Politics
Bureaucrat's private Spanish lessons under fire

Daniel J. Caron, Librarian and Archivist for Library and Archives Canada prepares to testify before a Commons access to information, privacy and ethics committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, February 28, 2011.

Credits: CHRISTOPHER PIKE/QMI AGENCY

DAVID AKIN | PARLIAMENTARY BUREAU CHIEF

OTTAWA — Canada's top librarian has some explaining to do to his boss, Heritage Minister James Moore, about personal Spanish lessons he received at taxpayer expense.

Daniel Caron, the top official at Library and Archives Canada, spent $4,482 in 2011-12 for Spanish lessons and, last year, signed a $10,000 contract for another round of twice-a-week 90-minute private lessons.

Caron's staff said no money was spent or will be spent from the second contract.

Nonetheless, Moore still wants to know why Caron needed Spanish lessons in the first place.

"We don't know how this spending could possibly correspond to the responsibilities of Library and Archives Canada," Moore's spokeswoman Jessica Fletcher said. "We will be speaking with Mr. Caron for clarification."

NDP MP Pierre Nantel said the Spanish lessons were "a sumptuous expense" and "completely absurd."

Richard Provencher, a spokesman for Library and Archives Canada, said Caron took Spanish lessons back in 2012 so he could better participate in some international conference for archivists, one of which was held in Spain.

Last year, Caron had his staff sign a contract on April 24, 2012, for his personal Spanish lessons. That contract was to run until March 31, 2013. Then, a month after that contract was signed, Caron had it amended, sparking another round of paperwork, to have the contract extended to March 31, 2014.

Despite all the paperwork and staff time, "no expenses have occurred in relation to this [second] contract and there is no plan to use it," Provencher said.

A copy of the second contract was obtained by Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin using federal Access to Information laws.

Caron already speaks Canada's two official languages, English and French.

Caron is already under fire from some of his own employees and others in the library and research community for his management style and a controversial code of conduct recently imposed on employees.

Library and Archives Canada will have a budget this year of about $98 million to fulfill its main mandate of "preserving the documentary heritage of Canada for the benefit of present and future generations."

Like many government departments, Library and Archives Canada took a budget cut this year partly due to the federal government's overall austerity program to cut the deficit. The cut at LAC was 17% or $20 million from last year's budget though only about $6 million was trimmed as the result of the government-wide austerity program.

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