Monday, 14 September 2009

Transport Canada 'fictitiously' expensing millions to Mackenzie Valley pipeline

Federal public servants at Transport Canada are routinely filing millions
of dollars in expenses – including overtime, salaries and computers –
toward a construction project that doesn't exist.

Further, The Globe and Mail has learned that public servants who object to
the scheme are routinely overruled by their managers.

The Mackenzie Valley pipeline remains a mega-project that is perpetually
on the horizon – yet it lacks the financial backing and environmental
approvals to green-light construction.

The project seemed closer at hand when a fund was set up at Transport
Canada six years ago so that the department could oversee the expected
increase in air traffic and other transportation needs.

Though the pipeline remains in limbo, the department has kept the fund
alive year after year, using it to cover millions in expenses that have
nothing to do with the pipeline.

Documents released through access-to-information requests list the
expenses, which total $10.7-million since 2004. Expenses continued to be
billed to the pipeline project this year.

What's more, government documents show Transport Canada managers insisted
employees bill all expenses to the fund for any travel that is loosely in
the area of the proposed pipeline – listing 23 communities in the
Northwest Territories as "Mackenzie Valley locations." When employees
noted their trips to the region had nothing to do with the pipeline, they
were told that Transport Canada headquarters approved the use of the fund
based on geography.

"To fictitiously spend money on a project that's not going anywhere, I
don't think is appropriate," said captain Daniel Slunder, who has spent
most of his career working at Transport Canada's Ottawa headquarters.
Earlier this year, Mr. Slunder took a leave from the department to head
the union representing Transport Canada flight inspectors. Only then did
he learn from members about the pipeline fund.


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