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Demands for Accountability are Misdirected in the General Leslie Affair

My post about the cognitive dissonance resonating within many conservatives seems to have struck a chord – or at least, a discord.

In particular, it was the current brouhaha over the $72,000 incurred by General Leslie for relocating expenses when he retired and sold one house to move within the same city to another. My issue yesterday was not that the program isn’t flawed – it most definitely is. My issue was with the way the Harper government is handling the situation.

Let’s back it up for a moment.

The program was put in place by the Chretien Liberals in 1999. It was well intentioned in that it recognized that military personnel and their families are moved all over creation necessitating that they sell their homes, sometimes at a loss. The program has provision to cover those losses which is only fair seeing as it is the government and not the individual that decides when the individual moves.

It was also decided to include a provision paying for a final relocation upon retirement for service personnel with twenty years or more active service. Again, the thinking was that the individual may be stationed somewhere other than where they want to live after retirement and the government accepted responsibility to cover the cost of relocating the retiree and his/her family to their choice destination.

The problem was that the program allowed for costs related to relocation within the same city. Initially, it had to be at least 45 kms away from the individual’s current residence but that provision was allowed to lapse into obscurity.

The way the program works is quite simple. DND bureaucrats and/or their designates call tenders, negotiate the supplier contracts (real estate, lawyers, moving companies etc.), approve the expense and pay the bills directly to the supplier according to the terms of the contract that they negotiated. Retiring military personnel do not – let me repeat that – do not make the decisions and then submit an expense claim to the government.

In 2006, the Auditor General highlighted specific issues with the program including the costs associated with relocation with the same city. The Harper government did not address the issue. Since 2009, the Defense Ombudsman has repeatedly called for changes to the program but again, the Harper government ignored the issue.

According to the Defense Minister’s parliamentary secretary in an interview this morning, the only reason the government is now reviewing the program is because it hit the media. In fact, he went so far as to state that the government wouldn’t have been aware of the problem without the media having filed an Access to Information request and then writing a story about General Leslie’s relocation costs.

Think about that for a moment – especially if you claim to be a staunch supporter of the Harper government.

This program is expensive. It isn’t a couple of bucks tossed here and there and yet, here is the parliamentary secretary for the Minister of Defense stating that neither he nor the minister was aware of the issue until it hit the media. Apparently they don’t read reports from the AG or the Ombudsman related to programs for which the minister is responsible.

Once it hit the fan, there was no ministerial accountability, no admission of having slipped up. Instead, it was all attack against one retiring general; a man who served this country in war with distinction. It hardly seems a fitting way to show him our respect but then – he is a Liberal after all so screw him.

And that is precisely the issue for me.

This program should have been revised years ago by the Harper government but it wasn’t. When it all hit the media fan, the Harper government should have stepped up, accepted responsibility and held itself accountable for the situation and for fixing it. That is what real conservatives do.

Instead, they do what they always do. They attacked someone and tried to put the blame on that individual and it has worked with the hard-core right. General Leslie is a crook and the Harper government is the Communion of Saints.

That’s the kind of lack of ethics and principle I expect from Liberals and their supporters – not from conservatives. We’re supposed to be the good guys, the guys that are better than all that.

The hard right is all over the general with accusations and criticism but quite frankly, blaming him for the Harper government’s failure on this file is pretty much the same thing as blaming a legal and responsible gun owner for the Liberal’s ridiculous gun registry or a person needing a hip replacement for the mess our health care system is currently in thanks to government and political mismanagement.

Some of the comments I’ve received prove that you can fool some people all of the time regardless of whether or not they are Liberal or Conservative and that the principles and votes of too many conservatives can simply be bought for a promised tax cut in much the same way that the principles and votes of some Liberals can be bought for a new entitlement.

I think they will discover that they sell themselves and their principles very cheaply indeed.

