Lets  be clear; what we have learned about Senator Pamela Wallin’s travel expenses and subsequent efforts to mislead auditors about the nature of the travel is disturbing, possibly even an offence under the criminal code. If she did all this on her own, it represents a shocking fall from the supposed high ground of a once nationally-respected journalist. If on the other hand, she was given a tacit pass by Conservative backroomers to fudge her travel expenses in order to serve as a star podium attraction for the party; then at least she had an accomplice, although she still should have known better. It is hard to understand such venality from persons like Wallin and Mike Duffy, who even in their previous journalism careers were in the top percentile of earnings in the profession; and should have salted enough away to not have to behave like scavengers.

But that does not excuse the Toronto Star from engaging in questionable journalism in dredging up Wallin’s expenses when she was consul-general in New York between 2002 and 2006. That job was essentially that of a super sales person, with a mandate—an obligation to spend money on entertainment and travel. The pettiness of the Star is evident in the fourth paragraph of the story which show she spent $78,000 over a 32-month period between December 2003 and July 2006.That works out to less than $2,500 a month; begging the question IS THAT ALL? At the time Wallin was effectively an ambassador for Canada in one of the world’s most expensive cities, and she only spent $2,500 a month on entertainment? It could almost be used as evidence that she was slacking off. The Star’s nickel-diming is most evident when it sniffs that Wallin spent $1225 to entertain 65 guests at a reception in honour of Canadian musician and US TV star Paul Shaffer. That is 20 bucks a head—did that include drinks? Come on, Toronto Star! That is almost embarrassing.

It is more than fair game to excoriate the senator for the senate expenses, but it is crap journalism to try to score points about her expenses when she was a trade diplomat, and expected to put on a show—even if it occasionally amounted to a cheesy $20 dollar a head reception.

John Best had enjoyed a lengthy media management career, in television and radio and now print. As Vice President, News at CHCH in Hamilton, John oversaw a significant expansion of the news operation. He founded Independent Satellite News, Canada’s only television news service providing national content to Canadian independent TV stations. John is a frequent political commentator on radio and television, a documentary producer and author of a book and numerous articles on historical and political subjects. John is a past recipient of the New York Festival’s award for writing in the International TV category.

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