27 October 2005

Connie expense accounts

In a post Rarely Graced by Logic, Liam O'Brien claims a number of things that should strike a reader of the post here on Dave Dingwall's expenses as a little bizarre.

First of all, O'Brien claims the post stated that Dingwall had been exonerated by two audit reports on his expenses at the Royal Canadian Mint.

What it actually pointed out was the huge gap between what Connie partisans had claimed to be factual and what the facts were. The post was less a straight-up defence of Dingwall as a critique of bad political communications by Connies like Brian Pallister.

Maybe that wasn't clear.

Maybe it struck too close to home.

Second, O'Brien issued a few challenges in between following a now shop-worn tactic of attacking the person when he can't refute an argument.

One challenge was to point out any case I had where I suspected a Conservative member of parliament might have submitted dubious expense claims or, as in the cases - plural - I'll toss him, of where the size of the claims raises some fairly obvious questions.

Oddly enough, this case was covered in what I suspect is O'Brien's favourite newspaper, the pink white and green Spindy back in May.

Here's the link to my original post.

"Why then did Mr. Doyle rack up $172, 904 in travel expenses?

And why did Loyola Hearn cost taxpayers $164, 159 for travel?"

These two Conservative members of parliament live in ridings that are easily accessible by air and car and yet their travel claims look like they were heading from Ottawa to Alert and back again. Every weekend.

Even after we allow that Hearn lives in Renews, about two hours south of the riding he represents, his mileage shouldn't be pushing his travel claims into the low six digits. Since he and benchmate Norm Doyle both know when they need to travel back and forth to the riding, surely they could book some seats far enough in advance to get a discount.

or stay in cheaper hotels.

or stop gnoshing at Hy's.

To bring those figures up to date, here is the report for 2004-05.

Norm Doyle's travel, as covered by the House of Commons - i.e. you and me - was $157, 768. Bear in mind that for some of that period, Norman was on the campaign trail and off the public payroll. Otherwise, his total travel would likely look just like it did the year before when he was obviously doing alot of stormin' around.

Hearn's travel clocked in at $103, 608. Consider that Hearn was off the payroll for a little while in there. Consider too that his riding is now a heckuva lot smaller than it used to be. He can bicycle from one end to the other in a few hours or better still take the bus to all but a few corners of it. (Pssst. That's a facetious comment about the bike and the bus)

But ya still have to wonder what he was doing to rack up that kind of travel costs.

Before anyone tries to wave a wand and turn that into nothing, look at some other expenses.

Jim Abbott, from Kootenay-Interlake, British Columbia came in between the two of these guys. But he's actually farther away from Ottawa than either of our two Connie friends and he represents a largely rural riding.

Alexa MacDougall, the Dipper from Halifax only spent about $71, 500 to visit her riding once in a while.

And what of Pallister, the Connie from the Prairies? He only spent about $73, 500 getting back and forth to a lovely riding in Saskatchewan.

So why the heck are Mr. Hearn and Mr. Doyle so much more expensive?

Using Brian as the Benchmark, Hearn is 41% higher than Brian while Doyle is a whopping 114% above the Connie Guardian of Expense Account virtue.