Five-star? I demand a five-starrier hotel! -

Five-star? I demand a five-starrier hotel!

Travel tips from Bev Oda.

Five-star? I demand a five-starrier hotel!

Getty Images, Retuers, Niall Clutton/Fairmount Hotels; Photo Illustration by Sarah Mackinnon

Our country is divided on issues like gun control, capital punishment and whether the mayor of Toronto ought to cram a sock or a cork in his noise hole. (Full disclosure: I’m on Team Both.) But perhaps now we have found some common ground.

Hands up: is there anyone out there—anyone at all—who does not believe it was outrageous, hubristic and also pretty dumb for cabinet minister Bev Oda to spend $16 for a bottle of orange juice from a mini-bar at the five-star hotel she moved to because she didn’t care for her original five-star hotel? Anyone?

Yes, over there, I see you with your arm raised high, ma’am. Oh, you were just flagging down the chauffeur of your $1,000-a-day limousine. Carry on, Ms. Oda.

As for the rest of you, put yourselves in Bev Oda’s shoes. (FYI, as taxpayers we don’t pay for Oda’s footwear so they’re probably just functional loafers and not some super-luxury pumps with solid-gold accents and laser cannons.)

You are Canada’s international development minister, concerning yourself with the plight of the world’s poorest. You arrive in London for a conference on immunization. You are whisked to your room at the five-star Grange St. Paul’s Hotel, which also happens to be the site of the conference—that conference about keeping very poor people from becoming very sick, remember?

You scope things out room-wise. Monogrammed robes? Check. Anti-mist bathroom mirror? You bet. An air of elegant opulence offset by just the right amount of opulent elegance? But of course. Your verdict?

Take me to a six-star hotel!

But minister, hotel ratings go no higher than five.

Then take me to a five-star hotel that’s five-starrier! And make sure it’s far enough away that I can spend a couple grand on a limo to get back and forth, even though it’s only a mile and I could easily take a cab for a few bucks. Also, I’m thirsty: find me something refreshing in the $15 to $20 range.

The conference took place last summer but details of Oda’s expenses were made public only this week by Canadian Press. Confronted with the numbers, a spokesman said: “When Minister Oda travels we consider the most appropriate, cost-effective accommodations. On the trip in question, our office followed this procedure.”

Note the careful language: they consider the most cost-effective accommodations. Then the minister tut-tuts at the thread count of the sheets, rolls her eyes at the amenities—only one bidet??—and flees to a more refined establishment that costs twice as much but offers a 24-hour chocolate fountain and hot and cold running obsequiousness.

What’s amazing isn’t that Oda submitted these expenses (she has a history)—it’s that they were accepted. All of them: the cancellation fee at the Grange, the $665-a-night room at the Savoy, even the OJ. Only after her splurge became news did the minister cough up reimbursement. It’s like I’ve always said about Bev Oda: you can count on her to treat taxpayers’ money with respect once she is caught, revealed, pressured, cajoled and publicly shamed.

It’s said that power corrupts, and in some it does. But more often power erodes. People remain good, for the most part, but their ethics and principles slowly begin to decay.

You’re a cabinet minister. You work hard. After a while, you convince yourself: seven hundred bucks a night for a hotel room isn’t that much. You convince yourself: I deserve a limo. You convince yourself: $16 isn’t really a ridiculous amount to pay for—actually, no sane person could convince herself of that. You’re one of a kind, Bev.

Remember Stephen Harper circa 2004? What struck me about his harangues against Liberal excess was how genuine they sounded, how deeply personal they seemed. I witnessed a couple of his rants in person and he was literally shaking as he spoke. Many Canadians believed that under his leadership, Ottawa would be different.

Bev Oda is the latest case study in a government that is not corrupt but is complicit in waste and empowering of avarice. Does Oda deserve to be turfed for taking advantage of this culture? Probably not. But I remember a Stephen Harper who would have taken one look at her expenses and fired her anyway, his hands trembling with rage.

Follow Scott Feschuk on Twitter @scottfeschuk

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Five-star? I demand a five-starrier hotel!

  1. “Five-starrier” reminds me of “Truthiness”. All “good things” (according to Martha) in the 21st century.

  2. Funny, but you got a lot wrong in this. For example: Oda flagging down her own limo. Surely you understand she has minions for not only flagging, but also they link arms to form a sedan chair and transport her from the lobby to the limo. And Rosie Barton said it wasn’t like a limo you get from Pearson Airport into the city: it’s a luxury car, like a BMW or a Ferrari. It’s five starrier than a mere limo.

  3. not trying to backhand compliment, but this is the best post you’ve written in some time; well done, sir!

  4. Also, I’m thirsty: find me something refreshing in the $15 to $20 range.


    Get 20 issues of Maclean’s for $20 and a bonus gift! Click here to order.

    OK, what’s the bonus gift? Right now my need for immediate gratification means I’m leaning towards the Savoy OJ. Getting there might be problematic, tho.

    • I have to confess when Macleans comes I immediately hunt for Scott Feschuk’s page. Always on the mark, and this one about Bev Oda is perfect! Thank you!

  5. I believe she switched hotels because she smokes. The Grange is all non smoking. She’d need a limo because one cannot smoke in a cab. All that extra cash because of a poor habit.
    That’s my guess.

