Another day, another government spending scandal.
The Globe and Mail ran an article today on the recent spending scandal within the Nova Scotia government legislature:
An expenses scandal that laid bare a backroom culture of privilege in Nova Scotia politics has escalated into dozens of criminal charges against one sitting and three former politicians.
The charges announced on Monday came after provincial Auditor-General Jacques Lapointe blew the lid off years of inappropriate spending by politicians, sparking a nine-month RCMP investigation.
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To an article in Macleans magazine in Sept. 2010:
…In the past two years, the government has lurched from one scandal to the next, from political financing to favouritism in the provincial daycare system to the matter of Charest’s own (long undisclosed) $75,000 stipend, paid to him by his own party, to corruption in the construction industry. Charest has stymied repeated opposition calls for an investigation into the latter, prompting many to wonder whether the Liberals, who have long-standing ties to Quebec’s construction companies, have something to hide. (Regardless, this much is true: it costs Quebec taxpayers roughly 30 per cent more to build a stretch of road than anywhere else in the country, according to Transport Canada figures.) Quebecers want to believe Bellemare, it seems, because what he says is closest to what they themselves believe about their government.
This slew of dodgy business is only the most recent in a long line of made-in-Quebec corruption that has affected the province’s political culture at every level. We all recall the sponsorship scandal, in which businessmen associated with the Liberal Party of Canada siphoned off roughly $100 million from a fund effectively designed to stamp the Canadian flag on all things Québécois, cost (or oversight) be damned. “I am deeply disturbed that such practices were allowed to happen,” wrote Auditor General Sheila Fraser in 2004. Fraser’s report and the subsequent commission by Justice John Gomery, which saw the testimony of Liberal prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, wreaked havoc on Canada’s natural governing party from which it has yet to recover.
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This was being reported right around the same time as the BC Rail scandal in BC (Sept 2010) from CTV News:
The political corruption trial of three B.C. government employees resumes today in Vancouver and political observers say the timing could not be worse for Premier Gordon Campbell.
He is already under fire for breaking an election promise to keep the harmonized sales tax out of the province.
Now, as lawyers argue who’s to blame for leaked documents linked to the sale of BC Rail, critics believe the trial will highlight Campbell’s broken pledge not to sell the former Crown corporation.
This trial, of course, ending out in a multi-million dollar settlement out of court that won’t allow the truth of this matter to see the BC public.
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This accompanied by the fuss today over Conservative MP Bev Oda potentially being found in contempt of Parliament:
A Conservative cabinet minister risks being found in contempt of Parliament over accusations she lied to MPs and doctored a document to hide the fact that she was overruling her department.
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Ministerial discretionary decision-making…
In the fisheries world, and surrounding wild salmon, there is incredible “discretionary decision-making” granted the Minister of Fisheries — as there is with any Minister.
What happens when citizens start losing faith in the ability of politicians to make good “discretionary” decisions?
Should the potential future of wild salmon be left to the discretionary decision-making ability of politicians — often politicians with little knowledge of fisheries issues and a view to just a few years of election cycles, or the tenuous balance between minority and majority governments, or the constant shuffling between ministerial portfolios?
Does this not highlight the importance of the variety of special interest groups, non-profit or otherwise, that attempt to hold politicians and corporations accountable to decisions and actions?
Or does it highlight the importance of knowing who the senior bureaucrats are that have the ear of the Minister who is making discretionary decisions?
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Add in another complexity. In most of British Columbia, treaties have never been signed with the majority of First Nations. This means that Crown Lands, is in fact disputed territory — until such time as treaties are settled, or other agreements reached.
Here’s an interesting opinion piece from the Vancouver Sun today:
…We hope there is talk -talk amongst the companies, talk amongst government ministries and agencies, talk amongst the companies and government -because a little talk and genuine consultation with us will go a long, long way to setting everyone on the right path toward mutual benefit. Because at the end of the day, the Skeetchestn community is like any B.C. community. We honour the past, we deal with today, and we want to be able to look forward to a future that includes having a say in what happens to us, to our homes, to our traditional lands, and to our culture and community life.
It’s time we all treated each other fairly. The Secwepemc phrase Es tsellts’ílle es westwécw-kt means just that: To treat others fairly, and to be fairly treated in return. It is not a phrase that can be found in the long experience of the Skeetchestn with these companies and government agencies. In the days ahead, our efforts will test the commitment to fairness held by those living off and benefiting from our land. It’s unfortunate, but when the issue boils down to simple survival, a community -any community -has to stand up.
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There is much discussion on this issue — things like “certainty” for all involved: business, government, and citizens of BC (First Nation, non, settler, and so on). There is the cost of lost business and such — much cited by corporations. There is the loss of resources on First Nation lands as treaties drag on, the avalanche of referrals as more businesses look to profit from resource removal, and mounting debt as Nations continue to try and negotiate honorably.
Get frustrated with a process or entity, and the courts become one of the only options. More often than not… the courts say: ‘get back to the negotiating table and work this out in good faith negotiations.’
“Good faith” negotiations…?
Is that still possible with the perfectly legitimate concerns about honest politicians?
There are lots out there… honest politicians that is… they just seem to be overshadowed by the not-so-honest ones.
Then throw in some bureaucracy burnout… and where to we go from here?