The recent government and politician spending scandals involving many politicians from various parties across Canada, along with past scandals in England, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia, show clearly that Canada needs stronger rules, and stronger enforcement and penalties for violators, to prevent dishonest, wasteful, fraud spending by politicians, including politicians who use taxpayers’ money to pay their personal or political party costs.
Federal politicians, including senators, have been caught by chance – but comprehensive audits by Auditor Generals caught the provincial politicians, and politicians in England.
As well, dishonesty in government spending is rampant across Canada. The federal Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) has revealed many cases of federal government Cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister, making false claims about government spending and budgets in the past 5 years.
But the PBO has also been stopped from doing his work by Cabinet ministers and government officials refusing to give him key spending information, and by cutting down the resources he has to do his job.
I am calling on federal politicians to make the following key changes to strengthen the independence and powers of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) in the following ways, and I am calling on every provincial and territorial political party to establish a PBO with the following key structure:
- the PBO must be made a full Officer of Parliament, independent of Cabinet, with a fixed, non-renewable term of office and full power over the selection and management of their staff;
- the selection of the PBO must be approved by a majority of party leaders after a public, merit-based nomination process to ensure a non-partisan and effective person is selected;
- the PBO must be given the resources needed to fulfill their mandate each year (based on an independent needs assessment of their proposed budget);
- the government must be required, before proposing significant spending, to check with the PBO to ensure that the actual total of the proposed spending is being accurately estimated;
- the PBO must be given the power to order the disclosure of any information they need to do their cost and spending assessments, and;
- the PBO must be required to release the findings of their investigations as soon as they are completed whether or not parliament is in session.
While there is an Auditor General for every government in Canada, they also do not have key powers, and resources, needed to ensure the public’s money is spent wisely, and efficiently.
Cases of fraud spending by politicians across Canada are usually dealt with in secret, behind closed doors, by a Board of Internal Economy or similar body made up of politicians from all parties who protect themselves and their party members instead of enforcing the rules and ensuring that taxpayers’ money is not spent inappropriately. This cannot be allowed to continue if Canada wants to call itself a democracy.
I am also calling on federal, provincial and territorial politicians to make the following key changes to strengthen rules and the powers of Auditor Generals to audit politician spending across Canada to ensure, especially, they are not using taxpayer money to pay their personal or political party costs:
- require all politicians, their offices, staff people, and all government institutions and organizations that receive significant government funding to submit actual, detailed receipts and information showing the number and identity of people at any event, what exactly was purchased, by whom exactly, for what use, and at what price, for all expenses claimed and require the same for all travel expenses claimed;
- require all politicians, their offices, staff people, and all government institutions and organizations that receive significant government funding to disclose within 30 days after it is signed the full details of every contract handed out (amount spent, exact work done, all evaluation reports); and to disclose within 30 days of completion every internal evaluation report about spending;
- require all politicians, their offices, staff people, and all government institutions and organizations that receive significant government funding, before making significant purchases, including for government advertising, to check early on with the federal, provincial or territorial Auditor General’s office to ensure that what is being bought, and the proposed spending process, both comply with spending rules;
- empower the federal, provincial or territorial Auditor General to reject any proposed government advertising if the advertising is essentially an advertisement for the ruling party and to only approve informational advertising that informs the public about key aspects of government laws or programs in a non-partisan way;
- require the federal, provincial or territorial Auditor General to regularly audit spending by all government institutions, and by politicians and their staff (at least once every 3 years) and ensure they are given the resources needed to fulfill their mandate each year (based on an independent needs assessment of their proposed budget);
- require that all investigations of politician spending be conducted by a federal, provincial or territorial Auditor General who is fully independent from Cabinet, approved by a majority of party leaders in the legislature, and fully empowered and required to investigate all alleged violations of rules, and give all the Auditor Generals the power to penalize violators and to order a correction of any wrongdoing, including mandatory high fines, loss of any severance payment, and partial clawback of any pension payments;
- require the Auditor General to rule publicly on every complaint and situation in which there is reasonable evidence of wrongdoing, and;
- require the Auditor General to release the findings of their investigations as soon as they are completed whether or not parliament is in session.
Please let me know what you will do to ensure that these changes are made as soon as possible. I will be deciding which political party to vote for in the next election based on the responses I receive from representatives in each party. I look forward to hearing from you.