OTTAWA – The Canadian government spent at least $1.5 million housing delegates attending a United Nations biodiversity conference in Montreal last year, but the actual total could be much higher.
In a response to an order paper question submitted by Kenora MP Eric Melillo, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) revealed they paid $1,539,052.19 for 1,500 rooms over 15 days to house Canada’s 400-person delegation for the two-week COP15 summit.
In an email exchange with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation provided to the National Post, an ECCC spokesperson confirmed that none of the government-funded rooms were used to lodge delegates from other countries.
The same email exchange also confirmed that Canada’s delegation to the conference amounted to 400 people.
Delegates stayed at two hotels — $1,252,991.73 was spent on rooms at the Westin Montreal, and $286,060,46 at the adjacent Intercontinental Montreal.
Room rates ranged between $249 and $289 per night.
But those numbers don’t represent the full amount spent during the conference, states a note attached by the ministry explaining that they don’t reflect rooms directly booked by travellers but reimbursed by ECCC.
“It would require a significant amount of time and effort to locate and analyze the supporting documentation of each travel request to manually extract the requested information for those other costs,” the note read.
“Therefore, ECCC is unable to provide a complete response to (the order paper question) within the prescribed timelines and resources available.”
In a statement to the National Post, an ECCC spokesperson repeated that assertion.
“However, it should be noted that reimbursements for accommodations and associated expenses submitted by members of the Canada’s COP15 delegation underwent a thorough review to ensure all claims complied with the National Joint Council Travel Directive and the Treasury Board Secretariat’s Directive on Travel, Hospitality, Conference and Event Expenditures,” the statement said.
Canada, the statement added, directly benefited from the participation of a wide range of delegates at the conference.
“This paved the way for new partnerships, new opportunities, new ideas and solutions to reach Canada’s nature goals for 2030 and 2050 and build a prosperous economy.”
According to a brief published last year by the Government of Canada, COP15 saw the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF,) an agreement meant to halt the loss of biodiversity.
“Canada advocated for international collaboration on ambitious goals, including conserving 30 per cent of lands and oceans by 2030 which was included in the agreement,” read the brief.
“Halting and reversing biodiversity loss require real collaboration and partnership, including with Indigenous Peoples, the original guardians of the land. It also requires real transformative change, innovation, and a proper accounting for the true value of nature in decision-making across all sectors.”
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Conservative Ethics Critic Michael Barrett criticized the expense in light of Canada’s inflation-fuelled affordability crisis.
“Trudeau continues to vaporize Canadians’ money, driving up the cost of living, because he knows he isn’t the one paying the bill,” Barrett said.
“Meanwhile, millions of Canadians are regularly using food banks, families are struggling to afford a place to live, and many Canadians are once again forced to make the choice between heating and eating this winter because Trudeau refuses to take the tax off so Canadians can keep the heat on.”
Franco Terrazzano, federal director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, remarked on this government’s questionable history of lavish spending.
“Did the feds really need to send 400 people to Montreal for a conference?” he said.
“Canadians pay an obscene amount of money when our politicians and bureaucrats travel abroad, and now we learn we also pay an arm and a leg when we host a conference at home.”
Federal spending on hotels and junkets has attracted much attention over the past number of years.
Officials were so intent on keeping quiet who stayed in a $6,000-per-night suite at the posh London Corinthia Hotel’s butler-staffed “River Suite” during the queen’s funeral, that the office of Global Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly ordered communications staff to not respond to reporters’ inquiries on the matter.
The suite’s occupant would later be revealed as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The federal government spent nearly $400,000 for 31 hotel rooms during that trip, the Toronto Sun reported.
Taxpayers were also on the hook for the PM’s trip earlier this year to the star-studded Global Citizen NOW summit, which cost $61,000 in hotel rooms for the two-day conference.
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