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CBC stars in own expense drama by Brian Lilley

Feb 22, 2014

Source: Sun News Network

If you feel like you are constantly getting your pockets picked by the people above you, it's probably because you are. But today rather than some caricature of a robber baron taking your money, it is government bureaucrats.

Last summer, in the middle of a national uproar over the Senate expense scandal, CBC President Hubert Lacroix quietly paid back $29,678.11 in inappropriate expenses.

It seems that Lacroix was also double dipping when it came to having taxpayers foot the bill for his lifestyle.

Lacroix, a Montreal lawyer, chose not to move to Ottawa when he took the job of CBC president in October 2007. Instead he negotiated an extra $1,500 a month in after-tax income as a "living allowance" to be paid on top of his salary. Now we don't know what Lacroix's exact salary is because CBC refuses to say, but they do admit the range is between $350,000 and $421,000, not counting an annual six-figure bonus and other perks such as a car allowance and club memberships.

Yet somehow that wasn't enough of your money so Lacroix ended up submitting expense claims for his trips to Ottawa even though that clearly violates CBC's own bylaws.

"The President is entitled to be paid reasonable travel and living expenses incurred by him/her while engaged on the business of the Corporation at any place other than the Head Office of the Corporation," Schedule K of the bylaws read.

So head office is in Ottawa, Lacroix is getting a $1,500-a-month living allowance for his time in Ottawa but is also submitting hotel receipts, restaurant bills and more. Sounding like the senators his own reporters have been badgering for more than a year, Lacroix says he didn't know it was against the rules.

"Neither the President's office nor the people who process expense claims were aware of the appendix to the bylaws," CBC's statement says.

This is hardly believable. The rules on living expenses were updated and approved in March of 2006 and Lacroix accepted the post in October 2007. Are we really to believe that CBC forgot its rules just a year and a half later?

I did ask for an interview with Lacroix on this issue. His office declined. As per usual they feel they are above questioning even when caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

CBC would love to put this down as a simple case of misunderstanding on expense claims, but it is much more than that.

Lacroix was given a living allowance. Why not use that to pay for the hotel bills?

Well, according to a memo CBC released on this incident, Lacroix was given verbal clearance to do this.

"The General Counsel's memo notes that Mr. Lacroix has indicated that he was verbally advised by the Corporation's then Vice-President, People and Culture that ‘he would be reimbursed for all his travelling expenses, including while travelling to Ottawa, in addition to the amounts paid to him for his living allowance.'"

So a senior executive gave verbal clearance to break just-passed bylaws on executive compensation and CBC thinks everything is fine?

For more than a year, CBC reporters have been hounding senators over their expenses -- senators who said they thought they were following the rules. That excuse wasn't deemed good enough for Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin or Patrick Brazeau and it shouldn't be good enough for Lacroix.

This man double-dipped for six years. The public deserves more than simply being told "nothing to see here."

© Sun News Network