The recent dustup in the media over retired general Andrew Leslie’s $72,000 expense claim for a move from his Ottawa home to another residence in the same city shortly after he retired reminds me of the apparent sense of entitlement that has been all too common in Ottawa for decades, perhaps centuries.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has defended the general on the grounds he is the target of a “pure partisan” attack.
Well, I suppose he has been a target of a partisan attack. He has, after all, made public the fact that he’s now on Trudeau’s Liberal team as a policy advisor and potential candidate. So, given the tone-deaf nature of his $72,225.86 expense claim, it would have been very strange indeed had he not been singled out for criticism by the Tories.
To be sure, the general, as I understand it, has broken no laws or any DND rules or regulations in making his claim. One would expect, however, that a mature adult would question the probity of charging taxpayers 150 per cent of the $48,250 the average Canadian worker makes in an entire year to move from one house to another within the same city.
In other words, the general deserves to be criticized for, at least, his lack of judgement. Furthermore, we can be sure that, had retired general Leslie decided to be PM Stephen Harper’s policy advisor, we would now be talking about the pure partisan attacks launched by Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and his team. So, as I see it, criticism of a partisan nature is reasonable to expect under the circumstances.
The overall moving policy for military personnel seems fair enough. And most examples I’ve read about seem substantiated, though, I did note CTV News staff’s comment that:
The defence department was unable to explain why some generals living alone on Afghan bases were able to claim hefty moving expenses.”
None of the other claims shown so far in the media come even close to Andrew Leslie’s—all are tens of thousands of dollars less, even those moving other retired generals halfway round the world.
Many Ottawa bureaucrats and politicians—remember the senate spending scandal—do seem to have an unreasonable/unhealthy sense of entitlement, especially when it comes to taxpayers’ money and their perks. Here’s an extract from a 2011 report in the National Post:
Parliamentary officials revealed this week that it cost $500,000 last year to shuttle MPs an extra few hundred metres, but the full cost of Parliament Hill’s miniature shuttle bus network remains a closely guarded secret.”
How many private sector employers do you think offer door-to-door shuttle service between buildings within easy walking distance? The Post reported:
… [parliamentarians have] a fleet of green buses to shuttle around an area the size of four city blocks. At average adult walking speeds, even the longest shuttle bus commute takes about 20 minutes by foot.”
So it’s not news that, in our nation’s capital, everyone who is connected with the government, whether through employment or election, seems to believe “I’m entitled to my entitlements,” as former Liberal cabinet minister and former CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint, David Dingwall, so succinctly put it in 2005.
Dingwall was explaining to a parliamentary committee why he felt he should receive a hefty severance package after the voluntary resignation from a six-figure salary as head of the Canadian Mint. His departure came after revelations of questionable expense claims surfaced.
No kidding, eh? You couldn’t make this stuff up.