OTTAWA – The federal government admitted certain items on the nearly $100,000 in-flight catering bill for the governor general’s eight-day trip to Dubai in 2020 were “problematic” and is working to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“The costs were really shocking to all of us. We had eggs! We had omelettes!” deputy secretary to the Office of the Governor General’s secretary Christine MacIntyre told MPs on the government operations and estimates committee Thursday.
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She said the office was “extremely concerned” when it first learned of the in-flight catering bill in the media.
“We cannot change the past, but we can help put in place changes for the future, and we are determined to act,” she said in French.
The committee called MacIntye and other officials to testify after the National Post first reported on the lavish dining expenses of the 2020 trip for 30 travellers, including Gov. Gen. Mary Simon, back in June.
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Documents obtained by Conservative MP Michael Barrett confirmed that the group racked up a $93,117.89 catering invoice throughout an eight-day trip to Expo 2020 in Dubai.
The invoice included the “cost of food, non-alcoholic beverages and associated fees, including catering handling and delivery, storage, cleaning and disposal of international waste, airport taxes, administrative fees, security charges, and local taxes,” based on the doc.
One week later, the Department of National Defence, which dealt with the catering on the flight, mentioned it had tabulated all of the receipts and the actual price was nearer to $80,000 for all 30 travellers for the eight days of flights.
But that didn’t embrace different associated costs which can be nonetheless not tabulated, the Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force Lt.-Gen. Eric Kenny informed MPs.
According to Canada’s Chief of Protocol, Stewart Wheeler, a assessment of the trip’s catering tables revealed some eye-popping costs and Global Affairs Canada is organising new tips for in-flight catering costs.
“Some elements related to flight expenses are problematic,” Wheeler informed MPs. “And that’s why we’ve already begun setting up a working group that will look over processes and establish how these high costs were accepted in some cases.”
“What we’re trying to do now is instill a no-nonsense environment where if there are exorbitant costs, they need to be flagged, and they need to be flagged at the appropriate moment so we can make alternate choices or forego things,” he added.
Wheeler mentioned some adjustments have already been made to catering protocols to cut back costs. For instance, company on a authorities aircraft not have a alternative between two meal choices however will all obtain the identical plate (besides for dietary restrictions).
The trip’s catering tab obtained common condemnation from MPs of all events sitting on the committee.
Liberal MP Anthony Housefather mentioned the tab “doesn’t make any sense.”
Bloc Québécois MP Julie Vignola mentioned the typical price for one meal was “the weekly grocery budget for some people.”
NDP MP Gord Johns mentioned it was “shockingly high” and “unacceptable.”
Conservative MP Kelly McCauley questioned sarcastically if the federal government had bought “dodo eggs”?
Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus questioned why this trip’s meals price on common $3,000 per individual, when one other trip for 50 company had a complete tab of simply over $50,000 (or simply beneath $1,000 per individual).
According to Kenny, generally costs will balloon as a result of there is just one potential caterer in some airports and cities the place the governor basic’s flights undergo.
“In some many cases, it’s only a single catering company that’s available to us and because of that they have a monopoly on costs,” Kenny mentioned.
“I know it’s a lot of money for the catering,” he mentioned later, including that catering costs in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are “quite high.”
Did the federal government have a look at any catering submissions and say, “Oh my God, this is an astronomically high price for this small number of meals,” and attempt to negotiate the estimate or change the menu, Housefather requested.
“There is very little, actually really no negotiation in these cases unfortunately. Unless there is more than one caterer available to us, in which case we can then look and see which one is the best value for money,” Kenny responded.
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