A director at the National Citizens Coalition (NCC) is slamming the federal government for sending senior bureaucrats on expensive trips so they can receive leadership training.
In a post on his blog and in the National Post, the NCC's Stephen Taylor questions the value of the Advanced Leadership Program run by the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS). The program sends top bureaucrats on trips within Canada and abroad with the aim of "expanding their current worldview," according to the CSPS website.
Taylor provides an extensive list of top bureaucrats who went globetrotting on the public dime. For example, Richard Wex, Assistant Deputy Minister for policing, law enforcement and the interoperability branch went to the U.S. and Brazil for roughly three weeks at a cost of nearly $22,000 and then later in the year spent two weeks in Belgium, Norway and India at a cost of $21,745.32. A more complete list of spending under the Advanced Leadership Program can be seen here.
The criticism is of note not only because the Conservatives are asking every government department to present plans to cut their budgets by either 5 or 10 per cent, but also because it comes from an NCC director. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was president of the NCC, a right-wing think tank, before becoming leader of the Canadian Alliance.
NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice told Postmedia News that the program is too expensive when the civil service is being asked to cut back expenditures.
Treasury Board President Tony Clement's office told The Huffington Post that the Conservative government "values taxpayers’ dollars" and that "reckless spending and out of control debt are the key problems we see facing other countries today. We will make sure Canada continues to stay free of these problems." Clement's office added that the program, "like many others, is under review."
The attention for the bureaucrat travel program comes on the heels of widely-publicized criticism of Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay for the cost of trips he took to Munich, Istanbul and to the Grey Cup in Edmonton. The stories about MacKay's travel originated with blog posts from The Canadian Taxpayer's Federation, another citizen’s group known for its support of conservative ideas.
The focus on spending continues as attention in Ottawa begins to shift to how far the Tories will push their austerity agenda in the upcoming budget. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is expected to deliver the government's spending plans in February or March.