The Liberal government paid more than $200,000 to move two members of the Prime Minister's Office to Ottawa, part of a $1.1-million tab picked up by taxpayers to relocate political staff after last year's federal election, newly released documents show.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to name the two members of his inner circle who racked up the costs – with one staffer charging $126,669 and the other $80,382 for moving expenses, according to the documents tabled in the House of Commons.
Speaking in New York after his address at the United Nations, Mr. Trudeau said his office followed the rules set out by the Conservatives eight years ago.
"The fact is, when we came into office, we followed all the rules set up by a previous government in 2008 for relocation expenses for senior public servants and ministers' staff," he said. "This has been a long-standing policy and we followed it."
Another three PMO staffers charged a total of $13,512, for a total of $220,564 in moving services for five staffers in the office, the documents show.
In the House of Commons on Tuesday, the Conservatives accused the Liberals of spending taxpayer money on "outrageous" expenditures.
"I am shocked at the level of Liberal entitlement when it comes to spending other people's money," said Ontario Conservative MP Karen Vecchio.
The documents, prepared for the Commons in response to a question from Conservative MP Larry Miller, also break down the costs of moving expenses and hotel stays from other government departments. In total, about four dozen political staffers were relocated after the Liberals took office last October.
In some cases the costs are allocated for a "total payout," and it's not entirely clear where the money was used. For instance, a staff member at Environment and Climate Change Canada was paid $20,449, but the money wasn't used for moving services or hotel stays, according to the documents.
"If the total cost paid for services was over $20,000, but there were no costs associated with the actual move, exactly where did the taxpayers' money go?" Alberta Conservative MP Blaine Calkins asked. House Leader Bardish Chagger would say only the relocation was done "in accordance with the rules."
A PMO spokeswoman would not further explain the breakdown of costs, but said the fees align with Treasury Board rules. The rules show public servants and staffers can charge for a variety of "entitlements," such as car shipments, legal fees and storage.
"Canadians expect public resources to be used responsibly and economically, and we are committed to living up to these expectations," spokeswoman Andrée-Lyne Hallé said in an e-mail. She added that employees came to Ottawa from across the country and many had to move their families.
Other costs outlined in the documents show one staff member at Global Affairs Canada was paid a total of $119,825 to relocate, and a total of just over $146,000 was spent on nine employees. Another at Environment and Climate Change Canada was reimbursed almost $76,000 to relocate; while one staffer at Innovation Science and Social Development was paid $113,799 in total.
With a report from The Canadian Press