DND moving expense story: a cheap political attack or a reason for concern?

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

As soon as the story about Andrew Leslie's moving expenses broke, the Liberals -- along with many in the media — were quick to dismiss it as yet another Conservative Party attack.

On Saturday, CTV News reported that the retired lieutenant-general who once led Canada's mission in Afghanistan claimed $72,000 in moving costs as part of a program intended to allow members of the Canadian Forces to expense one last move, back home, after they retire.

But here's the rub: Leslie — now an adviser to Liberal leader Justin Trudeau — expensed taxpayers for a move four minutes away.

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The Tories were quick to react.

"It is important for Andrew Leslie to explain why he believes this is a reasonable expense for hard-working Canadians to absorb," Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said in a statement.

"This is a matter of judgment and the responsible use of taxpayers' dollars."

Conservative Party strategist Jenni Byrne tweeted this:

Leslie defended himself on Facebook calling the story a political smear and said most of the expense was for real estate fees.

Then the media came to Leslie's and the Liberal Party's defence — in a big way.

You can see those stories here, here and here with some of them suggesting that Leslie's expenses were leaked to media, by the Conservatives, ahead of the Liberal policy convention which begins Thursday in Montreal.

Right leaning political consultant Gerry Nicholls says that he's not surprised by the media's reaction.

"No one in the media will admit it, "Nicholls told Yahoo Canada News "but a pattern does seem to be emerging where reporters and columnists will rush to Trudeau’s defence whenever he comes under partisan attack."

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Was it a partisan attack?

Maybe. Probably.

But that shouldn't diminish the details of the story.

"Billing the taxpayer 72 grand for moving expenses, to move around the corner in Rockcliffe Park, doesn’t pass the smell test," Gregory Thomas of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation told Yahoo.

"General Leslie got a lot of respect because he wrote a very tough report about how the generals at headquarters put themselves and their buddies first, the troops in the field second, and taxpaying Canadians at the back of the parade.

"When the General accepts a lavish entitlement like $72,000 in moving expenses to move around the corner, you realize how deeply-seeded the headquarters mentality is."

Since the CTV News story, other media outlets have reported other expensive moves.

Global News highlighted the "five costliest moves in-city or same-city moves" not including Leslie.

MGen Day (Ottawa to Ottawa) $59,627.82

RAdm Greenwood (Victoria to Victoria) $43,328.24

BGen Rochette (Ottawa to Ottawa) $40,012.75

LGen Lucas (Ottawa to Ottawa) $38,970.68

BGen Mclean (Ottawa to Greely) $35,164.34

Even if it was a political smear, this is a story that needs to be told.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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