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Prime Minister Stephen Harper walks with Industry Minister Tony Clement before making an announcement in Huntsville, Ont., on June 19, 2008. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper walks with Industry Minister Tony Clement before making an announcement in Huntsville, Ont., on June 19, 2008. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Tories misled Parliament on G8 spending: Auditor-General Add to ...

Mr. Baird said the government would happily support the report's early release; a Conservative spokesman said it's now up to the Auditor-General and the Speaker of the House of Commons to do so.

Ms. Fraser said she can only issue the final version of her report when Parliament is sitting - and urged Canadians to base their conclusions on that version only.

The normal audit process requires sharing early drafts with government departments to validate the facts and to give departments an opportunity to offer additional information, she said in a statement.

"Sometimes during the process of fact validation, additional information is brought to our attention. Only the final report that is tabled in Parliament represents our audit findings and conclusions."

But it was clear from Monday's manoeuvrings that Ms. Fraser has been, and remains, a significant thorn in the side of the Conservative government.

CTV News reported that while a leaked copy of Ms. Fraser's February draft did not include mention of a "misinformed" Parliament, it was nonetheless highly critical of the way funding for the G8 meetings had been approved.

A separate CBC News report, meanwhile, quoted a letter Ms. Fraser wrote to the government last week complaining that she'd been misquoted in a parliamentary report tabled in the dying days of the Conservative government.

The report quotes Ms. Fraser as saying the government's G8 and G20 spending controls were "very good" and that "monies were spent as they were intended to be spent," CBC reported.

In fact, those comments were in reference to security spending by a previous Liberal government following the 9/11 terrorist attacks a decade ago.

Treasury Board President Stockwell Day apologized for the mistake during a CBC appearance Monday.

NDP Leader Jack Layton repeated his call for a public inquiry into the lingering controversies surrounding last year's G8 and G20 meetings, saying Fraser's draft report makes the need for such an investigation even more urgent.

He accused the Tories of "hiding facts from Canadians, leading Parliament down the garden path, and possibly breaking the law while doing so."

The draft report says that in November 2009, the government tabled supplementary spending estimates which requested $83 million for a border infrastructure fund aimed at reducing congestion at border crossings.

The government did not reveal that it intended to devote $50-million of that money to a G8 legacy fund, even though Huntsville is nowhere near the Canada-U.S. border.

The Canadian Press was not given access to the entire report on the $1-billion in G8 and G20 spending, and Ms. Fraser's conclusions on overall spending were not available.

In the draft chapter on the legacy fund, the Auditor-General notes the Appropriations Act stipulates that funding is supposed to be allocated based on the items presented in the estimates.

"This ensures that public funds are spent as authorized by Parliament for the purposes intended by Parliament," she writes.

"We found that money expended for the G8 infrastructure projects under the Border Infrastructure Fund were approved by Parliament without any indication that $50 million of the appropriations for border congestion reduction would be spent on G8 legacy projects.

"Therefore, in our opinion, Parliament was misinformed."

The report says the government disagrees with the Auditor-General's finding. Treasury Board officials maintain it is "normal practice" to aggregate expenditure information in the supplementary estimates and say it was done in this case "to avoid any delays that might occur if a new funding mechanism was created for the one-time (G8) event."

But Ms. Fraser says lumping the legacy fund into the border fund "created a lack of transparency about the purpose of the request for funding and, in our view, Parliament was not provided with a clear explanation of the nature of the approval being sought."

She adds that "this matter raises broader legal questions related to the use of appropriated funds by government. Parliament may wish to examine these competing interpretations to ensure that vote wording reflects Parliament's intentions."

The legacy fund was intended to help Parry Sound-Muskoka, the host riding represented by Mr. Clement, "enhance local infrastructure and showcase its natural beauty and support a safe, secure and successful hosting of the G8 summit."

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