Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ottawa entitlement syndrome

Was there ever a truer phrase spoken in Ottawa than when David Dingwall told parliament that he was "entitled to his entitlements"?
Its all of Ottawa in a nutshell -- insular, egotistical, disdainful of petty restrictions and ules (except, of course, for refugee dental bills and EI claimants.)
Today we find out that Pam Wallin billed Canadians for more than half a million dollars in travel expenses over four years, and that almost $400,000 of those expenses were spent within the Senate's rules.
What kind of rules allow an unelected politician this kind of prolificacy with the taxes I pay?
Michael Den Tandt looks at the larger picture:
Wallin’s claim is the political equivalent of a drive-by shooting, suggesting that, far from being an outrider, she was adhering to established practice.
And that gets us to the nub of the broader issues now raised. “Senator Wallin indicated … that discussions with Senator Tkachuk early in her tenure regarding various roles she had (such as Chancellor of the University of Guelph) confirmed that travel expenses to such events would be eligible for reimbursement,” the audit reads. “In this regard, we note that we have not assessed or reviewed any travel expense claims by other Senators, and therefore cannot comment on whether activities such as those undertaken by Senator Wallin were or were not undertaken by other Senators… “
It’s an echo of earlier hints, emerging from the Duffy file, that he’d been led to believe, or allowed to assume, that he had carte blanche with the Senate credit card.
As Montreal Simon points out, Harper said that he had personally reviewed Wallins expenses and didn't find anything amiss.
Think about that for a minute -- he thought half a million dollars in travel expenses for an unelected Senator was hunky-dory.
What planet does Ottawa live on?
A note of disclosure:  I have been friendly with Pam Wallin over the years -- at one time I worked on her CBC radio show -- so when she says she was following the rules as she understood them, I believe her.  But only someone floating inside the Ottawa bubble would think these expenses rules actually made sense.

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