Prime Minister Harper has become the newest member of the notorious Billion Dollar Boondoggle Club thanks to Summitscam. He joins the ranks of Jean Chretien, Jane Stewart, Allan Rock and Dalton McGuinty. Mr. Harper’s entry to the club comes as a result of the giant cost overruns for the upcoming G8 and G20 leaders’ summit, leaving taxpayers on the hook for $1 billion or more.
The ballooning costs for the upcoming chin-wag sessions came to light this week as the federal government released the Supplementary Estimates to the Budget. These are departmental requests for more cash than they had budgeted for the fiscal year. Such requests are indications of bad planning or unforeseen circumstances. The Estimates reveal that costs for the G8 and G20 gabfest are 420 per cent over-budget.
Spending for the summit originally had been projected at $179 million. The new requests for cash stand at a staggering $930 million - and not all costs are yet known.
This summit spending boondoggle is a mess that requires investigation. If parliamentary committees weren’t such a farce of political mayhem, that would be the place for it to happen. Instead, the Auditor General needs to be tasked with the job, as the Liberals and NDP have requested.
Many important, questions deserve good, clear and detailed answers. How did the government underestimate costs in the first place? What has driven the costs of the program so high? Who was supposed to mind the budget and why didn’t they? What companies received contracts? Were they tendered? Did the contracts stay on budget?
Certainly, hosting the summit did not come as a surprise. The government has known for a long time that the event was coming. Equally known were the tremendous costs and challenges of security for such an event. Canada had just finished hosting the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. Security there was so large and challenging that a cruise ship was contracted just to house security forces.
This spending fiasco shows our politicians have failed to learn from billion dollar spending mistakes of the recent past.
It was probably only a matter of time that the Harper government joined the Billion Dollar Boondoggle Club. Many cabinet ministers spend a lot of their time bragging about how much taxpayer money they spend. If, instead, they focused more time on how to reduce spending and balance the budget, this Summitscam might have been avoided.
Kevin Gaudet is the federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.