Straight Talk
BRIAN LILLEY - Double-dipping CBC boss under fire

CBC President Hubert T Lacroix

Credits: ANDRE FORGET /QMI AGENCY

BRIAN LILLEY | QMI AGENCY

OTTAWA - For a man who says he is dedicated to transparency, CBC president Hubert Lacroix has a funny way of showing it.

Lacroix literally pushed past myself and three CBC reporters waiting to ask him questions as he showed up for an appearance before the Senate transportation and communications committee.

Lacroix is facing increased scrutiny over double dipping on expenses over the last six years.

In spite of taking a $1,500-per-month after-tax living allowance to cover his trips to Ottawa, Lacroix also submitted receipts for reimbursement pocketing an extra $29,678 in ineligible expenses.

That's on top of his salary, which ranges between $358,400 and $421,600 per year plus perks.

While Lacroix refused to answer media questions on his way in he knew he couldn't dodge the senators so he headed them off at the pass.

"An error was made by myself and by the corporation," Lacroix said in his opening statement.

"I am angry at myself for not having clarified the rules surrounding my expenses when I was first hired."

Lacroix said he did not know that rules prevented him from claiming hotel and restaurant bills on his expenses while in Ottawa. Rules passed in the 1990s and updated in March 2006 forbid CBC from reimbursing the corporation's president for living expenses while in Ottawa.

What Lacroix didn't answer was how he thought it was ethical to claim living expenses and take a living allowance for the same visits.

Sen. Don Plett, recently the subject of CBC stories on his own expenses, was particularly outraged. Plett pushed for and received a correction to a CBC story that inaccurately claimed high airfare and first-class travel for his wife.

"That seems to be a very important issue for CBC," Plett said to Lacroix.

Plett pressed Lacroix on why he discovered the mistake in June, paid back in September but the public did not find out until Sun Media reported on the issue in February.

Lacroix dodged the issue of why he didn't disclose the repayment to the public, but said he repaid the total amount within 48 hours of the final tally being reveled to him by auditors.

"These kind of mistakes go to the integrity of what we do every day," Lacroix said.

Despite his claims of promoting transparency, Lacroix's tenure at CBC has been one of trying to keep the public from knowing how tax dollars are spent. The state broadcaster spent an untold amount of time and money fighting the federal information commissioner in federal court to stop the release of documents requested under the access to information system.

During the court fight Lacroix claimed he was protecting programming and journalistic content, yet fought the release of documents on how many vehicles CBC owned or leased.

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