Ottawa’s high-flying bureacrats


Newly-released figures show senior federal bureaucrats paid exorbitant rates to fly to Paris, London and other destinations. Airfares purchased by officials with the Privy Council, the Prime Minister’s own department, for the final quarter of 2011 have been posted online and include several expensive trips abroad, reports the Canadian Press. One assistant secretary flew round trip to London at a cost of $6,855; a clerk paid $6,625 for the same trip. What class they were flying is unknown, but an economy ticket for a return trip between Ottawa and London can be booked two weeks in advance for less than $1,000. Flights to Paris, another favourite destination among civil servants, Dublin and other European cities were also booked at prices ranging from $4,000 to $6,000.

Travel expenses have been a sore spot for the Harper government in the past year, ever since CTV reported a chief of defence staff who had spent $1.5 million flying a government-owned plane, once to a Caribbean holiday and to NHL and CFL games. Afterwards, the Privy Council wrote an internal memo to Harper describing the rules for travel spending and highlighting reductions in travel expenses. The memo was signed by Wayne Wouters, the clerk of the Privy Council. Wouters went to London in November for $6,625.

Then, in December, Defence Minister Peter Mackay acknowledged riding aboard a military helicopter in the summer as part of a search-and-rescue mission, only to have later surface that the Air Force’s CH-149 Cormorant chopper plucked Mackay from a fishing he’d been taking in Newfoundland.

Filed under:

Ottawa’s high-flying bureacrats

  1. “a clerk paid…”?  Not quire, the Clerk of the Privy Council paid… (i.e., the most senior federal public servant).

    • Obviously you are a dipper and think you are entitled to your entitlement. These fat butts can fly in the same seats as the ordinary traveller. I have travelled on aircraft first class and saw some of these so called VIPs  sleeping or drinking a good part of the time. If a private company wants to spend their stockholders dividend flying VIPs around it is not public funds and taxpayers dollar.

      • More trolling for Steve from the infamous centigrade

  2. The P.M. and all the MPs ,the civil servants are ripping the system off with these unlimited expense accounts .Canadians are fair minded .when our country is trying to dig out of debt we all are willing to help. The only exceptions are those greedy MPs and civil servants. If Harper dares to change OAS  without a similar cut to the in crowd MPs and civil servants we will not accept it. As for the opposition the NDP and the Liberals blow a lot of smoke but when it gets to the nitty gritty those hypocrites are only interested in their pockets. We must immediately lengthen the time an MP must serve before qualifying for a pension. We must cut way back on the taxpayer contributions and their expense accounts must be audited.

    • Who has an unlimited expense account? I never got that benefit, heck there isnt even coffee included! I still have to book at the lowest possible flight, even if it includes mutliple stop overs and midnight flights. Now I cant speak for MPs but please dont lump all civil servants in with those that manipulate the rules.  It would be like me saying your narrowmindedness reflects the masses….which thankfully I know, isnt the case.

      I agree with audits, in fact I think all those who are in any industry (public, private or otherwise) should be subject to audits. Its just sound business practice.

  3. … reasons for the idiocy.

    Whom ever books the flights probably won’t use anything else but Air Canada (bet there is a memo to that effect) ..but AC is one of the most expensive because they fly direct rather via a hub as most USA airlines do… the bureaucrats fly first, or business class, and there is no consideration as to the time… prices vary as much as 50% during different times of the week.

    • I more or less agree, but if the meeting is scheduled for Tuesday it doesn’t help if the cheaper flight is Thurs – or if the meeting is Thurs and the cheap flight is Tues, it would have to be a substantial savings to make up for the extra cost of accomodations (and, potentially, lost productivity).

      Basically, they should look at the overall trip and figure out the most cost-effective way to get the job done (and that may include not travelling at all but videoconferencing).

  4. Very Politically biased article. McKay had absolutely nothing to do with the actual issue. Writer is obviously a lieberal supporter and not capable of a honest, unbiased article. Sheer garbage

    • Or not!

