Thursday, December 19, 2013

What holiday season junket is your Member of Parliament/Senator taking at taxpayers' expense?

Season for MPs, senators to travel on taxpayers' dime

Jessica Hime, Parliamentary Bureau
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
It's the holiday season for most Canadians but for some lucky MPs and Senators, the winter break is junket season. (Reuters/Blair Gable)

OTTAWA - It's the holiday season for most Canadians but for some lucky MPs and senators, the winter break is junket season - a time when hard-working parliamentarians make a dash for the first Parliamentary Association meetings taking place in warm and often luxurious locales.

Already a group of MPs and senators has visited Puerto Rico to meet with U S politicians to discuss "succeeding in a time of austerity." Important topic, but it seems they didn't get the message.

Travelling with that delegation was Tory MP John Williamson - former Head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, former Director of Communications for Harper and hater of all things government-waste related.
Upon his triumphant return to Canada, Williamson proclaimed: "It was informative to learn about the issues that are uppermost in the minds of legislators in the eastern parts of Canada and the U S."


January is cold in Ottawa, making it a great time to escape to destinations such as Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum will meet for three days in the sun.

No one from the Canada-China Legislative Assembly, the group going, was available to share the event's agenda with QMI Agency, but the NDP assures it will not be sending any MPs on this vacation, er, parliamentary business trip.

Round-trip tickets for Puerto Vallarta run around $1,200 to $2,000, depending on how many stops the traveller is willing to make.

Soon after venture, five MPs and two senators will head to Westminster and Wales in the U K to talk devolution for a week. Prices are known to be high in the United Kingdom. Former cabinet minister Bev Oda once ordered a glass of orange juice there. It cost $16 and her job.

House Speaker Andrew Scheer and Senate Speaker Noel Kinsella are leading by example, making the trip all the way to Middle Earth (New Zealand) for the 22nd Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth (CSPOC).

A CSPOC aide described the conference as "like professional development for speakers."

"Say a speaker wants to know how to deal with an unruly House, that kind of thing," the aide said.

The two speakers will each travel with an entourage at a price of roughly $9,400 per return ticket. Let's expect a new and improved Andrew Scheer once the conference concludes January 25.

A pricey bilateral visit is planned over one week in Mozambique and Madagascar. Interestingly, a representative of the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association said the topic of discussion has not yet been nailed down, but it will be something of global importance, rest assured.

A total of six MPs and senators will make the trip. No spouses allowed, but the air fare will cost roughly $8,500 a head.

Gregory Thomas, National Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, almost spit out his coffee upon hearing of this year's junkets.

"This is another example where parliamentary back-scratching moves into high gear," Thomas told QMI Agency. "It's tough to see how these junkets benefit Canadians, apart from the Canadians who get to go on the junkets."

The only unlucky parliamentarians in all of this are the Irish representatives of the Canada-Ireland Interparliamentary Group, who make the trip to Ottawa on the last days of January. Weathermen predict a high of -10C the day the delegation arrives.


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