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Baird and Clement defend their roles in G8 spending

House of Commons

OTTAWA – Ministers Tony Clement and John Baird were peppered with questions, Wednesday, as they appeared in the House of Commons to defend their roles in G8 spending.

There were a few heated exchanges as the committee discussed the G8 legacy fund. The controversial fund saw $50-million spread out amongst 32 projects in Clements riding.

The debate began when NDP MP Charlie Angus questioned Clement over the lack of documentation.

“This is your homemade paper trail, you should have a couple of pieces of paper. Where is it?” said Angus.

In the last report from the Auditor General, she was critical about the lack of documentation and said that the money had been hidden in the border infrastructure fund.

Clement and Baird admitted Wednesday only to some well-intentioned administrative errors in setting up the fund, prompted by the need to speed things up and get projects finished in time for the summit. But they vehemently denied opposition allegations of porkbarrelling.

In one snippet of new information, Baird said the government did not rob the border infrastructure fund to pay for the legacy projects. Rather, it topped up the border fund so that the additional money could be applied to the legacy projects.

He reiterated that he acted on the advice of senior bureaucrats that it would be faster to use the existing border fund than to create an entirely new legacy fund.

Clement explained the absence of a paper trail, saying he asked mayors in his riding to come up with proposals for the legacy funding. They came up with 242 projects, which he estimated would cost some $500 million, so he asked them to pare their wish lists to only the priority projects. They came back with 33 proposals, 32 of which were approved by Baird.

The projects for the 2010 G8 Summit included a new sidewalk 100 kilometres away from the site.

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