OTTAWA – Last year’s state funeral for Jack Layton came with a sizable price tag, newly released figures show.
The late NDP leader’s final farewell last summer cost taxpayers $368,326 — more than the total bill for the recent state funerals of two former governors general.
The Department of Canadian Heritage released the full cost of the funeral to The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act — one week after Canadians gathered to mark the one-year anniversary of Layton’s death.
Layton’s untimely passing mere months after leading the New Democrats to the official Opposition benches unleashed a torrent of public grief rarely seen in Canadian politics.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the unusual offer of a state funeral to Layton’s widow and fellow New Democrat MP Olivia Chow, which she accepted.
Such an honour is normally reserved for current and former governors general, prime ministers and sitting members of cabinet.
Days after his death in the early hours of Aug. 22, 2011, thousands of mourners filed past Layton’s flag-draped coffin in the foyer of the House of Commons. The scene repeated itself days later at Toronto City Hall, where Layton served as a city councillor before jumping into federal politics.
More than 1,700 people attended the funeral at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall, which featured an emotional rendition of the Leonard Cohen classic “Hallelujah” by former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page, and a spirited performance of the 1983 Parachute Club pop hit “Rise Up” by band member and close Layton family friend Lorraine Segato.
Among the mourners in attendance were Harper and his wife, Laureen; Gov. Gen. David Johnston and his wife, Sharon; ex-prime ministers Paul Martin and Jean Chretien; and a host of current and former leaders from all political parties.
Until now, the cost of Layton’s state funeral has been kept under wraps. At least one columnist was pilloried for asking whether public money ought to have been spent on a ceremony that at times took on the appearance of a partisan political rally.
A single page released to The Canadian Press provides few details about the costs associated with Layton’s funeral. The expenditures included:
- $133,211 for “exposition and related services”;
- $62,603 for land and building rentals;
- $54,208 for conference and hospitality;
- $35,613 for business services;
- $12,963 for travel;
- $41,297 for “other services”;
- $10,468 for printing services.
Smaller sums were spent on postage, interpretation and translation, communications and machinery and furniture rentals.
“The Layton family and all New Democrats are grateful to the prime minister for granting this honour to the late Jack Layton and thank Canadian Heritage employees and other government officials for their work during this difficult time,” NDP principal secretary Karl Belanger said in an email.
In a Harris-Decima poll conducted earlier this month for The Canadian Press, more than 75 per cent of respondents said they considered it appropriate to hold a state funeral for Layton.
Participants were split, however, on whether such an honour should be routinely extended to all leaders of the Opposition.
The telephone poll of just over 1,000 Canadians was conducted Aug. 2-5 and is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times in 20.
The dollar figure released to The Canadian Press is the total combined cost borne by every federal department and agency involved in the nearly week-long event, not just the amount paid by Canadian Heritage, the lead department for state funerals.
Layton’s state funeral cost more than recent state funerals for former governors general Romeo LeBlanc and Ray Hnatyshyn.
LeBlanc’s 2009 state funeral in Memramcooke, N.B., cost $214,000, Canadian Heritage said. It involved lowering flags at federal buildings to half-mast, two-days of lying in repose, a church service, a private interment and full military honours.
Hnatyshyn’s 2002 state funeral in Ottawa cost $137,193. He lay in state for two days in the Senate chamber on Parliament Hill while flags stood at half mast across the country. That was followed by a church service and interment in Beechwood Cemetery. He also received full military honours.
Former Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s state funeral in 2000 cost $650,000, according to Canadian Heritage.
His coffin lay in state for two days in the Hall of Honour in the Centre Block before it was loaded onto a train to Montreal, where a church service and private interment were held.