OTTAWA – The RCMP is looking into allegations that the Harper government misappropriated funds in order to lavish $50 million on a cabinet minister’s riding prior to last year’s G8 summit.
The probe comes on the heels of an auditor general’s report earlier this month, which concluded the government “did not clearly or transparently” explain how the money was going to be spent when it sought Parliament’s approval for a G8 legacy fund for Tony Clement’s riding.
The Mounties’ involvement was prompted by a complaint from former Liberal MP Marlene Jennings. She was interviewed for an hour last week by three RCMP officers.
Jennings, who was defeated in the May 2 election, first sought an investigation in the midst of the election campaign. Her complaint was prompted by an early draft of the auditor general’s report, which was leaked mid-campaign to The Canadian Press.
The early draft was much more blunt than the final version released on June 9. It concluded the government “misinformed” Parliament about the G8 legacy fund and suggested it may have acted illegally.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said the allegation is a publicity stunt by a defeated Liberal candidate and no wrong doing was committed.
“The money was spent on each of the 32 corporate projects. Every single penny was accounted for. Every construction project was on time. Cost came in under budget and all costs reported were used for the purpose they were intended,” Baird told Question Period on Tuesday.
The NDP’s Charlie Angus said he cannot believe the Conservatives are not taking a probe from the Mounties seriously.
“It stinks of entitlement. It stinks of smugness,” said Angus, “They’re laughing. Tony Clement is sitting there laughing. They think they can spend $50-million. They don’t think they’re accountable.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the Commons that the border fund has been “frequently used for projects that are not in border communities.”
Opposition parties, however, have accused the government of creating a secret “slush fund” for Clement to spray around his riding as he saw fit.