OTTAWA - The head of Library and Archives Canada has landed in agua caliente — hot water — after billing taxpayers almost $4,500 for personal Spanish lessons.
Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore says he intends to speak "very soon" to Daniel Caron about the inappropriate spending.
And judging from Moore's clipped responses in the House of Commons, the conversation won't be a pleasant one.
Moore says Caron's spending on Spanish lessons is outside Library and Archives Canada's mandate to preserve the country's documentary heritage.
The issue arose after QMI Agency reported that Caron spent $4,482 in 2011-12 to learn Spanish.
He also signed up for another $10,000 worth of lessons, which were contracted for the following two years, but Library and Archives says no further money was spent helping Caron brush up on his espanol.
"Spending at Library and Archives Canada must be directed at serving Canadians, not serving one's self," Moore told the Commons on Tuesday.
"I'll be having that conversation with the head of Library and Archives Canada."
Liberal MP Scott Simms said he hoped the conversation would be "a nasty one."
And New Democrat MP Andrew Cash urged Moore to "say adios to this kind of waste under his watch."
However, a Library and Archives spokesman said the language lessons "are fully compliant with all of the established contracting policies and guidelines."
Richard Provencher said Caron took the lessons in a bid "to achieve a basic level of Spanish for several international conferences, " including the Forum of National Archivists, which took place in Spain and of which Caron is chairman.
The subsequent two-year contract for more lessons was awarded for the same reason, but Provencher said it was subsequently decided that Caron had already gained sufficient fluency in Spanish so no further money was spent.