NDP MP Bruce Hyer is calling on Treasury Board president Tony Clement to step down amid questions of how a secret, $50 million “slush fund” was funneled into his Parry Sound-Muskoka riding ahead of last year’s G8 summit.
Clement came under fire after federal NDP officials released documents obtained under freedom of information laws that showed the then Industry Minister personally monitored the flow of cash from the G8 legacy fund through his constituency office.
“I absolutely do,” Hyer said when asked if Clement should resign or Prime Minister Steven Harper should start the ball rolling himself.
“I think that Mr. Harper should remove him and if Mr. Harper fails to, then it’s clear evidence that Mr. Harper either doesn’t care or that he was complicit in this and that this was not just a Tony Clement malfeasance, but was orchestrated by the party.
Hyer (Thunder Bay-Superior North) agreed with opposition charges the legacy fund spending was designed to avoid oversight of the country’s auditor general, adding it’s one more reason FedNor needs its own ministry, similar to economic development agencies in other parts of the country.
The money was handed out through FedNor, the economic development agency responsible for Northern Ontario.
“To find out it was just used to help Tony Clement get re-elected in his own riding is, I think, pretty unacceptable to virtually all Canadians, except for maybe the people who voted for Tony in his riding,” said Hyer, reached by phone on Monday while in transit in Ottawa.
“(FedNor) should be much more closely tied to local regional control, with a board of directors from the North that recommends and makes decisions so that when communities apply for special projects, that it’s open, that it’s accountable, that it’s good for the North, not for a minister in Ottawa or southern Ontario.
The second-term representative also said it’s disturbing the government hid the fund from the auditor general when an investigation was launched.
“This smells like a cover-up, with secret meetings to divvy up $50 million in pork-barrel projects.”
The federal Liberals have called on auditor general John Wiersema to reconsider the decision not to do a value-for-money audit on the way the $50-million was disbursed.
Markham-Unionville MP John McCallum wrote a letter to Wiersema on Monday, and published it on his constituency website.
“The new information appears to suggest that then Minister of Industry (Clement) conducted his own application process for these projects ant that this process was administered not by the professional public service, but by the minister’s own political staff.”
A spokesman for Wiersema on Monday told the Toronto Star, however, that the auditor general would not be re-opening the file, while a spokeswoman for Clement said there Is nothing new in the NDP allegations and that the pertinent information was provided during the investigation.
The legacy fund money was supposed to help Clement’s riding prepare for hosting the G8 Summit last June and was spent on projects including gazebos, parks, public toilets and other beautification projects, many of which were hours away from the summit site in Huntsville, Ont.
-- With files from The Canadian Press