Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Open the books, residents of the Château on the Rideau

Maybe I was joking back in October when I suggested Canada needed an expenses row of our own.   But the refusal of MPs from all parties to even consider the idea of an audit of personal and parliamentary expenses, rallying behind the supersecret committee called the Board of Internal Economy, is nuts.   In fact, it does suggest there may be in fact a degree of inpropriety even if there hasn't been.   So what's the big deal?

This is a simple one.   MPs and Senators should be required to declare all conflicts of interest and to place any companies they own into blind trusts.    They certainly have a zone of privacy regarding "the games people play" (ahem!) but they should have no right of privacy when it comes to their income taxes -- they and their spouses or partners should be required by law to disclose federal and provincial returns for all calendar years for which they served at public expense, even for just one day.   And the Auditor General should have the right to do a forensic audit of Parliamentary expenses -- in fact you'd think they (Senators and MPs) would welcome being scrutinized to know we're getting value for money.

Come on, it's a $500 million operation.   This is a drop in the bucket considering the executive branch spends $200 billion + every year.   A little openness wouldn't hurt, would it?

About five percent of Canadians get audited every year for income taxes -- that's 400,000 out of, say, 20 million returns filed.   Most are just requests for more receipts (in the age of e-filing, that's understandable) and maybe only a few thousand get the full "screwjob" audit the IRS is notorious for (where the personal audit rate can run to as high as 20% in some years).    We're talking about only 308 MPs and 105 Senators.   What's the freaking problem?    Who polices the police?

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