Update: It has been brought to my attention that there are two errors in my description of how the relocation program works. I accept responsibility for that. My research was rushed and sloppy. I have not, however, changed what was written because the errors are reasonably minor and do not affect the fundamental issue presented in the post. Corrections to my description of the program will be found below in the comments submitted by readers and I thank them for taking the time to provide them.

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  • Pingback: Demands for Accountability are Misdirected in the General Leslie Affair | Grumpy Opinions()

  • Scott McKee

    Bear you nailed it! I posted on BC Blue and gave my support to General Leslie and that while I was disappointed that he became a Lib, he was, a soldier’s soldier and had a distinguished career. I also provided an explanation of the DND moving policy based on my 24 years in the CF. All I asked was that we, as conservatives, wait until the facts came in before we destroy a man’s reputation. I couldn’t believe the response! I was told ” My evidence was BS” and “To move on” ” He (Gen Leslie) abused the policy, peddle your BS somewhere else” and this was all from the moderator! I was actually surprised. It was basically rally around the flag boys my party right or wrong. It was like talking to a Liberal. You’re right we’re supposed to be above this and to be the voice of reason. Being a conservative doesn’t mean you blindly support every government decision just because it comes from a conservative government. If we want to be perceived as the voice of reason in politics we had better start acting like it.

    • damorris

      I quit posting at the blog you mention for the very reason you’ve just mentioned.The blog owner is one of the “all Conservative,all the time, my Party right or wrong” types.
      When one of his “regulars” posted comparing Canadian government scientists who conducted nutritional experiments on Native children to the notorious Dr,Josef Mengele, I quit that blog.

      The Leslie issue isn’t one of Liberal or Conservative, it’s one of the entitlement mentality of the elites in this Country,regardless of political persuasion.

      • MaggiesBear

        I agree with you on the Leslie thing but as I wrote, I think the criticism is misdirected; especially considering that a second general moved in Ottawa last year at a cost of $60,000 but the Harper government has never said a word about it. The policy is clearly flawed and the administration of it too loose. It’s government’s responsibility to fix it and I hold them accountable for this mess because they didn’t.

    • Cytotoxic

      That guy is the dictionary definition of d-bag. Seriously every word he says is a mendacious distortion of facts. He is a living testiment to the truth that partisanship is a mental illness.

      • MaggiesBear

        I didn’t see much that was partisan in his comments.

  • chuckt

    I have tried to comment on several blogs to correct some misconceptions. But almost all (in particular BC Blue) have moderated my posts if they disagree with the party line.

    Most recently it is the discussion of Global’s list that is frustrating me. ‘How can Leslie charge Canadians $72k when MGen Hines and BGen Charek only charged $468?’ they ask. First of all Global’s list is wrong. Charek lived in Colorado Springs as Deputy Director of NORAD when he retired and Hines lived in Brussels as Director of NATO HQ C3S when he retired. They shouldn’t be on the city-to-city lists. The $468.60 is likely hotel and incidentals for their move back to Canada.

    • MaggiesBear

      I think you highlight the issue. This is a flawed program that is poorly and inconsistently managed. It needs serious revamping and tighter controls.

  • Cytotoxic

    You are a better writer and a superior mind to most of the NP writers, but I take issue with your conflation of the ‘hard right’ with the HarperDrones. I am hard right. I follow a pretty rigid ideology. It is for that reason that I hate Harper. Harper’s agenda is all about Harper. Attacking a consistent view of the world to them as you do by calling them ‘hard right’ gives them undue credit. HarperDrones are just standard partisans with a severe case of Hero Worship. Remember, Harper is Conservative Obama. When you see it from that perspective, it all makes sense.

    • MaggiesBear

      You’re point is well taken and it is clear that your conservatism, like mine, is based on defending your values rather than a failing government. The problem I have is trying to find a term to describe those who adhere to the Harper government like its a cult. The ‘Base’ no longer applies because many in the base are angry with the government. ‘Right’ and ‘Conservative’ don’t apply because we are not one unified group, we’re diverse in our values and our opinions and we are divided into hard-right, centrist, ‘socons’, sort of almost Libertarians and the list goes on. We even have our share of stupid people. So if you have a better term, I’d be happy to consider using it.

