Friday, December 29, 2006

$10K to fly to Geneva? Did Emerson take the Concord?

Between periods of the Canada/Germany hockey game (GO CANADA GO!) I was browsing through the travel and hospitality expenses of Harper government cabinet ministers and staff. Because that’s what I do for fun.

Anyone can do it, it can make for interesting reading. Just go to any government ministry Web site, and look for the sidebar link “proactive disclosure.” Here you’ll find how much ministers and their staff have spent on travel, hospitality, dinner and other fun stuff. The information must be publically disclosed on the Web thanks to regulations brought-in by the former Liberal government.

I was browsing through the expenses of my favourite m
inister, turncoat floor-crosser David Emerson, when this entry caught my eyes:

Over $10,000 to fly to Geneva? That's still in Switzerland, right? I mean, I could see if he was flying to Somolia, or Baghdad, but Switzerland? Bless the Internet, I stopped by some travel Web sites to price Ottawa/Geneva roundtrips. Here’s what I found:

*Air Canada (economy) $984.15

*Air Canada (executive) $3973.53

*Continental (economy) $978.98

*British Airways (economy) $2104.84


Not only is Air Canada the cheapest, and a Canadian airline, but David would also earn a nice chunk of Aeroplan points. And even the executive class option is less than half what Emerson expensed. So, how did he rack-up a $10g tab for air fare?


But wait, it gets better. He also brought along his parliamentary secretary, Helena Guergis, who expensed $5187.16 in air fare:

Also along for the Swiss trip was policy advisor Paul Benoit, who was downright frugal by comparison, incurring just $1860.39 in airfare:

If you’ve met David you know he needs a spinner near by at all times, and on this trip that was Robert Klager, his director of communications, at $5218.18 in air fare:

So, there you have it, two MPs and two staffers on a trip to Geneva spending $22,666.58 in air fare alone. That’s an average of $5666.65/person, although the frugal Benoit really skews the numbers down.

I have to ask, did they hire a Zepplin or something? What’s up with that?

But the bill for this trip is actually higher. Because also going to the same Geneva WTO conference was a large contingent from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (air fare in brackets), including Minister Chuck Strahl ($7,226.86), parliamentary secretary David Anderson ($7314.11), parliamentary secretary Jacques Gourde ($6690.03), policy advisor Christine Bakke ($5438.29), communications director Conrad Bellehumeur ($6109.03) and senior policy advisor Christina Patterson ($5298.29). Their filings also included a side trip to Newfoundland. So a six person contingent from this ministry for a total of $38,076.61, or an average of $6346.10/person.

All told, that's a contingent of 10 politicos (five MPs, five political staffers) attending one conference at a cost of $60,743.19 just for air fare, an average of$6074.32. If they'd taken the Air Canada economy option the bill would have been closer to $9841.50 for all ten people, saving the taxpayers some $50,901.69.

And what did they accomplish? Read for yourself:

Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl said he was disappointed that the issue didn't get off the ground in Geneva.


"There were no negotiations at all, that's the sad part, the sad truth,'' Strahl said Saturday in a teleconference call from the Swiss city.


Trade Minister David Emerson also expressed his dismay.


"While WTO members have worked hard to reach an agreement, the gaps among members' negotiating positions proved to be too great to bridge during this meeting,'' Emerson said in a statement.

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9 comments:

Darren McEwen said...

Gulp!

Feel that Tories? It's the crow going down your throat into your already full belly.

Anonymous said...

Looks like they wined and dined pretty good too.

No brown bags for these folks eh?

Anonymous said...

Emerson flew first class. Ministers of the Crown typically fly 1st/Premier Class for intercontinental flights.

No news here. Lib$ano ministers flew 1st class all the time, when they were not using the Challenger fleet as their personal shuttle bus.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Anon, Air Canada executive class was less than $4k. And do staff also get to drop $6k to fly first class on the taxpayer dime?

As for Challenger flights, shall we talk about Harper gassing up the Challenger to take his buds to hockey games?

Anonymous said...

They killed a man today. They let them hang him before he'd been heard according to World laws.
So, a Canadian trade minister gets out and about on the taxpayer dollar, flies on the backs of the taxpayer.... old news, sad news, dead news.
Who cares?
What has happened today is the nightmare of every politician, from Hussein, Nero, Kennedy, Roosevelt, Nixon, Mulroney, Castro, Harper, even Trudeau... fark with the people and sooner or later they'll have their revenge on you or your family.
This is old new-world news. Why now are people heralding this quick killing of someone who might shed a little light on how he got to the point of threatening the whole world?
This is not good for average joe and joelene, and terrible for Canada.
Emerson is out and about wallowing in the public trough and getting all cuddly with the European faction (remember that Harper thinks Canada is a pale comparison to some backwater European country...) and still comes back empty-handed?
Am getting a real bad feeling about what any unaccountable and unelected, unaccountable elected and blatantly turncoat ministers might or might not be binding binding Canada to. Emerson's word or signature isn't worth the paper it's written on concerning the people of Canada. Unless of course, Harper has something else in mind that Emerson can get with.
What is Harper and his minion Emerson and posse signing in Europe?

Anonymous said...

BCer -- Your items do not include First Class fares. All the other fares that you have listed are round-trip business class fares.

The cheapest options are often not available because Ministers etc. often fly at short notice, and besides, travel arrangements are done through the dept agent anyway.

My point being -- you are barking up a wrong tree if you focus on ticket prices. They cost what they cost - if you have to complain, go to PCO or Public Works or whoever does the bookings.

However, the use of the Challenger for that lame BC announcement - a subject of another post of yours - is a valid subject for discussion.

burlivespipe said...

Can't imagine which european country Harpor thinks Canada compares 2nd rate to. Monaco, maybe? My betting is that Emersin's travel expense includes 1st class for him and Madame E... They left the little brood back at home with the nannies and porked up on cavier and cashews en route to Geneva.
Nice to see the new Tories-same ol' story have their 'they dun it so we can do it too!' handbook at hand at all times. That's keeping their accountability promises to a new high.

Devin said...

Jeff:

It must be the same plane Peter MacKay took to Moscow for the G8 Summit at a cost of $10k. Or the one Deepak Obhrai took to the "Great Region of Africa" at a cost of $12k (hopefully he learned that Africa is a continent,not a region while he was there).

Devin said...

Jeff:

Oh, it cost the Canadian taxpayer nearly $12k to fly Rona Ambrose to Nairobi in order to embarass Canada in November.