The Queen has an expensive lifestyle. We know this because she publishes her accounts.
Last year’s annual report on the Sovereign Grant shows that the royal household spent $2-million to replace the doors of the orangery at Windsor Castle, for example. A bit lavish for doors, maybe, but it’s nice that she was upfront about it.
Given the goodly dose of financial transparency accepted by our Sovereign, you might expect her representatives on foreign soil to abide by a similar policy.
In Canada, they do – until, that is, they leave office. Ex-governors-general are entitled to bill the government for office expenses ad infinitum, with no public disclosure of what the money is buying.
The only hint of how much former viceroys and vicereines are charging comes when their expenses reach six figures, in which case the amount shows up as a separate item in the government’s books. But even then we don’t know whether the money is going towards new doors for the orangery or for legitimate expenses related to the notion that a GG can never really return to private life.
Adrienne Clarkson, for instance, charged the taxpayer $114,803 for personal expenses in her most recent annual filing. It marked the ninth time she has exceeded the six-figure threshold since leaving Rideau Hall in 2005.
While service as the governor-general can keep a person busy with public engagements after they leave office, some of these activities (speeches, sitting on boards) are paying. The public has the right to know how their money is being spent, and to be reassured that it is not financing the lucrative second career of a former high official.
It is most certainly not a “private matter” between Ms. Clarkson and Rideau Hall, as Ms. Clarkson’s executive assistant claimed this week. In all, Ms. Clarkson has billed the government $1.1-million in expenses since leaving office.
Yes, it’s a drop in the bucket of the federal budget. But unexplained spending with no accountability brings governments into disrepute. Ottawa should give former governors-general a fixed budget for office expenses – and make every cent public.