Pierre Poilieuvre spent thousands on trips promoting child care benefit
Employment Minister spent thousands of taxpayer dollars in search for taxpayers to save more dollars
By Alex Boutilier/Ottawa Bureau Reporter
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Employment Minister Pierre Poilieuvre stayed at budget hotels like Super 8 and Best Western on his travels promoting the Universal Child Care Benefits.
(Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
OTTAWA—Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre expensed $2,200 for a trip to Winnipeg where he held a photo-op, among other events, to watch government cheques for families coming off the presses.
Expense records obtained by the Star show Poilievre billed the public for approximately $15,300 for travel while searching for families not signed up for enhanced child care benefits between mid-April and the end of June.
Poilievre said his travels were important to meet Canadians on their own turf after being appointed minister of employment and social development, and his office said he conducted other business on these trips.
“It was important for me as a new minister of the largest department in government . . . to be available for Canadians to share with me their views in how we can best serve them,” said Poilievre, in an interview with the Star.
“And we were able to sign up thousands of parents for the Universal Child Care Benefit.”
Poilievre held a series of photo-ops and news conferences in five provinces and one territory between April 15 and June 30, the last day expense records were available in an access to information request from the Star.
The $15,300 includes trips where Poilievre held an event to promote the UCCB. Other costs, such as political staff travel or bureaucratic support, were not included. The Star did not include other ministerial trips where UCCB was not on the agenda.
The photo-ops focused on the number of families in the city, region or province who had yet to sign up for the increased benefits — 200 families in Campbell River, 2,600 in Saskatoon, and so on.
Poilievre’s taxpayer-funded hunt for taxpayers occasionally became very targeted, such as on July 7 when he tweeted he was looking for 30 families
in the small city of Montmagny, Quebec.
His office was quick to point out that the minister routinely did more than one event on the travels, including speaking to Chambers of Commerce, meeting with municipal officials, and making unrelated announcements.
The minister — a self-described small government advocate, attributing to himself the phrase that “government cannot give anything without first taking it away” — also did not splurge on accommodations, staying in budget hotels like Super 8 and Best Western.
But Poilievre has previously been in hot water for his aggressive promotion of the UCCB. In May, opposition critics demanded an apology after it emerged the Ottawa minister had brought in public servants on a weekend to film a promotional YouTube clip
, complete with shots of him shaking hands with constituents.
In July, Poilievre wore a blue shirt emblazoned with the Conservative party logo
at a taxpayer-funded news conference marking the day UCCB cheques were mailed out.
When asked if he sees any contradiction between his small government beliefs and his aggressive promotion of government cheques, Poilievre said that the UCCB gives money back to parents so they can decide how to use it.
“That is perfectly consistent with a small government, conservative approach,” Poilievre said. “Other parties believe in government daycare programs that are bureaucratic and centrally-controlled . . . The (UCCB) is consistent with our goal of empowering families to make their own decisions with their own money.”
Poilievre, as well as other Ottawa-area Conservative candidates, appear to be in a tough fight in the National Capital Region. Poll aggregate site threehundredeight.com suggests that the Conservatives may lose all but one seat in Ottawa
— keeping only Carleton, the rural riding where Poilievre is running for re-election.
That would mean the loss of former Conservative footholds in Nepean and Kanata in the city’s south and west ends.
On Wednesday, the Conservatives took out a full-page ad in the Ottawa Citizen to promote an open letter from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to public servants. The letter attempts to dispel “myths” promoted by public sector unions and praises Ottawa’s mandarins for their hard work, dedication, and integrity.
Poilievre brushed off questions about his party’s fortunes in the national capital, saying the prime minister just wanted to underline the working relationship they’ve had with the public service over the past nine years.