THUNDER BAY – “A New Democrat investigation shows former Industry Minister Tony Clement set up a secret, parallel process to funnel nearly $50 million in G8 project funding into in his riding,” charges NDP MP Bruce Hyer. The Thunder Bay Superior North MP says, “Hundreds of documents obtained by New Democrats from Muskoka municipalities by New Democrats through Access to Information requests contradict the story given to the Auditor General by government officials”.
“The documents unearthed today reveal a disturbing picture,” Hyer said. “FedNor funding is supposed to be for Northern Ontario development projects, not for G8 projects in the South or a political slush fund for Tony Clement.”
“Municipal records marked ‘confidential’ show that submissions for FedNor project funding were funnelled through Clement’s constituency office in Huntsville, Ontario,” the MP continued. “Projects were chosen by a small group of mayors at meetings chaired by Clement. They wrote their own criteria for the projects, nominated projects for approval and then rubber-stamped the results. Clement’s constituency staff moved the applications through the approval process”.
“Perhaps most disturbing, the government hid this from the Auditor-General when an investigation was launched,” remarked Hyer. “Why didn’t they tell the AG that a private, parallel system for funding applications was set up? Why wasn’t the AG told that applications went right to Tony Clement’s own constituency office? This smells like a cover-up, with secret meetings to divvy up $50 million in pork-barrel projects.”
“This is just further evidence that we need a much more transparent FedNor, independent of political interference,” said Hyer. “It needs to become a stand-alone, arms-length agency with more local and regional control… not political control. I and my New Democrat colleagues have been demanding this for years, and I’m calling on Conservatives to drop their resistance to it becoming independent and accountable.”