which are tabled annually in Parliament. Since 1995 — which is as far back as public accounts are posted online — it is reported that Romeo LeBlanc is the only governor general other than Clarkson to have expensed more than $100,000 in a year, which he did in 2008 and 2009.

The only years Clarkson didn’t claim $100,000 were from 2012 to 2014, immediately following a Toronto Star article published in 2011 that first reported on the expenses. It is not clear whether Clarkson stopped filing expenses in that period or just dropped below the $100,000 threshold.

The Post story said Clarkson’s highest year of expenses came in 2007-08, when she claimed $169,098.

Trudeau says he’ll reconsider the perks and supports Canada gives former governors general.

When he reconsiders, it shouldn’t be with a mind to cutting them back; it should be with a mind to cutting them off.

Unless these individuals are doing something specifically relating to a service for the Canadian people, there should be no payment going their way from the Canadian government.

Natalie Babin Dufresne, director of communications at the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, said in a statement that all governors general since 1979 have had access to funding from the federal government for “administrative support.”

“Once governors general end their mandate, there remains an expectation that they continue to serve as Canadian leading figures,” she said. “This expectation of continued public life means that they are regularly solicited to support various causes, take part in important events and undertake official activities. Administrative support is necessary to coordinate the public engagements and continued work expected by Canadians.”

Expectation that they continue to serve? Not by me and I doubt by many others. When the new person comes in, that person should be the focus, not the one going out.

If those who have gone out the door are in demand as speakers, they should simply charge a fee as others do.

The outrageous perks these retired governors general have been enjoying should come to an end – now.

We should return to the system employed prior to 1979, the one where when a governor general retired from the job it really meant retirement.

With so many in this country struggling to make ends meet, it is ludicrous that so much is lavished on so few for, in my mind, doing so little.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Let’s demand repayment of this foolish ploy!
    We have people starving to death, barefooted children and bankruptcy happening to entrepreneurs due to government greed.
    Another reason to be embarrassed to say I’m Canadian!

  2. This money would be better used to support programs that help Canadians who are living on the margims, better elder care in seniors’ homes, homeless youth, victims of child and conjugal abuse; the list goes on.
    All Canadians who work and/or volunteer do provide a great service to Canada, not just the Governor General.

  3. This is fodder for those who would like to cut ties with the monarchy (I am not one of them, I’m just saying).

  4. You are absolutely spot on Doug. I am outraged. Trudeau is simply giving lip service when he says he will look into it. Why are the Conservatives not up in arms over this? Could it be because they have a very weak leader in Mr. Scheer? Is t because they as a party supported this in the past? Clarkson should be ashamed of herself for taking hard earned taxpayers money.
    It is a scary thought…but….what other huge expenses are being paid out that we know nothing about?

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