Why Canada’s expense scandal resembles trench warfare

Tease the day: Politicians expend much energy yelling at each other’s apparent expensing misdeeds.

MP Eve Adams and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

Canada’s expense scandal has settled into a form of rhetorical trench warfare, where neither the opposition nor the government nor journalists are giving an inch on their various questions and answers about a gang of now-independent senators—and, more recently, a Member of Parliament—who either allegedly, or admittedly, claimed expenses improperly.

After weeks of questions about what role, if any, the Prime Minister’s Office played in the repayment of some of Senator Mike Duffy’s expenses, very little new information is forthcoming. The authorities continue to investigate, and everyone waits. Deloitte’s audit of Senator Pamela Wallin’s expenses continues, and amid all the speculation about just how much money she might owe taxpayers, everyone waits. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said he’d welcome Senator Mac Harb, formerly a Liberal and currently independent, back into the Liberal fold if he repaid his expenses. Harb has no intention of doing so. An investigation into his expenses continues, and everyone waits. On all fronts, every party is chirping across the aisle about some sort of malfeasance: Liberals are attacking Conservatives, Conservatives are attacking Liberals, and the NDP’s attacking everybody. Noise, everywhere.

Then, last night, the Ottawa Citizen‘s Glen McGregor reported that Conservative MP Eve Adams claimed a number of objectionable expenses during the 2011 federal election, including “hundreds of dollars for repeat visits to a hair and nail salons, skin care and grooming products, and even whitening toothpaste.” The story set off a proxy war on Twitter, where McGregor and Adams barked at each other late into the night, and into this morning, about the appropriateness of Adams’ claims.

Questionable expenses have now, fairly or unfairly, spilled into the House of Commons. How far it goes is anyone’s guess. But there were 308 winning candidates in the last election, and that’s plenty of election returns to scour. The free-for-all continues.

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with new rules allowing federal officials to crack down on temporary foreign workers—by entering their workplaces without warrants. The National Post fronts Canada’s participation in a multinational military exercise in Jordan. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with a six-figure payout to Greg Reed, who’s resigning as the head of Ontario’s eHealth program. The Ottawa Citizen leads with the federal government forcing a union of customs workers to vote on the government’s latest contract offer. iPolitics fronts the federal opposition’s efforts to combat unpaid internships. leads with Turkish police moving protesters out of Istanbul’s Taksim Square. CTV News leads with Turkish authorities using tear gas and firing rubber bullets at protesters. National Newswatch showcases an Ottawa Citizen story about controversial personal expenses claimed by MP Eve Adams during the last federal election.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Tasing trial. One of the RCMP officers involved in the death of Robert Dziekanski in October 2007, Const. Bill Bentley, pleaded not guilty to lying at the public inquiry into the high-profile case. 2. Archives. Heritage Minister James Moore says he’ll ask the new head of Library and Archives Canada to restore a program meant to help small communities develop archival material.
3. Ashley Smith. A psychiatrist who recommended three cavity searches of troubled inmate Ashley Smith in 2007 said the procedures were necessary because Smith was hiding ligatures. 4. Abuse. A 78-year-old Nova Scotia woman whose past involves harming men in her life pleaded guilty to drugging her husband during their Newfoundland honeymoon last year.
5. World Bank. Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, says he hopes governments around the world can work to eradicate extreme poverty—incomes of less than $1.25 a day—by 2030. 6. Nuclear bombs. The Netherlands is storing 22 U.S.-built nuclear weapons in an underground bunker, according to former Dutch prime minister Ruud Lubbers, who called the bombs “silly.”

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