Spending in immigration office soared under Kenney

Posted by admin on Mar 10th, 2011

By Stephen Maher, Ottawa Bureau, Mar. 10 2011

OTTAWA — Jason Kenney has boosted spending by 35 per cent in the
immigration minister’s office in the three years since he took over the
portfolio, government financial records show.

In October 2008, when Kenney took the job, he brought with him
responsibility for multicultural programs, and controversially, a partisan
ethnic outreach effort aimed at persuading minorities to vote

In 2009-10, Kenney’s office spent $2.5 million on office staff, travel and
research, about $500,000 more than the amount allowed under Treasury Board
guidelines for ministerial offices.

In 2007-08, the last full year when Diane Finley held the job, the budget
was $1.9 million, $600,000 less than the amount Kenney spent two years

Kenney’s office has come under intense scrutiny since a staffer mistakenly
sent a party fundraising appeal for an ethnic media buy on House of
Commons letterhead to a New Democrat MP last week. MPs and ministers are
forbidden from using government resources to raise money for political

The staffer resigned, and Kenney has apologized for what he described as
an inadvertent ethical breach. But opposition MPs have cried foul,
complaining that it is ethically unacceptable for the minister of
immigration and multiculturalism to also be in charge of winning votes
from ethnic minorities.

Kevin Gaudet, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, says
there should be an investigation into whether Kenney has been routinely
and improperly using government resources to win votes.

“When you see the letter, when you see the increase of spending, all those
things feed into the question of whether or not ministerial resources are
being appropriately used, which is why we think there should be an
investigation,” Gaudet said. “You can’t have these resources being used
for partisan purposes.”

Kenney has referred the question of the fundraising letter to the ethics
commissioner, the Speaker and the board of internal economy, and he has
repeatedly pointed to precautions normally taken to avoid such abuses.

His spokesman, Alykhan Velshi, says the increase in the ministerial budget
was to allow the minister to combine the immigration portfolio with

“Our office received $401,680 in additional funds to support the
minister’s multiculturalism portfolio,” Velshi said. “By spending
$2,592,046, we came more than $300,000 under budget, based on what we were

Liberal multiculturalism critic Rob Oliphant says that explanation doesn’t
make sense.

“It’s one department,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a big
department like Health or a little one, the budgets are pretty much the

Oliphant says the extra money is being used to seek votes from ethnic

“The difference in what Diane Finley did, who did not have the
responsibility of chasing votes, which Kenney has, is the difference
between $1.5 million and $2 million. That $500,000 is the cost of chasing

Velshi says Oliphant is wrong.

“Oliphant’s accusations are a farrago of lies and untruths,” he said. “Our
time is more than occupied fixing the messy and broken immigration system
we inherited from the Liberals, with its long backlogs and even longer
processing times.”

Kasra Nejatian, the staffer who resigned after sending the letter to the
New Democrat MP, is to testify in front of the parliamentary ethics
committee on March 21.

( smaher@herald.ca)

Comments are closed.