Jim Flaherty asked 17 finance experts for their two cents. Cost of the exercise: $16,000 - Macleans.ca

Jim Flaherty asked 17 finance experts for their two cents. Cost of the exercise: $16,000


OTTAWA – Jim Flaherty’s two-day retreat for Canada’s brain trust in the summer cost taxpayers more than $16,000.

The two-day gathering in August for 17 movers and shakers, hosted by the finance minister, was held at a country inn this year in nearby Wakefield, Que.

Hospitality cost more than $6,800, including meals and wine, while facilities and rentals were almost $8,000.

Travel and accommodation for some participants was another $1,500.

Flaherty had to personally approve the hospitality expenses because they exceeded the $5,000 threshold set by government policy — and because alcohol was served.

Participants were treated to breakfast, two lunches, dinner and a reception, the costs of which were higher than the standard per-person guideline set by Treasury Board.

Details of the expenses were obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, with further details from the federal Finance Department.

Guests mostly comprised CEOs from key Canadian industries, but also included an academic, a think-tank executive, a First Nation chief and even a business journalist, the CBC’s Amanda Lang.

The retreat offers the group privileged access to the economy’s most important decision-maker.

The meeting expense comes at a time of government belt-tightening and thousands of layoffs in the public service, but a spokesman for Flaherty said there was good value for the money.

“These gatherings provide an opportunity for the minister to get advice outside of government,” Chisholm Pothier said in an email.

“These Canadians deal with real problems every day and we want to hear from them.”

“Our attendees, except for those from the charitable and academic sectors, pay their own air fare, transportation and accommodation costs, but most importantly they give their valuable time.

“Having a glass or two of wine over dinner at the end of the night is normal for such gatherings.”

The cost of last year’s annual retreat, with 22 guests, was also slightly more than $16,000, with the hospitality tab at almost $8,000.

Flaherty’s responsibility for the $6,800 Wakefield hospitality bill is not included in his ministerial travel-and-hospitality expense claims posted on the web because the cost is classed as departmental rather than attributed to the minister.

The Wakefield bill is also separate from the hospitality expenses Flaherty runs up as a member of Parliament, which were $9,323.57 in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has himself been required to sign large hospitality expense claims, including a 2011 event for visiting European bureaucrats that cost $16,000, and another for his own staff for $7,400.

However, Harper quietly delegated signing responsibility last year to his senior public servant, the clerk of the Privy Council. Wayne Wouters approved $43,550 in hospitality costs at three events in the first six months after receiving signing authority.

The Conservative government has at least three times tightened its policies on hospitality spending, including last October when it restricted the scope of what constitutes hospitality.

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Jim Flaherty asked 17 finance experts for their two cents. Cost of the exercise: $16,000

  1. Which ‘think-tank’ – are we allowed to know?

  2. What is the huge concern here? This isn’t some big bag of cash paying someone off for secret deals, this is government meeting with and learning from industry and our economy’s most influential people. If Flaherty had to consult directly with one or two of these people individually, the cost would be at least the same, probably more.

    • More like how to milk more taxes out of people. A love in conference at best.

      Reality is these economists are government and bank supported hacks, who’s motivation is preservation of government and banks getting more out of the people. They are not motivated by anything else. Take a university professor of economics, they know government pays the lions share of their wages and keep, and thus unlikely to factor in governments negative economic impacts as they are statism supporters.

      As a liberal economist professor about elasticity of taxation and inflation due to taxation, or about how money print for debt unemploys people, more than half will have blank faces and the other half will weasel away from the conversation.

  3. What a waste. Any self made millionaires from good old fashioned saving and investing without government deals present and allowed to make comment? Or was it a love in for liberal economists working in government supported positions? Sorry university economics professors, you got my compliance but not my brain.

    I ask this seriously as most government economics we get in the news is seriously wrong if not downright deceitful and propaganda. They can’t even calculate inflation right.

    This isn’t a think tank, its a compliance drive, make sure everyone is on the same page as to deceive us. Productive people work their tails off, save and then wonder why their money isn’t going as far. Because meetings like these are geared not to improve correct economic behavior for success, but to deceive people and preserve government waste.

    Hey, I saw 2008 coming, ad was in a large cash position for the crash. Ignoring these so called economists is a good idea, as if you did you made serious coin on the crash. Reason they work as economists and not investing for a living is government pay checks via banks, unions, universities or government pay checks.

    Sort of like G8 meetings in 2006, where electronic no-value money print for government debt, as no savvy lender would lend money below inflation+taxes to lose value. These economists of debt worshipers caused the credit crisis of 2007 and crash of 2008….but savvy just watched these economists mess it up and looked for the right time to buy back in.

    Government and banks are the wrong places to get economic advice. Their motivation is to get more of your money and decrease your value.