Why the difference?

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Dear Editor: It’s a question that the Harper government will be hard pressed to avoid: why is it closing down the Canadian Coast Guard Rescue Co-ordination Sub-Centre in St. John’s while keeping the million dollar budgets and empty offices of the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board intact?

Investigative journalism from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has revealed that over $3 million have been spent on an Ottawa-based agency that has, for all practical purposes, never opened its doors since it was founded in 2008.

The Canada Employment Insurance Financing Corporation was set up in 2008 to manage a special $2 billion EI contingency fund. A pensionable civil servant was brought out retirement and given $150,000 a year to work part time as the executive director. Six directors were put on per diems, outside consultants were then contracted, and office space leased and comfortably renovated to house it all. Over $3 million has already been sunk into the agency and people have been receiving a salary working at the agency even though no one bothers to turn on the lights most days.

The problem is that the money for the contingency fund was never handed over to the agency to manage because the EI fund is in the red. That aside, the agency is fully funded and its budget is being spent.

The whole affair could easily be pulled from a Monty Python skit if you had the audacity to look at it with a dose of humour — the Ministry of Funny Walks, as it were.

When asked about where they stood on all of this, the Harper government was adamant: the office and its multi-million dollar budget stays. One day it will be operational and that’s all that counts, they insist. One day. So, to put it in comparative terms, what is the annual budget of the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board?

Roughly identical to the annual budget required to operate the Newfoundland and Labrador Marine Search and Rescue Sub-Centre that has been deemed redundant and wasteful. In the words of John Cleese, “And now for something completely different.

Gerry Byrne, MP, Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte

Organizations: Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board, Dear Editor, Canadian Coast Guard Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Canada Employment Insurance Financing Ministry of Funny Walks Newfoundland and Labrador Marine Search

Geographic location: Ottawa

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