      I happen to agree with the other things you wrote by the way. I’m a lot closer to hard-right myself than some people realize. It’s just that I detest hypocrisy, dishonesty and political thugs and I don’t care in what party I find them.

      Canadians had better start to stand up and realize that this country is in serious trouble because of the mainstream political parties. Blind partisanship ain’t cutting it anymore.

      Thank you for the compliments about my writing, I appreciate it but it’s probably the one area on which we disagree. I think my writing needs serious work.

      • damorris

        .” It’s just that I detest hypocrisy, dishonesty and political thugs and I don’t care in what party I find them.”

        Exactly MY sentiments. It isn’t about the political Party, it’s about what is good for the Country,and all the citizens in it,something too many in the political realm seem to have forgotten.

        • MaggiesBear

          I agree

  • SpyGuy101

    You also have some errors in the way the program works.

    I choose some of my suppliers (lawyer, realtor, appraiser) and the Brookfield folks who administer the program for DND IAW with Treasury Board guidelines pick the rest (mainly, the mover). I can either pick someone from the Brookfield list of approved suppliers or I can pick someone else and ensure they agree to meet the regulations. For example, a realtor must agree to a specific percentage (differs by province) and to provide certain documents showing work done in selling the member’s house. So I as a member of the military do have control over who provides my services

    Billing and compensation is direct to the supplier from Brookfield, a welcome and new part of the program. But prior to payment being made, I provide Brookfield with confirmation that services were rendered as contracted.

    The
    way the program works is quite simple. DND bureaucrats and/or their
    designates call tenders, negotiate the supplier contracts (real estate,
    lawyers, moving companies etc.), approve the expense and pay the bills
    directly to the supplier according to the terms of the contract that
    they negotiated. Retiring military personnel do not – let me repeat that
    – do not make the decisions and then submit an expense claim to the
    government.
    Read more at http://abearsrant.com/2014/02/demands-for-accountability-are-misdirected-in-the-general-leslie-affair.html#65V2EJsQ70pCc947.99

    The
    way the program works is quite simple. DND bureaucrats and/or their
    designates call tenders, negotiate the supplier contracts (real estate,
    lawyers, moving companies etc.), approve the expense and pay the bills
    directly to the supplier according to the terms of the contract that
    they negotiated. Retiring military personnel do not – let me repeat that
    – do not make the decisions and then submit an expense claim to the
    government.
    Read more at http://abearsrant.com/2014/02/demands-for-accountability-are-misdirected-in-the-general-leslie-affair.html#65V2EJsQ70pCc947.99
    The
    way the program works is quite simple. DND bureaucrats and/or their
    designates call tenders, negotiate the supplier contracts (real estate,
    lawyers, moving companies etc.), approve the expense and pay the bills
    directly to the supplier according to the terms of the contract that
    they negotiated. Retiring military personnel do not – let me repeat that
    – do not make the decisions and then submit an expense claim to the
    government.
    Read more at http://abearsrant.com/2014/02/demands-for-accountability-are-misdirected-in-the-general-leslie-affair.html#65V2EJsQ70pCc947.99

    • MaggiesBear

      Thanks for the corrections, I appreciate it but I would point out that whether you or the government picks the supplier, they must meet the terms set by DND including percentages and price. At the end of the day it comes down to the same thing, it isn’t reitiring service personnel that are responsible for the situation. It’s government both political and bureaucrats. The government has no call to be demonizing one individual over this mess. They need to step up, take responsibility and fix the program.

