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Stanton defends G8 spending

MIRANDA MINASSIAN Special to the Packet & Times

Simcoe North's Conservative candidate, Bruce Stanton, is defending how millions of dollars in spending related to last summer's G8 summit in Muskoka was allocated.

A report prepared by Auditor General Sheila Fraiser was leaked Monday, in which the Conservative government is scolded for a lack of transparency related to $50 million worth of projects handed out in Industry Minister Tony Clement's riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka.

Stanton says there is nothing scandalous about the 32 approved projects that received federal funding, despite questions that the report raises about the process by which the projects received approval.

"All of the money is accounted for and all of the projects were reported through the proper channels," Stanton said. "These were good investments that helped their communities a lot.

"The critical part with this leaked report is that it is an early draft and that the final draft hasn't been released yet. We don't know how much of it is in the final report," Stanton said Tuesday. "We should wait until the report comes out to make any conclusions."

The opposition shouldn't be surprised by the projects - including new sidewalks and tree improvements within Clement's riding - that received funding, since they were tabled when parliament was in session, Stanton said.

"I sat in the House of Commons when the opposition complained about the various projects associated with the Legacy Fund," he said. "It was well-known that these projects were taking place."

While the spending may have resulted in net benefits for communities in the Muskoka riding, NDP candidate Richard Banigan doesn't believe the spending was cost-efficient.

"They blew all kinds of money on the G8 and everyone knows that," he said. "None of it had to do with the G8, it was all pork for Tony Clement."

Each of the opposition candidates in Simcoe North agree that while judgement should be held until the final report is tabled, the leak is indicative of bigger issues.

"It is consistent with Harper's past," said Liberal candidate Steve Clarke "It wouldn't be the first time the public was misled. There was the Bev Oda affair, his hiding of the real cost of fighter jets, the list goes on."

Clarke is hoping that this potential misappropriation of funds doesn't turn Canadians off of politics entirely, insisting that not all politicians are interested in lining their pockets.

"All I can do is vouch for the people I have met since I have been involved," Clarke said.

Green party candidate Valerie Powell agrees that the leaked document is part of a larger trend.

"I think that a lot of un-democratic activities are going on with the other major parties and they are taking away from the real issues," she said.

Powell would like to see issues like climate change and electoral reform take centre stage in this election, instead of partisan politics.

"My fear is that people won't vote because they are disgusted with politicians," she said.

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