Attitude change needed

We all have friends or know of people that scramble when the bill comes after a night out.

Those who tend to be the cheapest and the most likely to dodge a bill are generally the ones that make big bucks.

Splitting bills evenly with a cheapskate rarely works either, since tightwads are usually the ones who go with high-priced steaks or vintage drinks. Maybe that is why they have the bucks, by averting a cost even to their friends.

All we really know from these experiences is that friends with limited means always pay their way. Like most Canadians, the hearty, pay-their-bills, salt-of-the-earth types have pride in contributing their share; no free lunch or handouts if you want to spell it out that way. To them it is a measure of honour and dignity that they can pay their own way.

It’s too bad all politicians don’t have a similar ethic, where public funds are treated like the trust accounts they are. Instead, we see examples of greed, excess and contempt for taxpayers’ money. It can be nothing short of scandalous.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s celebrity appointments, Senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin of CTV fame, have both left the Conservative caucus after having their expenses reviewed.

Senator Patrick Brazeau, another Harper appointee was under the gun for claiming housing expenses that were questionable. Fellow Senator Mac Harb, appointed during the Chretien years, also had his expenses reviewed and he has left the Liberal caucus.

In a bid to make things right or get out in front of this public relations disaster, Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, paid nearly $90,000 in “mistakenly” claimed expenses for Mike Duffy. Those funds helped clear up expenses that were considered dubious. Even though his former colleagues at CTV had Duffy dead to rights on the $90,000, he still was suggesting he took out a bank loan to re-pay the overages.

Canadians should be furious for a number of reasons.

The first reason of course, deals with the greed of public officials when it comes to claiming expenses. Senators are well paid, as are politicians of all stripes and station. Just because an expense can be claimed, does not make it necessary. In these outrageous instances, claims were made that were improper – often a case of double-dipping.

Second, the $90,000 hand-up for Duffy speaks to an attitude that we have found troublesome since the fire storm of Reform burned its way across the country, railing against corruption in Ottawa. If a Liberal had pulled such a stunt, the Conservatives would be yelling from their moral perch looking for blood.

It is not unreasonable for Canadians to insist that politicians do not accept gifts from anyone, friend or foe. In fact, that is the law in some quarters, certainly at the municipal level.

What remains curious to us is that seasoned reporters who really should know better have turned into poster children for what ails the country today: unfettered greed and a sense of entitlement from the public purse. They are not the first, and we suspect will not be the last people to step over the bounds of decency and respect for tax dollars.

Examples abound of attitudes that need change when it comes to expenses and what is reasonable. Instead of querying “who can I get to pay this?” politicians should ask themselves why taxpayers should cover the bill if they aren’t prepared to open their own wallet.

An attitude change about spending the public’s money is desperately needed.