  • SpyGuy101

    The program, as you describe it, did not originate with the Liberals under Chretien. It has in fact been around for decades. The IPR portion, or Intended Place of Residence 9upon retirement) may have changed under the Liberals, but when I joined in 86, the IPR was already part of the package.
    Important to note: the entire move package military are entitled to is administered by Treasury Board, not DND. Treasure Board is responsible for the regulations and the reimbursement of the program. So in fact the guy responsible for this program is Tony Clement.

    • MaggiesBear

      Treasury Board signs off on the money which is what they do but it is DND that arranges the suppliers including Brookfield. The reference to Chretien is to clarify that the program in its current form was established in 1999 to provide some context as to how long it has taken both successive Liberal and Conservative governments to even become aware of the fact that there is a problem.

  • JustTheFactsPlease

    Bear:
    I’m a regular reader of your post, and agree with much of what you have write about.

    I’d describe myself as a fiscally Conservative and socially Liberal person. Historically, I have voted Liberal more times than Conservative (never NDP).

    It seems clear to most that invest enough time to formulate an informed opinion regarding Canadian Politics, at all Federal, Provincial, Municipal levels, that we have been sliding down the slippery slope of blatant self-interest, personal agendas, and spending for protectionism rather than good policy and government that use public funds for investment, economic stability, growth and relative fairness for all citizens.

    Each party has their faults, those in current power are the easiest to criticize as they are the ones with the hard examples of ‘abuse of power’. The reality is I don’t have faith that any of the current parties (or at least their senior leadership) will truly govern in a manor that will allow the general populous to say “I may or may not agree with everything they do, but I respect the clarity, consistency, transparency, and conviction by which they do it.”

    The reality is, we have spent beyond our means! Mostly due to overly generous Public Service compensation. Their pensions will continue to negatively affect our economy for generations to come.

    When you use the term Cognitive Dissonance (as you have in your last two blogs), I believe it would be more appropriately applied to this group (the members of Public Service Unions), as many believe the Union’s rhetoric and have ‘drank the Cool Aid’ (they are beyond reform and/or hope), however many more truly know that they have reaped the benefits of aggressive bargaining, and political manipulation in an era of moral and ethical degradation of our politicians.

    These are the people with true Cognitive Dissonance; I.e.: my life is better than I thought it ever would be when I started this career, I know it’s better than my non Public Service Unionized neighbours, friends and family members, but I have to keep fighting for more of what my Union tells me to; I can see that the government is out of money, but I have to believe it will all work out in the end, and if my children (and children’s children) can’t afford a descent quality of life, then I will take my accumulated Public Service tax based wealth and support them through these tough times. After all, isn’t that what capitalists have been doing to the working class since the beginning of time? (rationalizing, justifying, politicizing, awfulizing anything that opposes that which does not service their own agenda)

    The reality is we will not find anyone (or any one party) who will get it right all the time. What I’m really hoping for it that we will find Leadership Courage from someone who is willing to lead with clarity, honesty, consistency and transparency, and with the true greater good in mind.

    I’d run for office myself, but the power of that public office would likely (absolutely) corrupt me.

    • MaggiesBear

      Well said and I agree with you.with the exception of your comment about the unions It isn’t that I disagree with you about what unions have done, it is that I don’t think you understand the term cognitive dissonance.

      Unions are no different than big corporations. They belly up to the trough, hands out and use whatever means they can to get more slop and you’re right, we can’t afford this anymore. But that applies not only to unions but to big business as well. Chrysler has threatened to pull out of Canada, the plant it wants to modernize unless it gets some money from Ottawa. Chrysler still owes us $832 million and clearly feels no loyalty to a country that bailed them out during the recession.

      Supporting a government that continues to spend our tax money in that manner which is contrary to fundamental conservative values, leaves many of us very uncomfortable and that discomfort is cognitive dissonance.

      I criticize all parties but that includes the Harper government that too often gets a free pass from some conservatives. I want open, transparent and accountable government that unites rather than divides people. I want a government that respects the money they take from us in the form of taxes and puts it to good and proper use and not simply to buy votes. I want to see decency, integrity and vision beyond the next election and in all honesty, while I have pretty much always voted conservative, I’d vote for a dead pig if it could deliver those things.

