The fact that MPs have rejected a request from Auditor General Sheila Fraser to review their expenses is no great surprise. That Canadians are little more than miffed, is.
Budgets of any level of government contain some fat. If you don’t ask, you don’t get, is a common theme, quickly picked up by even the thriftiest of managers.
There is no medal for frugality, and often the men and women who try to keep a lid on expenses are actually scorned – no different than scabs beating a union line or a stickler for the rules who is wholly inflexible.
The last time the books of MPs were reviewed was in 1991, nearly 20 years ago – before Blackberries and iPhones. In 1991 Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister. GST was on its way in, and few people, if any, knew about the Internet. It was a long time ago, in other words.
As often happens with such issues, one group or groups seem to be holding up the show. The Prime Minister’s office that regularly weighs in on issues is relatively quiet on this point, offering no leadership on the issue. What is to hide?
It would seem that MPs, many elected using jargon such as transparent government, cost reductions, running government like a business, helping the working man etc., have little regard now for those same constituents they promised to protect.
One advocacy group against big government suggests that MPs are no better than foxes guarding the henhouse. Perhaps they are right.
Apart from uncovering sensational examples of waste and greed as happened in Britain, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, where similar exercises took place, there is the very real opportunity to look at better ways of serving Canadians.
We should not forget that Sheila Fraser was best known for blowing the lid off the sponsorship scandal way back in 2004. Could it be that MPs are worried of the oncoming storm should similar transgressions be uncovered?
Regardless, the waste uncovered will do little to ease the discomfort many Canadians have endured in this most recent economic slump. It will however highlight the growing disparity between the haves, the have-nots, and the have-lots.
That, perhaps, is what scares MPs the most.