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WPA Pool

The Harper government is coming under fire for hosting a new $1-million visit by Prince Charles and Camilla – a royal tour announced even as the Conservatives take the axe to thousands of more jobs in the name of austerity.

"It's a bread and circuses routine," New Democrat Member of Parliament Pat Martin said.

"It's 'Let's keep the country impressed with some glitter and flash while we are cutting and hacking and slashing at public services and jobs'."

The May 20-23 tour by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall is the fourth royal tour that Canada has hosted in less than four years, each at a cost to Canadian taxpayers.

Mr. Martin pointed out the visit was announced the same day that another round of civil servants are expected to be warned that their jobs may be in jeopardy.

"What an appalling contradiction. On the day they are announcing public service staff cuts?" he said.

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

Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore defended the visit Monday in a conference call with reporters, saying the Tories are trying to keep the costs down. "Of the four visits we've had, this one will be least expensive for taxpayers."

He said Canadians should feel honoured to be able to celebrate the "Diamond Jubilee" of a reigning Queen, or the 60th anniversary of the monarch ascending the throne.

The 2009 visit cost of Charles and Camilla cost Canadian taxpayers $1.7-million. A 2010 visit of Queen Elizabeth cost $2.8-million. The 2011 visit by Prince William and Kate cost $1.2-million.

These price tags do not include the security costs that Canadian governments must bear to secure the visit.

The Conservative government is currently chopping $5.2-billion from Ottawa's budget over several years, a measure which will see at least 12,000 public servants lose their jobs and hundreds of programs trimmed or axed.

The NDP's Mr. Martin noted that the Tories are paying for the royal visit even as they're slashing visits by western Canadians who want to offer testimony to Members of Parliament.

He said the cuts are forcing western Canadians to make presentations to Parliamentary committees by teleconference rather than in person.

"Maybe we could do this [royal tour]by teleconferencing," Mr. Martin said.

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

Prince Charles and Camilla will visit three provinces in May and make visits to cities including Fredericton, Toronto and Regina.