EDITORIAL: Misuse of funds warrants more than a shrug

Questionable activities touch each and every taxpayer

It’s not just about Nigerian inheritance schemes, or people stealing credit cards or financial information.

Questionable activities touch each and every taxpayer whose hard-earned dollars are siphoned by politicians for unjustified “expenses.”

If we have learned anything from last year’s Senate expense scandals, and the recent revelations concerning former Alberta premier Alison Redford’s travel expenses, it’s that this is a problem that crosses all party lines and involves all political stripes.

A recent example being publication of details of the vacation expenses billed for NDP MLA Jenny Kwan’s family to the Portland Hotel Society, a not-for-profit organization already under fire for its expenses record. Kwan’s subsequent repayment of the sum was a reason for rejoicing on the right.

That jubilation has been tempered somewhat by the revelation, also this month, of travel expenses billed by B.C. legislature Speaker Linda Reid, a B.C. Liberal MLA, for her husband – so that he could join her on a trip to South Africa.

In addition to issuing a public apology, Reid has also repaid the sum in total.

Whatever the mitigating circumstances of each case, neither inspires confidence in our system.

Abusing public trust and dipping into public funds is, or should be, indefensible, no matter the spluttering rants of entrenched ideologues on the left or the right, who will always claim that whatever the other party did is worse.

Yet oddly, when it comes to political impropriety, our society long ago suspended any notion of justice or punishment that automatically applies to scammers in any other walk of life.

With politicians going on to reap the rewards of generous pensions, lucrative posts and valuable consultancies, it’s no wonder so many average Canadians shrug their shoulders and walk in the other direction when urged to exercise their democratic rights.