So, You Thought Our Princling Would Be Different?

From the National Post

With aid for a P.E.I. bowling alley and Haiti, the Trudeau government notches 3,000 spending announcements

David Akin | November 18, 2016 | Last Updated: Nov 20 4:32 PM ET
More from David Akin | @davidakin

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government has just marked its 3,000th spending announcement and, in doing so, has shown itself to be much more adroit in getting its MPs to hand out cheques than its predecessor.

The majority Harper government of the 41st Parliament didn’t make its 3,000th announcement until nearly two years into its mandate, on March 11, 2013. During the four-year 41st Parliament, Conservative MPs made 7,307 spending announcements, a total that Liberal MPs, at their current pace, should easily eclipse early in the third year of their mandate.

That said, the Harper Conservatives moved more money out the door even though they made fewer announcements. By end of day on Friday — 396 days since last fall’s election — Liberal MPs had made 3,030 announcements funding projects worth a combined $18.9 billion.

It took the Harper Conservatives just 72 days after the May 2, 2011 election for that government to eclipse $18.9 billion in spending announcements.

The spending announcement figures are culled from a database maintained exclusively by the National Post that draws from the thousands of press releases issued by the government over the last eight years in which government MPs and ministers take credit for the allocation of a grant, contribution, or loan from the federal treasury. And it is always government MPs who get their names on the press releases when a cheque is handed out. Opposition MPs are never mentioned even when the project to be funded is in an opposition MP’s riding.

The 3,000th announcement to be registered in the database from the current government occurred Thursday when Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, at the COP22 climate change conference in Marrakech, Morocco, announced a contribution of $3 million to the World Bank Transformative Carbon Asset Facility.

Other recent spending announcements include $54 million in aid for Haiti, announced Friday by International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau during a visit to Port-au-Prince; a new container terminal at the Port of Montreal built with a $44-million contribution from the federal government, opened Friday by Transport Minister Marc Garneau; and $1.5 million to expand a national diabetes prevention program, announced by Health Minister Jane Philpott last Monday.

But the Trudeau government, like the Harper government before it, has plenty of money for smaller projects, the kind that helps a local MP get noticed back home. For example:

In tiny Tyne Valley, P.E.I. (pop. 266), the Liberal MP Bobby Morrissey provided a grant of $158,173 that will help, among other things, upgrade a bowling hall, beloved by the community as “a popular local venue for a variety of community events and … home to several bowling leagues,” according to a press release.

Liberal MP Nick Whalen had a few cheques to hand out Friday in the Newfoundland and Labrador community of Torbay, near St. John’s, including one for $150,250 for the local Kinsmen’s club to build a splash pad for kids.

Liberal MP Rene Arsenault, who knocked off Conservative incumbent and cabinet minister Bernard Valcourt last fall in the northwestern New Brunswick riding of Madawaska—Restigouche, brought home cheques for 25 maple syrup producers in his riding. The producers split more than $7 million in federal loans announced by Arsenault on Nov. 7.

The money for Torbay’s splash pad and Tyne Valley’s bowling hall were drawn from a $300-million Parliament-approved pool of money to fund all sorts of projects to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.

The fund was established by the Harper Conservatives in its 2015 budget and was, at the time, denounced by Liberal MPs Adam Vaughan and Judy Sgro as nothing more than a “slush fund” for Conservative MPs to dip into to improve their chances of re-election.

But once in office, the Liberals kept the Canada 150 fund going and have been busy dipping into it.

In their first year in office, the Trudeau Liberals have made 207 announcements that draw money from the Canada 150 fund and the vast majority has gone to fund projects in ridings held by Liberal MPs.

The National Post database has logged 155 Canada 150 spending announcements worth a combined $27.9 million for projects in Liberal ridings. Just 15 announcements worth a combined $876,000 have been announced for projects in ridings held by Conservatives and 21 Canada 150 announcements worth $1,078,780 have been announced for NDP ridings.

Louis Plamondon is the only BQ MP to have seen any Canada 150 cash come his way. The feds will spend $47,087 for some new playground equipment in Grand-Saint-Esprit in his riding of Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel.

Meanwhile, independent MP Hunter Tootoo — who resigned his cabinet position and quit the Liberal caucus earlier this year — has seen six projects in his riding of Nunavut worth a combined $1.5 million funded from the Canada 150 pool of money.

Just a handful of Canada 150 projects are for initiatives where the spending will occur over several ridings held by MPs of different political persuasions.

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