Monday, February 17, 2014

Five questions about the Leslie moving expense furor

Former Canadian Forces lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie - and federal Liberal advisor and prospective star candidate - is being attacked by the Harper Conservatives for claiming $72,000 in retirement moving expenses under a policy that applies to RCMP officers and the military.
The Intended Place of Residence policy covers retiring Mounties and military personnel for one last move after they retire. The idea is that if you end your career in Newfoundland, but want to move back to be closer to your grandkids in Saskatoon, the government will pick up the cost. It’s a reward for accepting a series of transfers over the course of a career.
But the Leslie case raises some questions.
1) Was the information about Leslie’s expenses a political smear engineered by the Conservatives? CTV News broke the story, saying it had “obtained” documents on the moving expenses. But the TV network did not say how it got the documents, or from whom. That should be part of the story.
2) Is the Conservative government suggesting its policy should be changed, and the costs of a last move should not be covered by taxpayers? If so, why has the change not been made over the eight years the Conservatives have governed?
3) What was Leslie thinking? Just because the benefit is in place doesn’t mean you need to claim it. Leslie was highly paid, over $250,000 a year, and retiring on a pension that most Canadians could only dream about. He decided he wanted a different house in Ottawa. Why did he choose to have taxpayers pick up the costs - moving fees, real estate commissions, property transfer taxes - for what was a personal choice?
4) How much is the policy costing taxpayers? About 3,500 Mounties and Canadian Forces employees are retiring each year.
5) And given that volume, why hasn’t the federal government negotiated a better deal? The largest chunk of Leslie’s expenses were real estate fees. Surely the government, with thousands of moves a year, could get a better deal on real estate commissions.