      • JustTheFactsPlease

        Bear,

        Respectfully I responded to your post because it was my attempt to politely inform you that you have been using the term Cognitive Dissonance incorrectly, or at least without making your arguments clear. That said, I may not have fleshed out my example of Public Service Unions either.

        The example you provided is correct:

        ‘Supporting a government that continues to spend our tax money in that manner which is contrary to fundamental conservative values, leaves many of us very uncomfortable and that discomfort is cognitive dissonance.’

        Using the same logic:

        ‘Supporting a Public Service Union that continues to tax the very society they purport to serve for the betterment of all society, even though they have leveraged their position to a point of disproportionate social elitist, extorting money in that manner which is contrary to fundamental socialist values, leaves many of us very uncomfortable and that discomfort is cognitive dissonance.’

        I qualify Pubic Service Unions verse Unions, as their is a fundamental difference in the matter of choice, free market verse imposed monopolies. Service based verses for profit corporate agendas.

        Corporate Welfare, and Crony Capitalism are concepts that are not congruent with traditional Conservatism and contribute to Cognitive Dissonance – agreed. A competent and conscientious government (conservative or otherwise) would not allow private sector business bailouts, but would invest in private sector opportunities. That investment comes with responsible and clear expectations to not only recoup, but to achieve reasonable gains on those investments. If that requires the purchasing of stock options/shares at a preferred rate to be redeemed at a future date, that would be an informed risk Conservatives could at least rationalize and debate its merits.

        In defence of Chrysler, and to play devils advocate; big business’s are seeing that the government has been imposing more regulation, increased hydro fees, increased taxation all in the name of supporting a Public Service Unionized system which pays it’s employees more than they ‘can’ pay their own employees and remain competitive in their market place. Big Business are all too aware that the pension short falls and public debt equal future taxes on their companies.

        They are simply looking those same governments in the eye and saying, if you want to continue to buy votes with our money we are going somewhere else.

        In Ontario, the Federal Conservatives are faced with having to deal with the Provincial Liberals generous pubic spending which has forced big business to take a stand.

        Conservative Cognitive Dissonance in part may is the result of the undue influence of the Liberal’s agenda.

        The complexity of the issues this country is facing will not be adequately discussed here, but I wish to thank you for continuing to challenge your readers to think beyond the obvious, and their own self interests.

        I’m still waiting for that dead pig to come forward.

        • MaggiesBear

          I don’t disagree with you. There are many examples of cognitive dissonance in this country and I was writing about only one of them.

  • Randy

    Here is my question on this affair, which I think is another example of the
    entitlement felt by many employed in the upper reaches of government.
    Was this expense leaked by the Conservatives or uncovered by the media?
    As far as feeling the general was part of a smear campaign, he appeared to
    be the first to get political about the affair, claiming the Conservatives were
    trying to dis-credit him because he worked for the Liberals and may run in the
    next federal election. I may be wrong about this but the following is a correct
    fact:
    If you are going to attempt to play hardball with Stephen Harper and this
    government, you had better tighten up the chin straps on your helmet and
    carry a big bat as they have continuously shown they fight to win, any way
    that is necessary. You can come down on either side of how it is being played
    out but there have been many examples to date for everyone to “know” how
    it was going to be played.
    It is just another example of the entitlement and abuse from people who should
    know better. And yes, this was an allowable expense that was taken advantage
    of to the fullest. I truly wonder what our grand children will think of us when
    they look back at this period with dismay.

    • MaggiesBear

      It is my understanding that the information resulted from an Access to Information request by someone in the media. They weren’t actually looking for information on General Leslie but on another retiree but Leslie’s costs happened to be in the same report Whether that was intentional or accidental or just the normal course of business, I have no idea.