FOULDS: The life of one MP: Like winning the lottery and robbing a bank
Earlier this year, I penned a column in which I noted getting elected as an MP or appointed as a senator is generally akin to winning a lottery.
The salary for an MP is outstanding ($158,000) and even more generous when the MP is tasked with extra duties.
For example, cabinet ministers get an additional $75,000 a year from taxpayers, ministers of state receive an extra $57,000 from taxpayers, parliamentary secretaries are afforded a bonus of $16,000 from taxpayers and government caucus chairs get another $11,000 from taxpayers.
Add to this well-to-do salary a pension plan that can only be called obscene (what other job results in a $30,000 pension for six years’ work?) and “hitting the lottery” is just about the perfect description.
Shortly after publishing the column, Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo Conservative MP Cathy McLeod, send me a tweet on Twitter, taking issue with some of my descriptions of an MP’s workload.
I may have been a bit flippant in suggesting MPs earn a wealthy salary by sending out positive press releases, hosting cabinet ministers for positive photo-ops and cutting ribbons at positive events.
McLeod suggested she and I trade jobs for a week, so I can experience first-hand the job of an MP.
If the offer came from McLeod’s Conservative colleague, International Development Minister Bev Oda, I might have jumped at the suggestion.
After all, how often does one get the opportunity to essentially steal from taxpayers, to act no different than a common thief, and escape any sanctions?
Oda should have been charged with theft; instead, her hubris-filled visit to London, England, doesn’t even warrant demotion from cabinet or even a public tongue-lashing from her boss, Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Nor, as far as I can tell, have her odious actions elicited the slightest criticism from her party peers.
To review: Oda was in London in June 2011 to attend a conference focused on vaccination and immunization of children in developing countries.
The conference was being held at the five-star Grange St. Pauls Hotel, where Oda had rooms waiting.
Instead, she chose to upgrade to the spectacularly lavish Savoy and chose to hire a limousine to ferry her to and from the Grange St. Pauls, billing thousands of dollars extra to taxpayers.
This theft of public funds would have remained out of the public eye had the Canadian Press not exposed it by perusing travel documents.
That Oda offered a forced (and fake) apology and that she pledged to repay some of the extra costs is irrelevant; she would have done neither had she not been caught cheating the taxpayer.
Remember, this is the very same entitled MP who billed taxpayers $5,400 for limo use while attending the 2006 Juno Awards in Halifax.
This is the very same self-righteous MP who compiled $11,000 in limousine bills during her first 15 months as a cabinet minister.
This is the very same ethically challenged MP who falsified documents and misled Parliament about doing so in relation to adding the word “not” to a funding order authorized by Canadian International Development Agency officials.
Through it all, Oda remains in cabinet, continues to receive a salary fit for a queen and will, in all likelihood, continue to stick her head in the taxpayer trough — again and again.
Obviously, getting elected to Parliament is akin to winning a lottery and, as Oda has shown, it is also not unlike robbing a bank while being granted immunity from prosecution.
It’s utterly disgusting to know we are all contributing to a disgraceful MP’s get-rich-quick scheme, while far too many Canadians are under immense stress to avoid bankruptcy at the end of each day.
Every day Oda goes to sleep without being punished is one more day Harper’s Conservatives have further damaged their credibility.