When it comes to most spending, Prime Minister Stephen Harper runs a tight ship. The Canadian government’s expenses were up just a smidgen in the past year. Ottawa spent $275.6 billion in 2012-13. That’s less than 0.1 per cent more than the $275.4 billion the year before. It speaks to serious belt-tightening.
But as Conservatives gather in Calgary to cheer this frugality, they might want to ask Harper how it is that his own office managed to burn through a whopping 7 per cent more last year. When it wasn’t arranging secret payoffs for Sen. Mike Duffy, the Prime Minister’s Office spent $8.25 million on staff, messaging and other things, up from $7.65 million. Basically, it gave itself an increase that was more than 70 times that of government as a whole.
If you missed this little gem, don’t feel too bad. You have to plow through 1,112 pages of the mind-numbing Public Accounts that were released on Wednesday to pry out these numbers. They’re tucked deep into Volume III, under the unassuming heading Other Government-Wide Information. To put it charitably, our politicians don’t go out of their way to advertise their spending.
What the numbers suggest is that in Harper’s world restraint is a virtue a to be practiced by others.
Apart from the PMO, the Harper cabinet also managed to chalk up $56 million in spending on staff, messaging, transportation and the like, excluding ministers’ salaries. That was a $3 million or 5.6 per cent hike. More than 56 times the rest of government.
Spending by both the PMO and cabinet grew at twice the pace of Canada’s economic growth rate and the government’s own revenue growth, both of which came in at around 3 per cent. There’s no justification for this.
Conservatives had reason to worry about their party’s battered image as they gathered to plan for the next election. Harper’s credibility has been badly damaged by the PMO/Duffy scandal. He’s notoriously contemptuous of Parliament. And the economy is weak at best. This cynical, under-the-radar profligacy in the pampered PMO and cabinet as the rest of government suffers cuts isn’t going to help.
- from the Toronto Star