Monday, January 21, 2013

Harper using taxpayer money to cover CEO travel

The Canadian Press:

Ottawa - The Conservative government covered expenses for some of the country's top executives as they accompanied the prime minister around China a year ago, a move business leaders and officials defend as a good investment.

The delegation to three Chinese cities included 30 executives from major oil, agricultural and manufacturing companies as well as roughly two dozen members of the Chinese-Canadian cultural community.

The Foreign Affairs Department says local transportation, accommodation, meals and "miscellaneous expenses" incurred by an official delegation is covered by the government. For the 2012 non-governmental participants, that meant an average of $1,200 a person.

Corporations and associations - including Bombardier, Cenovus Nuclear Energy, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Cameco - confirmed that the government paid for portions of the expenses, with the amount varying from firm to firm.

"We'll leave it to the government to confirm those expenses. We won't comment any further on that," Isabelle Rondeau, director of communications at Bombardier, said of CEO Pierre Beaudoin's participation.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says it doesn't see the rationale for paying any of the CEOs' expenses.

"I think most Canadians would be scandalized to learn that they're paying the expenses of a CEO of a large corporation to promote their company on a junket like this," said Gregory Thomas, federal director of the federation.

"It is very probable that had these same people been offered the opportunity to accompany the prime minister on a trade mission to China, they would cheerfully have attended and paid their own expenses."

NDP natural resources critic Peter Julien says it's fine to bring along businesspeople on a trade-focused trip, but not to pay any part of their bills.

"I think when hardworking taxpayers are seeing services being cut that they depend on, it's very difficult for those same taxpayers to swallow the fact that some of Canada's wealthiest and most profitable corporations are getting a subsidy from the Harper government," said Julien.
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