Watchdog raps Canada for hiding G8 spending plans

Thu Jun 9, 2011 11:36am EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's government misled legislators about funding an international summit in 2010, pumping millions of dollars into the electoral district of the cabinet minister now responsible for spending cuts, the federal auditor said on Thursday.

In the latest in a series of often damning reports about spending practices of successive governments, the auditor general's office took aim at the ruling Conservatives over their handling of the Group of Eight summit in Huntsville, Ontario.

It said the government hid plans to pump most of a special C$50 million ($51 million) fund into the region, the constituency of then-Industry Minister Tony Clement.

Clement is now head of the Treasury Board, and is responsible for implementing C$11 billion worth of spending cuts over the next four years.

"The government was not being transparent about its purpose. Parliament was not provided with a clear explanation of how these funds were to be spent," the auditor general's report said.

The report will embarrass the Conservatives, who came to power in 2006 promising greater government accountability and less waste. The Conservatives won a majority in Parliament in last month's election.

Critics have long charged the government used the special fund to improperly boost Clement's electoral fortunes.

The money -- supposed to help the region prepare for the summit and boost security -- was spent on 32 projects, including a gazebo, a town clock, street lighting, fountains, public washrooms, sewers and infrastructure improvements far from the summit.   Continued...