Island Voices: B.C. taxpayers deserve answers on wood-splitter spending scandal

Taxpayers in British Columbia have been mugged and nobody is answering for it.

As Canadians watch the SNC-Lavalin scandal unfold with the former attorney general, the prime minister’s former principal secretary and the former head of the federal bureaucracy all getting grilled on live television during hearings in Ottawa, B.C. taxpayers still don’t know why our legislature clerk and the sergeant-at-arms went on years-long shopping sprees at our expense.

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We don’t know why they went to a Seattle Mariners baseball game, took a whale-watching tour and spent thousands of dollars on new cameras and forced us to pay for all of it.

We don’t know why they took lavish trips to London, Washington and Hong Kong, sticking us with the bills for everything from whiskey cakes to limos and from suitcases to watches.

We don’t know why they felt justified in spending thousands of dollars on Apple products or buying two pairs of $500 Bose noise-cancelling headphones on our dime.

We have been told — through a written statement — that the infamous log-splitter was bought just in case there was an earthquake and just in case a wooden beam had fallen on someone at the legislature and just in case the wood-splitter could then be used to free the trapped person, even though the wood-splitter wasn’t on the legislature grounds.

We’ve also been told, through that written statement, that the log-splitter would be used to warm the huddled masses of Victoria, who would naturally gather around the hearths of the legislature for warmth in the event of an earthquake.

We’ve read the statement, but we haven’t seen them say any of this on camera, while trying to keep a straight face. We haven’t seen them face tough followup questions on any of the ridiculous written excuses. We haven’t seen any real accountability.

The committees at the legislature in Victoria perform the same functions as the committees at the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. They can examine legislation, make recommendations and call witnesses.

No legislative committee has called a single witness regarding the clerk/sergeant-at-arms scandal. Not one witness. Not one question.

Why are taxpayers in British Columbia not getting direct answers from the people who wasted their money?

Why aren’t elected politicians demanding that the clerk and the sergeant-at-arms appear before a committee and answer their questions, on the record, on camera? Why aren’t MLAs curious about this? Why don’t they want to take a strong and visible stand on this outrageous waste of taxpayers’ money?

Remember when former Liberal MP David Dingwall was accused of expensing about $1.29 for a pack of gum while working at the Royal Canadian Mint? He was hauled before a committee in Ottawa before that gum lost its flavour. Remember when federal cabinet minister Bev Oda expensed a $16 glass of orange juice while at a fancy U.K. hotel? She was squeezed in question period about it for weeks before she resigned from cabinet.

Independent investigations are good, but they are not enough. Elected officials have a job to do. They have to hold officials accountable for taxpayers’ money. British Columbians deserve to have direct answers — on camera — from those who spent their money.

Kris Sims is B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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