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royal visit

Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, meet Cirque de Soleil performers in Montreal during a visit to Canada in 2009.Graham Hughes

Prince Charles and Camilla will visit New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan during a brief Canadian tour to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

An initial itinerary of the visit, from May 20 to May 23, was released Monday for the fourth tour in four years by members of the Royal Family. The heir to the throne and his wife last came to Canada in 2009.

Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore called the visit, which marks 60 years of the Queen's reign, a "very rare" opportunity. But soon after the announcement, the Conservatives came under fire for spending taxpayers' money on a royal visit during a time of austerity budgets.

"The costs of all these trips is done with existing budgets … they're done in a matter that's as fiscally responsible as possible," Mr. Moore said during a conference call with reporters. "We're looking forward to the visits of the royal couple."

The visit will begin in New Brunswick at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown. There will also be a public celebration in Saint John for Victoria Day.

The couple will make a public appearance on May 22 at Queen's Park, where they will meet with Ontario's Lieutenant Governor David Onley in the morning.

Anthony Hylton, chief of staff to the Lieutenant Governor, said six people will be awarded Diamond Jubilee Medals there. As well, about 70 Ontarians will be presented who represent the interests of both the prince and the Lieutenant Governor, which may include the arts and accessibility for the disabled.

A young girl will present flowers to the couple, who will unveil an Ontario Heritage Trust plaque that commemorates their visit, Mr. Hylton said. He said his office, which represents the Queen in Ontario, wants people to understand the significance of the jubilee.

"[The Queen]is only the second Canadian monarch to celebrate that milestone," he said. "The crown is the centre of our parliamentary democracy and it's been integral … in where we are as a province and a nation."

Also in Toronto, Charles will meet with CEOs involved with one of his charity programs and native leaders from across the country. Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, will visit the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, where she recently became Colonel-in-Chief, for the first time. Brian Budden, first vice-president of the regiment's Toronto branch, said she will unveil a portrait of herself and meet veterans and other members of the "regimental family."

The tour concludes in Regina, where the royals will make a stop at the First Nations University. There will be a round-table discussion with students and a tour of displays, which show first nations achievements in trade, technology, art and culture.

Before the couple leaves, they will celebrate the centennial of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building and attend the Regina Symphony Orchestra.

The Harper government also announced Monday it has appointed former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien as Canada's representative to the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, an organization that raises funds to support charitable initiatives across the Commonwealth.

The entire tour includes five events offering the public the chance to see the couple.

Mr. Moore said the trip is expected to cost less than $1-million, making it the least expensive of the royal tours in the last four years. The price tags, which do not include security costs, have included a $2.8-million 2010 visit of Queen Elizabeth. Last year's trip by Prince William and Kate cost $1.2-million.

The lower cost of this year's trip did not ease New Democratic MP Pat Martin's concerns about the spending, which was announced as the latest round of affected notices went out to public servants.

"It's an insult to families that are reeling with shock from another pink slip," Mr. Martin said. "I care more about Canadian families than the Royal Family."

With a report from Steven Chase in Ottawa