OTTAWA — Federal government spending on television sets is out of control, a Conservative MP says after he discovered departments spent tens of thousands of dollars on TVs, including almost $14,000 for a single unit at Indigenous Affairs.
Alberta MP Chris Warkentin says an average family can pick up a flat-screen television for $500 or less, adding he expects the government to institute improved spending practices for units often used for training and video conferencing.
Since the Liberals came to power in November 2015, overall amounts spent on TVs totalled $66,631 at Indigenous Affairs, $67,559 at Health Canada, $62,348 at Natural Resources and $1.29 million at National Defence, according to figures obtained by Warkentin through an order paper question.
"I am quite frankly shocked at the scope and the extent the Liberals have been spending in this area," he said in an interview. "I would expect the government could find better ways to save money."
Warkentin said indigenous people living in poverty in his riding would be outraged to learn Indigenous Affairs needed to spend thousands on a TV for bureaucrats.
"It is, quite frankly, the ministers who should be held responsible for these expenditures," he said.
"If there's a necessity for a monitor or a television in a particular location, there may be a defence for that, but I am not sure there is a defence to spend over $10,000 per unit."
Most Canadians would be surprised tax dollars are going toward $14,000 TVs for government departments, added Aaron Wudrick of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, noting the figure is substantially more than what the average person would spend.
"I'm not saying the government should not have any TVs," he said. "The question is: why do they have so many? What are they using them for and are they getting the best value?"
Liberal officials however, cited historical order paper answers that showed the previous Conservative government spent almost $6.7 million on televisions between 2006-07 and 2013-14.
They said the Conservatives spent more than $1 million on TVs in 2009-10 and more than $1.1 million in 2010-11.
Spokespeople for ministers of the departments cited by Warkentin note there is a process in place to ensure standards for approving all expenses, adding the units are used for business purposes.
"All of the televisions that were purchased since Nov. 4, 2015, were for videoconferencing purposes," Indigenous Affairs said.
"The use of videoconference allows the department to reduce travel costs."
Jordan Owens, a press secretary for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, noted the Canadian Forces is replacing broken and obsolete equipment.
"Modern audio visual equipment is an integral tool our military uses for situational awareness, public outreach, and morale and welfare support," she said in a statement.
"The Department of National Defence has strict checks and balances in place to ensure that all purchases adhere to prudent stewardship of public funds."
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Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press