Prime Minister Stephen Harper is being accused of wasting taxpayer dollars for his decision to use a government jet to attend the Stanley Cup finals in Boston on Wednesday.
As the Conservatives are scrambling to find billions in cuts in Ottawa, Mr. Harper will reimburse the cost of tickets to Game 4 of the Boston/Vancouver finals for himself and his daughter, as well as the equivalent cost of a commercial roundtrip for two.
However, the Prime Minister is forbidden from going on commercial flights for security reasons, which forces him to use a Canadian Forces jet for the trip. According to the government’s estimates, a flight on the Challenger costs more than $10,000 an hour, which the opposition deemed too expensive two days after the government announced a new wave of austerity in Ottawa.
“Using those types of tax dollars for his personal entertainment? No, that’s simply not on,” NDP MP Peter Stoffer said. “He should do what we all do, which is watching the game on TV and hoping the Canucks score a victory.”
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said the trip will simply increase the Prime Minister’s carbon footprint.
“All Canadians are cheering on the Canucks, but only the Prime Minister would think of taking a government jet to Boston to do it,” she said. “It’s a bad idea.”
The criticism came from all sides, with the Liberals said the trip is sending the wrong message to Canadians.
“Excuse me, aren’t we in a time of tightening our belts? Aren’t we in a time of making sure that we use our money wisely? I’m not sure if that is a wise move,” Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis said.
Mr. Harper and his daughter will be accompanied to the game by Heritage Minister James Moore. A number of seats to the game are being sold on websites in the $500 to $1,000 range, but the government worked with the National Hockey League to arrange seating and security details, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.
“All are paying for their tickets and, as per Treasury Board guidelines, are paying an equivalent commercial airfare,” spokesman Andrew MacDougall said.
The PMO said Mr. Harper, his daughter and Mr. Moore will each be paying $500 for their tickets, and $530 each for the flight.
There is no doubt the Canadian delegation will not be rooting for the home team. “The Prime Minister and Rachel look forward to cheering the Canucks on to victory!” Mr. MacDougall added.
The PMO also pointed out the expense for taxpayers of an Ottawa/Boston roundtrip on a Challenger jet is much lower than it would have cost for an Ottawa/Vancouver flight for Game 5 on Friday.