A plane takes off from Windsor with 3 Liberals and a spouse and lands in Toronto with four Liberals. What happened?
Spouse got ride on government planeOf course, the only reason Bennett would be in Toronto is to spend time with his wife. Or is it?
Feb. 10, 2006. 01:00 AM
QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU
Social Services Minister Sandra Pupatello abused the system when she let her husband hitch a ride on a government plane from Windsor to Toronto yesterday, Progressive Conservatives charge.
"It's not a taxi for spouses of ministers," said Progressive Conservative MPP Tim Hudak (Erie Lincoln), a former cabinet minister. Hudak said the previous government barred ministers' spouses from trips on the plane.
The flight, which would have cost about $300 per person on Air Canada, came as Pupatello returned to Toronto from her hometown for an afternoon cabinet meeting that had been called on short notice.
Her husband is Jim Bennett, a lawyer who was acclaimed the Liberal leader in Newfoundland and Labrador on Monday.
Pupatello defended Bennett's trip on the twin-engine turboprop Beechcraft King Air, which also brought Health Minister George Smitherman and Finance Minister Dwight Duncan back from Windsor.
"Even with him there were still seats empty ... the cost (of operating the plane) is the same whether it's full or empty," Pupatello said, noting every MPP's spouse is entitled to several trips to Toronto a year so they can spend time together.
Hudak said Pupatello's husband should reimburse taxpayers for the cost of the flight because the Legislature's rules specify how many trips spouses are allowed.
That means a free ride on the King Air could give Pupatello an unfair advantage and "that's inappropriate," he added.
Pupatello said she sees no impropriety in the trip but will reimburse the government if Premier Dalton McGuinty asks.
"Of course I would, but I couldn't imagine it," she said.
Bennett acclaimed as Liberal leaderBesides all that, whatever happened to taking the train? I use VIA all the time and highly recommend it. The VIA1 first class service is excellent. With today's cellphones, Blackberries and VIA's new Wi-fi service, it's just like being in the office. Very cost effective.
Last updated Feb 7 2006 09:29 AM NST
Bennett is keen to work on fundraising, and intends to tap into some mainland connections.
His wife, Sandra Pupatello, is the minister of community and social services in Dalton McGuinty's Ontario government.
Bennett says that will open some doors, and some wallets.
"The fact that she is a high-profile person and the fact that I've lived in Ontario for a number of years before moving home and met a large number of people [help]," he said.
"The opportunity to raise money probably would be better for me than for somebody who doesn't have similar Ontario contacts."