The Boondoggle is Back
I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the current scandal running around at the federal level. It seems our Auditor General has looked at the books of Canada and determined (http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/domino/reports.nsf/html/20031100ce.html) that the liberal government has wasted a lot of money. Not that this is a large news-flash for most people, but it’s interesting to see proof of it.
At any rate, the entire scandal revolves around money paid to the government’s Sponsorship Program and various Advertising Activities. The problem with the Sponsorship Program is that it basically boiled down to a very small number of people having control over who received money, how much they’d receive, or what they had to do with it. The reasons as to why certain projects were selected or why they were awarded the amount they received never had to be made clear. Naturally this state of affairs is hardly a safe one, as it makes it far too easy for the money to be awarded unwisely or with little return.
In addition, it seems the Auditor General found evidence of the Sponsorship Program committing fraud with false invoices being used to transfer money from the program to Crown Corporations, with transferring agencies taking a portion of the money. Of course, there was no documentation to show why certain transferring agencies had been picked over other ones, or even why one was actually needed, so the smell from these particular transactions is especially bad.
What’s most scary about this incident is that the Sponsorship Program was a fairly large program, having spent over 250 million dollars, with 100 million dollars of that paid to communication companies in fees, for which not much of value can be found in return. If a program that large can go mostly undetected, then what does that say about the many other smaller programs our government runs.
Not that any of this should really surprise anyone. The cards were all laid out quite a while before. One of the people who is being pointed to as a likely candidate (http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2004/02/10/auditor040210) for organizing all of this is AlfonsoGagliano. Gagliano is the minister who I pointed out (http://www.ausu.org/voice/search/searchdisplay.php?ART=1911) last year was at the centre of an earlier controversy about spending federal government funds, and who received an ambassadorial post to Denmark. Groupaction, the firm implicated as one of the Advertising Agencies that took part in this whole affair, was the company that allegedly provided the government with a duplicate report for a fee of half a million dollars.
So when Prime Minister Paul Martin says he doesn’t know anything about this affair, one has to wonder if he bothers to watch the news.
Heck, maybe he should read The Voice. It seems we had an idea something was rotten in Ottawa long before it hit Denmark.
Money for the Wealthy
The Alberta Legislature is looking at passing a program to encourage parents to save money to help their children go into post-secondary education. As the press-release says (http://www.gov.ab.ca/home/index.cfm?Page=730), “Bill 1, or the Alberta Centennial Education Savings Plan will provide a foundation for the parents of every child born in Alberta in 2005 and after to save for their child’s education. Through a contribution from the province, parents will be encouraged to open a Registered Education Savings Plan and begin planning for their child’s post-secondary studies.”
While it still depends on the details of the program, the typical “encourage parents to save” program involves the parents putting in some amount and the program will then match that amount with funds from the public purse.
This sounds like a lovely thing, until you realize there are two major loopholes. The first is for all of those unlucky parents who happened to have kids this year or any year previous. Sorry, you’re out of luck, because Bill 1 is only for those kids born in 2005 or later. Better luck next year.
The second is for those unlucky parents who just don’t have enough money to be able to put away any. This is the typical short-sightedness that comes from governing officials who have no idea what it means to be underprivileged. For them, it seems simple, the reason parents don’t save to send their kids to school is simply because they don’t have the encouragement, not for any more difficult reason such as having to choose between food and shelter each month on welfare, never mind savings.
After all, just because Statistics Canada has a report (http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/031120/d031120a.htm) explaining that “parents who had not yet started to save [for post-secondary education], or did not intend to save, most frequently reported lack of money as the main reason for not saving,” doesn’t mean it’s actually true. No, instead, our provincial government likes to believe that Albertans are either stupid and can’t plan ahead for their children, or apathetic, and have no desire to see their children get a good education.
Well, it’s either that, or they just want a cushy bonus for their own kids.
I’m not sure which I’d rather believe.
A native Calgarian, Karl is perpetually nearing the completion of his Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Information Studies. He also works for the Computer Sciences Virtual Helpdesk for Athabasca University and plans to eventually go on to tutor and obtain his Master’s Degree.