Saskatchewan’s finance minister says it was worth spending nearly $8,000 on a private plane to attend a chamber of commerce lunch days after she tabled a budget that contained tax hikes.
Donna Harpauer says the price tag for the March 25 flight from Regina to North Battleford, Sask., and back was high, but it’s the cost of doing business.
“I think being in other communities to present the budget is important and there is a cost to doing it,” she said Tuesday.
Ms. Harpauer said she took the flight with her chief of staff because she would have been too tired to make the 400-kilometre drive, return to Regina, then head to her constituency of Humboldt.
She said she spent about two hours at the luncheon, hosted by the North Battleford Chamber of Commerce, where she dined on chicken at Porta Bella Restaurant.
She said it’s disappointing people have fixated on the single trip and not her overall travel expenses.
“I think media should overall say, ‘Her travel is low, but this trip was high,’ ” Ms. Harpauer said, adding news coverage of the flight has misled the public.
She said last year she spent $11,000 on travel.
“I’m not a frequent flyer. I’m not a big spender on travel,” Ms. Harpauer said.
The cost of her North Battleford flight is about 16 per cent of the $48,000 spent by nine other ministers and the premier on charter flights in the province since April of 2019, show public expense forms on the government’s website.
Ms. Harpauer said the price of the North Battleford trip, chartered by Good Spirit Air Service, must have been reasonable because it’s not the only company that the government considers.
Earlier this week, the Saskatchewan Party government said it has three standing offer agreements with air companies: Kreos, Transwest and Miccar Aerial, also called Good Spirit Air Service.
However, the government website lists all of its interprovincial charter flights since March 2020 as with Good Spirit Air.
Documents provided by the Ministry of Procurement say the government has a standing offer with Good Spirit Air valued at $300,000. It was first signed in September 2018 and extended to September of this year.
NDP Opposition Leader Carla Beck said the Saskatchewan Party government is out of touch and entitled.
She has called on the government to offer relief for residents facing increased living costs by raising royalty rates when natural resource companies make large profits. She also said the government should pause its collection of the provincial fuel tax.
Ms. Harpauer said there are also things she can’t afford.
“There’s always something you can’t afford,” Ms. Harpauer said.
“I would like a bigger house.”
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