Since the Harper government appears to be all consumed with the very thought of prying into the private lives of Canadians all in the name of protecting our children, I thought that it was time to pry into the political life of "one of them". I pick the utterly charming John Baird as my target.
I have to open with this quote from his official website:
"In August 2010, recognizing Mr. Baird's ability to reach across the aisle and work with Members of Parliament from all parties, Prime Minister Harper asked Mr. Baird to help make Parliament work by asking him to serve as Leader of the Government in the House of Commons."
This is the face of "reaching across the aisle" and "working with Members of Parliament from all parties" also known as "the face of working together for Canadians":
Let's open with a quote from Mr. Baird regarding the recent kerfuffle over the Bill C-30, the internet snooping bill, referring in particular to the Vikileaks anti-Vic Toews Twitter feed:
"Not only has it stooped to the lowest of the lows, but it has been running this nasty Internet dirty trick campaign with taxpayers’ money..."
Okay, fair is fair. Let's see what Mr. Baird is doing with taxpayers' money.
Mr. Baird has had a rather diverse career in Ottawa with his most recent posting finding him as Minister of Foreign Affairs. First, I'd like to take a look at how much he has spent on travel and hospitality since Mr. Harper appointed him to the job on May 18th, 2011 as disclosed here.
Mr. Baird has traveled far and wide in the first six and a half months of his tenure as Minister of Foreign Affairs as shown on this chart:
Please keep in mind that these are his expenses for slightly over a six month long period. As well, you will note that he used government aircraft for four out of the fifteen trips he took during the six month period and availed himself of supplied accommodation five times. If the expenses from these trips were added to the total, his total expenses would far exceed the $92,130 claimed.
What I find most interesting is his use of business class tickets. His October 2011 airfare to Perth, Australia for the Commonwealth and Developing Small States Foreign Ministers' Meeting was a whopping $18,514. The airfare for his July 2011 Libya Contact Group Meeting in China cost taxpayers another $10,581. Even both of his airfares from Ottawa to Toronto and return in June 2011 cost taxpayers $753 and $715, the full Air Canada Executive Class Flexible fare. Why anyone needs an Executive Class seat for a one hour and seven minute flight is beyond me but, when you're not paying for it, I guess it doesn't matter. I can understand that one needs to be relatively refreshed when arriving for an overseas meeting but if the Harper government is serious about cutting expenses, perhaps this is a place to start. After all, many publicly traded corporations have eliminated business class travel in an attempt to save money.
Now, let's look at Mr. Baird's Member's Expenditures Report for his MP office expenses for the period from April 1 2010 to March 31, 2011:
Mr. Baird's total office expenses of $324,215 are small compared to some of his counterparts in Ottawa for one reason; he lives in Ottawa so his accommodation and per diem expenses should be near zero (they are, in fact, $3138.34). Here are the rules for claiming accommodation and per diem expenses:
Mr. Baird also spent $4896.50 on hospitality and events; for your information, here are the rules for the allowable claims:
Now, let's go back one year and see if there is anything different in his expenses from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010:
Mr. Baird spent a total of $343,383.02 in 2009 - 2010. The standout item in this year's expenditures is his massive $68,345.33 bill for ten percenters, those little 8 1/2 by 11 inch sheets of blatantly political propaganda that the Conservatives were so fond of. It's hard to imagine that one MP could spend more than the average income of a Canadian family on, pardon my French, merde that goes right into the recycle bin. For completeness sake, here are the rules for ten percenters:
Now let's take a brief look at Mr. Baird's salary for the last fiscal year (and for 2009 and 2010 as well). His base salary for each year was $157,731 and he raked in an additional $75,516 for his position as a Minister. He also gets a car allowance of $2122.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has compiled a study of MP pensions entitled "CTF Report on MP Pensions: A Taxpayers' Indictment". In this report, the CTF notes that parliamentary pensions are particularly lucrative because parliamentarians currently receive $10.46 for every $1.00 that they contribute and taxpayers contribute an additional $23.30 for every $1.00 that parliamentarians contribute. Let's see how much Mr. Baird is due to receive on an annual basis and as a lifetime total:
I don't know about you, but a $96,020 pension strikes me as a pretty sweet deal, especially when it is fully linked to the Consumer Price Index and starts at age 55, 12 years younger than the proposed new pensionable age suggested by Mr. Harper for Canada’s public pension plan.
I certainly hope that you enjoyed this little window into how one of Canada's loudest MPs spends our tax dollars. Now that the Harper government is expecting Canada's future seniors to live on less, let's hope that Mr. Harper expects the same of his own.