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Tories are outraged after a Liberal spending commitment frenzy saw thousands of new promises totalling $12.8 billion made in August. In response to this unprecedented increase in grant promises, Thornhill MP Peter Kent has written a formal complaint to the Canada Elections commissioner, asking if the Liberals violated campaign rules by “bringing Liberal candidates along to government announcements,” reports CBC.
“The Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, and Parliamentary Secretaries have been criss-crossing the country making partisan announcements where they have been weaving campaign narratives into official government speeches and news releases,” Conservative MP Peter Kent wrote in his complaint to the commissioner. “Of equal, if not greater concern, is the fact that they have invited non-elected Liberal Party of Canada candidates to attend these official, taxpayer-funded government announcements.”
The commissioner has acknowledged the complaint but says he cannot publicly comment on whether his office is investigating due to privacy reasons.
“Each complaint received by our office is reviewed to determine whether or not it falls within the commissioner’s mandate,” commissioner Yves Côté’s office said. “Should formal compliance or enforcement measures be taken by the commissioner, these would be published on our website.”
The Prime Minster’s Office also acknowledged the suggestion that they are using the federal government’s power to promise grants to boost Liberal candidates.
“Our government is engaging with Canadians through positive announcements about our efforts to support the middle class,” read a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office. “This is a matter for the commissioner as an independent officer of Parliament. We respect his independence.”
Indeed, Canadians have reason to pause over the Liberals new commitment and promises frenzy. According to Global News’ Chief Political Correspondent David Akin, who has been tacking the funding announcements of the Liberal government on twitter, he found that, in only a week, the Liberals held over 100 events and made “2,970 new spending commitments.” Nearly 3,000 new promises in a week — apparently for billions — is quite something.
Akin compiled the following list and regional breakdown for Liberal spending activity in August alone:
- Quebec: 1,396 new spending commitments worth a combined $2.7 billion.
- Ontario: 284 commitments worth $1.93 billion.
- BC: 406 worth $833 million.
- Nova Scotia: 117 worth $692 million
- Alberta: 519 worth $619 million.
- Nunavut: 17 worth $385 million.
- Saskatchewan: 840 worth $223 million.
- New Brunswick: 397 worth $215 million.
- Manitoba: 66 worth $121 million.
- Northwest Territories: 31 worth $111 million.
- Prince Edward Island: 126 worth $70 million.
- Yukon: 10 worth $52 million.
“Overall, for the month of August, the Liberals made 4,545 new spending commitments worth a combined $12.8 billion,” reports Akin. “That compares to the Conservative record of 604 new spending commitments worth a combined $1.4 billion in the month prior to the August 2, 2015 election call.”
Randy Boissonnault and Kent Hehr, both Liberal MPs in Alberta, appear to have made the most commitments of any MP who is not a cabinet minister. Together, in August alone, the two made 128 spending commitments worth just shy of $100 million.
Boissonnault, Liberal MP of Edmonton Centre and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Canada on LGBTQ2 Issues, spent the month giving out grants to “women-led businesses and to arts and culture groups in northern Alberta.” Of those grant recipients, eleven were in his riding.
On September 3, Alberta Women Entrepreneurs showed their adoration for him in a tweet.
The tweetreads, “On Friday, [Randy Boissonnault] announced new investment to support women entrepreneurs on behalf of the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion. We are pleased to share that AWE and [CF Lloydminster] were announced as recipients of the WES Ecosystem Fund.
“This project investment will make it possible for AWE to provide support and leadership skills for women entrepreneurs to lead the way in digital transformation – learning agility, decisiveness, assertiveness, and fostering creativity and innovation.”
Hehr, Liberal MP for Calgary Centre, promised grants to arts and culture groups in his area, as well as providing grants for programs to bolster “Indigenous language use, for a housing project, to a clean-tech business, and for a major Calgary infrastructure project,” reports Akin. Much like Boissonnault, many of the grant recipients are in his riding.
Last Thursday, Hehr announced his pledge of another $1.4 million for arts and cultural groups.
“It’s a pleasure to announce our government’s continued support for arts and culture in Calgary and southern Alberta, especially during Calgary Pride,” said Hehr in a statement. “Alberta’s creative scene is among the most unique and exciting in Canada. We know that investing in artists, performances and festivals bolster our economy and strengthens civic pride. I’m proud that this funding will keep helping organizations throughout the province grow and flourish.”
According to CTV News, the promised money will be going to the following:
- Globalfest – $102,500
- Beakerhead – $94,000
- Sled Island – $53,500
- Calgary Pride 2019 – $41,200
- Calgary International Film Festival – $37,400
- Mexifest – $37,000
- Beltline Community Garden Festival – $33,000
- Carifest – $15,000
- One Yellow Rabbit Theatre Association – $170,500
- The Banff Centre – $137,500
- Folk Festival Society of Calgary – $132,000
- Calgary Centre for Performing Arts – $104,500
- Wordfest – $77,000
- Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre – $52,800
- Medicine Hat Jazz Society – $33,000
“Arts are what make a city worth living in and our programs here at Arts Commons wouldn’t be possible without the support of the federal government through the Canada Arts Presentation Fund,” said Greg Epton, Arts Common’s Chief Development Officer and interim co-CEO. “This funding allows us to bring performers from all corners of the world onto our stages.”
Other commitments in August included gas tax fund transfers totalling $1.87 billion, as part of a greater promise to use oil revenues to redistribute wealth to thousands of municipalities.