Former governor general Adrienne Clarkson still bills more than $100,000 a year in expenses
Reprinted without permission.
(Tony Lam's Comments: This is completely ridiculous. Ask for comment, she's on a trip in Europe. Lavish vacations at our expense.)
OTTAWA — Former governor general Adrienne Clarkson is still billing Canadian taxpayers more than $100,000 a year in office expenses, and has now claimed more than $1.1 million in such expenses since she left Rideau Hall in 2005.
The expenses, paid through an unusual program that allows former governors general to bill for office expenses for the rest of their life, is used by other former governors general as well. But only Clarkson is regularly billing more than $100,000 annually, which means her expenses show up as a separate line item in the federal government’s public accounts.
The expenses are on top of the $1.6 million that Clarkson has collected to date as a government pension. It also does not include the $3 million in a start-up grant (plus up to $7 million over 10 years to match donations from the private sector) that was paid to establish Clarkson’s charitable organization, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. Both the pension and the start-up grant are standard for outgoing governors general.
The expense program for governors general was created in 1979 and appears to be unique among federal government positions. There is little public transparency in how the money is spent; Rideau Hall says it requires receipts and invoices, but it would not disclose what exactly is being expensed or how much other governors general are spending. Canada’s access-to-information law does not cover Rideau Hall.
In general, the expenses can range from “administrative support, office space and furniture, to professional services, travel and accommodation,” according to a Rideau Hall spokesperson.
The only public disclosure of the expenses is in the public accounts, which are tabled annually in Parliament. Since 1995 — which is as far back as public accounts are posted online — Romeo LeBlanc is the only governor general other than Clarkson to have expensed more than $100,000 in a year, which he did in 2008 and 2009.
Clarkson, who was governor general from 1999 to 2005, has expensed more than $100,000 in nine of the 12 fiscal years since she left office. The only years she didn’t, from 2012 to 2014, immediately followed a Toronto Star article published in 2011 that first reported on the expenses. It is not clear whether Clarkson stopped filing expenses in that period or just dropped below the $100,000 threshold.
Clarkson’s highest year of expenses came in 2007-08, when she claimed $169,098. In the most recent filing, tabled Oct. 19, she claimed $114,803. Not counting the gap from 2012 to 2014, Clarkson has billed taxpayers a total of $1,119,362 in expenses since she left Rideau Hall.
Clarkson’s office refused to answer questions about what the money is being spent on or how Clarkson determines what expenses are appropriate to claim. Her executive assistant described the expense claims as a “private matter” between the office and Rideau Hall. The assistant said Clarkson is currently on a weeks-long trip in Europe.
Failure to launch: Inside Julie Payette’s turbulent first year as Governor General Michaelle Jean defeated in re-election bid for secretary general of la Francophonie ‘An embarrassment to Canada’: After expenses questions, Michaelle Jean in tough battle for re-election In 2011, Clarkson’s then-assistant Michael Henry justified the expenses to the Star by saying Clarkson received up to 200 letters and 20 to 30 requests to speak per month.
“As Canada’s most active and involved Governor General, she created a profile which means that there are still many worthwhile calls on her personal participation, which she takes seriously and requires time and research to assess their value for active involvement,” he said at the time. Clarkson is listed with the Speakers’ Spotlight agency, suggesting she likely receives speaking fees from her events.
Natalie Babin Dufresne, director of communications at the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, said in a statement that all governors general since 1979 have had access to funding from the federal government for “administrative support.” “Once governors general end their mandate, there remains an expectation that they continue to serve as Canadian leading figures,” she said. “This expectation of continued public life means that they are regularly solicited to support various causes, take part in important events and undertake official activities. Administrative support is necessary to coordinate the public engagements and continued work expected by Canadians.”
The National Post asked how much each governor general has claimed and if there was any way to find the information publicly, but Rideau Hall declined to say.
“All governors general have made use of this program since 1979,” said Babin Dufresne. “However, the respective amounts of expenses will vary according to each former governor general’s level of engagement in public life.”
If a former governor general’s annual expenses do not exceed $100,000, they are lumped into a general category of “Temporary Help Services” in the public accounts of the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General. Last year, aside from Clarkson’s expense, public accounts show a total of $227,624 was paid out to five other payees in this category, which can include expenses not related to former governors general. Clarkson has remained active with various causes and organizations since she left office, which are listed on her website. “Madame Clarkson is universally acknowledged to have transformed the office during her six years at Rideau Hall and to have left an indelible mark on Canada’s history,” her website says. Her expenses also came under heavy scrutiny while she was in office — particularly over an official 19-day trip to Russia, Iceland and Finland that was planned to cost $1 million but ended up at $5.3 million, prompting a House of Commons committee to review her office’s spending. Clarkson defended the expenses by saying she had been asked by the government to make the state visits.
With files from Marie-Danielle Smith.
Here's her rebuttal.
I’m no longer Governor-General, but I still serve Canada
(Tony Lam's Comments: All funds to previous GG's should be cut immediately. What she expenses is ridiculous!)
Clarkson's spending much higher than indicated in public records, sources reveal, in some years exceeding $200k
Ex-Governors General Should Be Totally Cut-Off From Taxpayer Money