Opinion Editorial

Runaway cab costs need to be reined in

By Dave Dawson, Orillia Packet & Times

 During their first 12 months in power, the federal Liberals are on pace to spend almost $30 million in taxi fees to ferry around bureaucrats, ministerial officials and, in some cases, patients. Does that make fiscal sense?

 

According to a National Post story, federal departments and agencies spent almost $17 million on cab rides in the first seven months of the Liberal government’s reign. The numbers were revealed this week in documents tabled in the House of Commons in response to a query from Conservative MP Ben Lobb.

While comparable numbers for previous years and previous governments were not made available, one official in Global Affairs Canada, one of the departments that amassed a large taxi tab, said the staggering amount of money spent on taxis “does not mark a significant change.”

Health Canada had the largest combined cab bill at almost $7.8 million. Officials say much of that — about $6.7 million — was for “patient travel under the Non-Insured Health Benefits Program.”

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and its 44,000 employees, housed in more than 100 buildings across Canada, spent $945,199 on taxis. About half of that was billed by employees travelling outside their working area. The agency says those costs are typical.

Taxis for CRA employees are only authorized when they are travelling for business or working overtime, especially when regular transportation is no longer available, the agency says. According to federal government guidelines, the use of taxis “may be authorized for government business purposes when value for money is obtained. It is the responsibility of supervisors to authorize taxi use for employees travelling on official government business, within or outside the headquarters area, where value for money is obtained.”

It’s important to point out this is not a Liberal issue. Various officials, mostly on condition of anonymity, said these recently released numbers are relatively consistent. And that means, on average, almost $30 million in government money — money from your pocket and mine — is spent on taxis.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine we’ve lost our way. How can it make any kind of sense to spend $30 million a year on taxis? Does that sound like value for money? This system needs an immediate review and overhaul.

The vast majority of government employees at the federal level work in large urban areas with dependable and timely transportation systems — systems, in part, built with federal funds. Frankly, in those centres, there should be little reason to ever require an expensive taxi, notwithstanding taxis are likely quicker than taking a bus, subway or streetcar.

The feds need to look into other options. Carpools? Car allowances? Their own bus service? Imagine how many cars or small buses could be purchased for $30 million. This is another sad example of a bloated bureaucracy that feels entitled to its entitlements. Have they never heard of walking or biking? It’s time they realized this isn’t Monopoly money — it’s our money. Stop spending it foolishly.

— Dave Dawson

david.dawson@sunmedia.ca



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