Millennium chair dead
By Sara Marett
The federal government's Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation was the centrepiece of the 1998 budget but is currently experiencing a few bumps on the road to fruition.
Shortly after the government announced the $2.5 billion fund to be implemented in the year 2000, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed Yves Landry, president of Chrysler Canada to chair the 15-member board of the private foundation.
This weekend, Landry, who was 60 years old, died suddenly from a heart attack while vacationing in St. Petersburg, Florida.
In a statement issued yesterday, Prime Minister Chrétien referred to Landry as "an excellent link between the business and educational communities." Landry was also the chief executive officer of the external resource group for the Ministry of Education Corporate Council on Youth in the Economy.
The prime minister will now have to find someone of the same calibre to fill Landry's position. "We will re-appoint someone in due time," said Jennifer Lang, press secretary for Chrétien. The fund will provide 100,000 scholarships of $3,000 annually to students who demonstrate financial need and merit.
The foundation has also been the victim of recent criticism from Auditor General Denis Desautels, who warned the government that the $2.5 billion fund was "bad accounting." Desautels plays watchdog for the government's accounting and claimed last week that because the fund does not legally exist until the year 2000, the government should not account for the money in this year's books.
It is the purpose of the Auditor General to tell the government if there is something wrong with their accounting and will then issue a 'qualified opinion' on the government's books if changes are not made, said Johanne McDuff, director of communications in the auditor general's office.
But the federal government says their accounting practices are justified. "It is simply the best way to get transparency and accountability on behalf of the government's actions," said Rosemarie Boyle, a finance official in Finance Minister Paul Martin's office. She explained the government included the $2.5 billion in this year's books because this is the year the foundation was incurred. "[The government] has practised consistent accounting and believes this is the best way to account for the fund."
Boyle said the situation is a difference of opinion between the auditor general and the government. "It is a matter of agreeing to disagree," she said.
McDuff explained although Desautels' warning may have an impact on how the fund is perceived by the public, he does not have the power to force the government to change their accounting. "The government has the liberty of having their own rationale behind their accounting, despite the auditor general's opinion."