Has Bev Oda finally reached her past-due date as Canada’s Minister for International Co-operation?
There are those who would say she eclipsed that mark a few years ago, when she was forced to repay expenses claimed for travel that included limo service during the Juno Awards in Halifax.
Or when she led fellow parliamentarians on a wild goose chase over the cancellation of federal funding to a church-based aid group called Kairos, first denying then later admitting she was responsible for a decision to cut off the cash.
If they really needed it, anti-Oda crusaders got more ammunition this week after the minister was roundly criticized for cancelling a room at London’s five-star Grange St. Paul’s Hotel in favour a stay at the Savoy, even more exclusive digs often visited by rock stars and royalty.
Some digging by The Canadian Press revealed that Oda, in London to attend a conference for a global health organization, took a pass on the Grange ($287 a night) to stay at the Savoy ($665 a night). And if that wasn’t enough, she even sucked back orange juice at $16 a glass and racked up thousands of dollars in limo fees.
Ah, life on an expense account, eh?
Of course, now that it has all come to light, Oda has apologized to taxpayers, repaid the hotel bill and bucked up for the limo service.
The problem with the whole Oda scandal is that nothing she did could be considered against the law — or even a violation of spending guidelines, since the rules are so vague for cabinet ministers the system is wide open for potential abuse.
In essence, it places the onus of responsibility on the minister to make the right call, to do what’s in the best interests of taxpayers and treat the government bankroll as if it were their own.
Obviously Oda has trouble in this regard, since even the most extravagant of spenders should be able to tell the difference between what might wash with cash-strapped Canadians and what might not.
She shouldn’t necessarily be punted out of cabinet for living high on the hog. After all, she and countless other politicians have shown time and again that money’s no object when it’s not coming out of their pockets. No, Oda should lose the post because she lacks the common sense to know that, sooner or later, saying “I’m sorry,” just won’t cut it anymore.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, news editor Mike Cornell or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.