TORONTO – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s troubled trip to India cost CA$1.5 million and counting, making it among the most expensive of his tenure even as the final bill is yet to be settled.
This was revealed in documents tabled in Parliament and led to charges of wasting taxpayer money from the opposition.
According to the documents, as originally reported by the Canadian Press, the extensive eight-day visit during which Trudeau criss-crossed India, had major costs, including nearly CA$ 500,000 (1 CA$ = Indian Rs 51) for the VIP aircraft he travelled in, and more than CA$ 300,000 in hotel expenses.
But what irked critics more were items such as the CA$ 17,000 paid to a Vancouver-based celebrity chef to travel to India for cooking a couple of meals for special events.
“It’s hard to see what value taxpayers got out of this trip aside from some groans at his excessive wardrobe changes,” said Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Ottawa-based watchdog, Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
The issue dominated Question Period in the House of Commons on Wednesday. As opposition leader Andrew Scheer raised the issue of “spending so recklessly”, MP Alain Reyes pointed out the items on the list included “$60,000 to rent chauffeured vehicles, and hundreds of thousands of dollars to feed and house the 77-member delegation that included 21 MPs, most of whom did not attend any working meetings during the trip”.
Trudeau responded by accusing the opposition of “making the choice to play petty politics and make personal attacks”. He countered opposition charges by saying that more than CA$ 2 million was spent by his predecessor Stephen Harper during his visit to India in 2012, one that was for a shorter period.
However, Harper’s visit did not attract the sort of global attention and mocking that Trudeau’s disastrous trip did.
Wudrick was hopeful the furore over the visit and examination of the costs involved would lead to corrective measures in future. He said, “We hope that at the very least this causes the PM to ensure his future trips are more frugal and feature more substantive meetings of benefit to everyday Canadians and fewer photo-ops.”
During the controversial trip, Trudeau spent just the penultimate day in official engagements with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, though the Canadian leader also met the chief ministers of Gujarat, Punjab and Maharashtra.
The most expensive trip taken as yet by Trudeau was his 10-day visit to China in 2016 that cost $ 1.8 million. The final tab for the India trip could even cross that amount because all items haven’t yet been accounted for and it’s unclear whether the costs associated with as many as six cabinet ministers, including four of Indian-origin, joining Trudeau on the visit have been tabulated.
As Wudrick said, “It is indeed among the most expensive trips taken by a Canadian PM, and we still aren’t sure if $1.5 million is the final cost.”