    • That’s most likely why she left the Grange, I’ll grant you that. But is the Savoy the only hotel in London with smoking rooms? No, I didn’t ask if the Savoy is the only five star hotel in London with smoking rooms. See how you can smoke and not totally waste taxpayer’s money at the same time? And I doubt you could smoke in the limo, either, unless you were the owner of said limo.

  6. Greed is one of the seven deadly sins.

  7. Scott, I just clicked my mouse over the new rating button and gave your column its FIFTH STAR.

    You’ve finally made it! Don’t forget all us little people.

  8. Of all the self important people in the elected official crew this one takes the prize. I work hard too, most likely harder than Bev ” Roy Obision” Oda ( notice the resemblance ) and when I go out of town on business I get paid accommodation at a cheap motel.

  9. Laser cannon shoes, cool.

    • if i trusted CPC MPs with them, I’d actually feel OK, as a taxpayer, with pols shelling out for them.

  10. I really hope there will be some adjustment to her position. This is not acceptable.

    Rhianna’s song “You’re sorry because you got caught, but you put on quite a show, really got me going….”

  11. Is it her fault they charged $16 for orange juice? She works her ass off. What’s your point?

    • Heh, I was going to bet that not even the most rabid Conservative supporter would defend this.

      Good thing I saw your post in time!

    • Is that you, Bev?

    • Well somebody’s certainly missing the point. Do we not already pay her very very well for being an MP and cabinet minister? Could she not afford to pay for her own special OJ? You must be one of her lackeys, er I mean minions, oh no, staff, that’s what I mean, a well educated and skilled staffer. How did you enjoy staying at The Grange?

  12. Surely, the author of this article do not have any travel experience I guess! $16 per drink is not a big deal considering currency conversion rates. Hey..some hotels in Sri Lanka charge more than that eh…as Canadians we do not want our ministers to walk around corner stores to find the cheapest drink available! We should have certain standards! Even the limousine matter is insane! I ask the author to go to london and hire a Blacktop Taxi for less than $1000 a day if possible! So the fact that Bev Oda got a limousine with the driver for $1000 per day in London is pretty good deal!

    • For the rest of the people working in “normal” jobs with the federal government, there is a specific meal allowance for breakfast, lunch and dinner that you are allowed to spend, that is considered sufficient for the location. In addition, there is a limited “incidental” allowance to cover things like bottled water, gum, and extra drinks, including orange juice. So, for the rest of the civil service, the $16 orange juice would have to come either out of the incidental allowance, or your own pocket. I don’t understand why the rules are so much different for the politicians as compared to the other people that work in the government.

  13. Bev OverlOdaed should be ashamed…oh, I forgot, she was obviously born without the conscience gene and instead got overloaded with the shallow gluttony gene! It’s one thing to have a legitimate complaint about accommodations, but Bev should indeed be fired – as would any one of us – in the “real” world if we turned in such a disgustingly overblown and ridiculously decadent expense account! Someone give this a woman a reality ‘cheque’ and color it pink!

  14. Scott, you say “But I remember a Stephen Harper who would have taken one look at her expenses and fired her anyway, his hands trembling with rage”. Look at his early history, string of broken promises, flip-flops, and betrayals and you will admit that there was never really such a Stephen Harper. e.g. Youtube him accusing the opposition of planning to ban income trusts and thereby impoverishing seniors (his words). He seemed quite outraged at that too.

  15. Bev Oda needs to be fired immediately!

  16. “Canada’s International Development Minister” That title sounds like one of a salesman who’s job it is to schmooze and booze prospective clients and bribe them with anything they want. No wonder she likes living the high life as it’s probably her job to dole billions out to other goverments and compensate hurt business interests in the field. There is a good reason politicians have such a lousy stereotype.

  17. “Canada’s International Development Minister” That title sounds like one of a salesman who’s job it is to schmooze and booze prospective clients and bribe them with anything they want. No small wonder she likes living the high life as it’s probably her job to dole billions out to other governments and compensate hurt business interests in the field. There is a good reason politicians have such a lousy stereotype.

  18. A 2-star kennel would be more a propos for this disgusting dog.

  19. make sure the PMO and BO’s constituency office get a copy of this…on second thought, make that EVERY cabinet member’s cons-tituency office.

  20. Lol a 2 star hotel kennel is still to good for her how bout a slaughter house Lo

  21. I like the part where the “head” of the CBC Pierre Lacroix spends $240 on a couple of sandwich’s and a bottle of wine for lunch, and then spends 15.000 dollars on french porn… oh yeah, that doesn’t matter… carry on.

    • Con-bot trying to change the channel?

  22. Actually, I’m not at all upset by the $16 orange juice. It probably cost about the same at the other hotel. …and it is a lot cheaper than orange juice here in Tokyo where I live. BTW, have you priced hotel orange juice in New York lately? It would surprise you.

    As for the desire to move to a smoking hotel, I’ve never smoked partly because I am too cheap to pay for cigarettes so I have no way to judge what a nicotine habit can do to a person. But it obviously got her in trouble. Perhaps she should consider stopping smoking?

  23. Another fabulous piece, Scott. The only thing I don’t like about most of
    your stuff is that I didn’t write it myself! Thanks for your column,
    I’m a big fan.

    Zoë Kessler (fellow Canadian journalist, blogger and author)