Many of our Canadian friends keep asking us to highlight Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harpers escapades and questionable practices….Here is the first in a series…..
OTTAWA—The Canadian public paid more than $2.6 million — excluding security costs — to send Prime Minister Stephen Harper on his annual northern trips between 2006 and 2013.
Federal departments and agencies reported $2,650,442 in costs for the August Arctic trip, which Harper has made every year since taking power in 2006.
The total cost of the trips to taxpayers is likely much higher, however. The RCMP, which adds hundreds of thousands of costs to the trip, refused to disclose the cost of security because their internal systems couldn’t track the price tag.
“Therefore, given the current time constraints and the excessive amount of resources that would be required for such a search, the RCMP is unable to provide the requested information,” the force wrote in response to a written question from Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner.
But previous disclosures to Parliament showed Harper’s RCMP protection cost $252,921 for the 2014 sojourn alone, for a total bill of $786,442.
The accumulated tab for the Arctic pilgrimages is at least $3.4 million
“I think what you have to consider is value for money. What (the trip) evolved into is really a million-dollar photo op,” Cuzner said in an interview.
According to the documents the cost of the trips ballooned from $111,875 in 2006 to $535,095 in 2013. The costs are mostly borne by the Privy Council Office, the non-partisan bureaucrats who support the prime minister, and the Department of National Defence.
Over the eight-year timeframe, the PCO spent $1.24 million on the northern trips. Their submission does not break out exactly how those costs were incurred, but several PCO employees typically travel north to provide technical assistance during the trip.
The cost to National Defence came in at $1.23 million, largely connected to flights in Airbus and Hercules aircraft, which ferry around the prime minister, his staff and cabinet ministers, as well as the handful of journalists who accompany them on the trip.
Media organizations, including the Star, pay their own way to travel with the prime minister.
The costs reported to parliament also exclude several federal government operations that coincide with Harper’s visit to the north, such as the massive military exercise Operation Nanook.
In response to media reports last November about the cost of the 2014 trip, the prime minister’s director of communications defended the tab.
“To suggest that money spent profiling and celebrating Canada’s northern communities is somehow a poor investment demonstrates that only our government can be trusted to protect and advance the needs of northern and rural Canadians,” Jason MacDonald wrote in a statement to the Star last year. (courtesy of the Toronto Star).