The federal Liberal government has revealed that the cost of food and beverages supplied aboard a government Airbus used for the first two international trips of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau amounted to over $1,300 per person.
One of these trips is to Manila in the Philippines in November 2015.
The Liberal government made the disclosure in response to a written question by the Conservatives.
Conservative MP Blaine Calkins called the price tag “outrageous.”
A spokesman for National Defence, which is responsible for the government’s fleet of air craft, said in a report on September 28 by the National Post that the total includes the actual cost of catering and delivering multiple meals on each round trip. Also included are related costs such as disposable cutlery, napkins, dish washing, airport administrative fees and security charges and local taxes.
Daniel Lebouthillier said the defence department “tries to keep costs to a minimum” when choosing items from a catering company’s menu. But the department’s options are “sometimes quite limited” when dealing with caterers at overseas airports.
The total also includes the cost of feeding and watering journalists who covered the trip, which would have been wholly or partially recovered since media outlets pay hefty fees for a seat on the prime minister’s plane.
For security reasons, according to the newspaper report, the prime minister is required to fly only on a government plane, even for purely personal trips.
The National Post report indicated that the latest disclosure shows that $72,040 was spent on food and beverages for 55 passengers — including almost two dozen journalists — aboard the prime ministerial plane during a trip to Turkey and the Philippines last November for a G20 summit and an APEC leaders’ summit.
Given the number of legs in each of the lengthy trips and the number of meals served, the Prime Minister’s Office said the cost actually works out to $54 per person for each meal — which compares favourably to the $41.70 per person the previous Conservative government acknowledged spending in 2009 on meals during trips on Challenger jets, smaller air craft which are used only for short-haul flights within Canada and occasionally the United States.
According to the National Post report, Conservative MP Calkins was not mollified by the explanation.
More than $1,000 for food and beverages per passenger per trip “is more than the average Canadian earns in two weeks,” Calkins said.
“Again, I’m just not sure anybody’s minding the store when it comes to remembering that it’s taxpayers who are on the hook for all these things.”
Calkins said the meal tab is part of a “pattern” of excessive spending by the Trudeau government, which has been plagued for weeks by the disclosure of generous expenses claimed by political staffers, including the prime minister’s top two aides, for relocating to Ottawa and by ministers for limousine and photographers’ services.
The National Post report also noted that another $81,383 was spent on food and drink for 62 passengers — including more than a dozen journalists — aboard the prime minister’s plane for a trip later the same month to London, where Trudeau met the Queen, Malta, where he attended a Commonwealth summit, and Paris, where he participated in a United Nations climate change conference.