    • You forgot the “TL;DR” before your last sentence.

  5. McLaean’s used to be a credible magazine with journalists able to write.  obviously, it is not so now.  this short article is typical: missing words, poor research; and general ignorance of government.  Mr. Wouters, as pointed out in another comment, is the head of the Civil Service.  Being a government commentator, Mr. Vieria should at least know the basic structure and rules of government (Andrew Coyne does).  He should also be aware that all expenses are authorised – I wouldn’t be surprised if he travelled business, and his boss – Prime Minister Harper – signed off on it.  

    Along this line, the “Assistant Secretary” is also a very high ranking official, under a similar level of scrutiny.    Sloppy.

    • Nothing you’ve said discredits the article in any way. You are only posting information unrelated to the article as if it forms a contradiction, when it does not. 

    •  Heres a point , look at this basic interaction of ideas we are having now.Given we are just using a small fraction of technology to converse , right now. Business class meetings are like the dodo.

    • I don’t care who they are. They do not have to spend thousands of dollars on a flight that you can get for under $1000.00.

    • So you’re saying we should chastise the bosses who authorize the trips? Noted.

      Mr. Harper, Mark S. says you deserve a slapdown for profligate spending; I concur.

  6. Its no longer a question about ” If pigs could fly” but what class?How did government ever function before business class? Yes Virginia, there is a “Animal Farm”.

  7. I don’t give a s!&t if it’s the privy council or the united nations council, they are no more deserving than the general public. It’s a slap in the face to Canadian taxpayers who are barely eeking out a living in this miserable economy. If this Country / government / economy fails and falls apart, the PM, politicians and their privy council will be the first to be hunted, shot, cleaned, cooked and eaten. Personally I don’t enjoy a high level of fat in my meat.  

    • Well said!!!!!!!!!!

    • Speaking of cleaning politicians…

      A cannibal was walking through the jungle and came upon a restaurant operated by
      a fellow cannibal. Feeling somewhat hungry, he sat down and looked over the
      Tourist pate: $5.00
      Grilled Missionary: $7.00
      Explorer: $9.00
      Freshly Baked Politician: Conservative / Liberal / NDP: $150 The cannibal called the headwaiter over and asked, “Why such a
      huge price difference for the Politicians?”  The headwaiter called the
      chef out of the kitchen to explain, “Have you ever tried to clean a politician?
      They’re so full of $hit, it takes all bloody morning.”

  8. “Taxation without representation” and (poof!!!) the United States of America was born.

  9. I think that Treasury Board guidelines permit business/first-class travel if the flight surpasses a certain duration. But I could be wrong.

    • There’s a difference between “permit” and “mandate”, though…

  10. I suspect they have a competency based selection process: those that can spell “bureaucrat” get to fly business class; those that spell it like Mr. Vieira fly economy.

  11. surprise surprise surprise

  12. Sad truth is all parties, partake in the public’s money. Liberals, NDP, and sadly some Conservatives do not worry enough about expenses and the more public they are made are the better to improve behavior.   I suppose the real crime is unelected bureaucrats sucking money and racking up Aeroplan miles because they can. Who’s watching the 10,000’s of Fed/Provincial government workers ?

  13. Par for the course with both sides.  Macleans for its research, the bureaucrats for letting the good times roll on the citizens’ backs.  Stephen Harper truly is a master of the Xanatos Gambit.

  14. The high flying bureaucrats are little compared to the Millions the Taxpayers are spending for advertisements for the Economic Action Plan (so called).   These advertisements are nothing but Conservative propaganda at a cost of millions to the Taxpayers.   (However, the Conservatives claimed the per vote subsidy was a waste of Taxpayer money.  The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance reports that at least 65 Democratic nations have subsidies for political parties.  It is a practice recommended in support of democracy.)  Conservatives are not fiscally responsible.  About half of the Federal Government deficit is due to Conservative tax cuts.

Sign in to comment.