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Could cost $360,000 to bring MPs back for Obama’s Parliament speech: Taxpayers Federation
The travels costs to bring MPs back to Ottawa for United States President Barack Obama’s historic address to a joint session of Parliament on Wednesday could be as much as $360,000, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
According to the CTF’s calculations, based on the travel expenses from April 1, 2015 to Sept. 30, 2015, the average round trip flight for MPs was $1,073.40.
Multiplying that by 338, the total number of MPs, brings the total cost (assuming all MPs fly, which not all do) to about $362,810. There is now one vacant seat in the House, bringing the total to $361,736.
After both the House of Commons and Senate rose early, most Parliamentarians left town for their corners of the country but are being pulled back into the bubble on Wednesday for Mr. Obama’s speech. He is set to arrive on the Hill at 4:15 p.m. and is expected to speak at 5:15 p.m. in the House of Commons.
“It seems that this decision was made without regard to the cost, and that to us is the bigger issue,” CTF federal director Aaron Wudrick told The Hill Times.
“What makes this situation so unusual is that it is very uncommon to call everybody back for a single event, especially when it’s a ceremonial event. It’s not as if there’s an emergency debate on a matter of grave national importance and we have to get everybody back,” he said.
Still, Mr. Wudrick acknowledged that Mr. Obama is arguably the most important foreign dignitary that could come to speak, but he added that MPs could have kept sitting until his arrival to offset the cost.
“We know there is a cost of doing business. When you’re hosting foreign dignitaries, there are costs associated with that. We expect that, in turn, when our leaders visit other countries, as long as those costs are reasonable…I think it rubs Canadians the wrong way when they’re told there’s no money for the things they want…and yet they seem to be able to find money for things like this,” Mr. Wudrick said.
According to the Members’ Expenditures Report for 2015–2016 released last week outlining MPs’ travel costs as part of their parliamentary functions between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016, the cost of travelling for MPs and their designated travellers, plus per diems and accommodation expenses was almost $11-million.
During that stretch of time, MPs sat a total of 77 days, and there were around 22 weekends or break weeks when MPs would be most likely to be travelling.
Not all MPs are expected to return for Mr. Obama’s speech, but the majority are.
The end travel costs might end up lower than what the CTF calculated if a significant number of MPs are no-shows and many get to Ottawa without flying, or by taking cheap flights. Yet the CTF’s projections do not take into consideration all the costs associated with having Parliament open for one day so Mr. Obama can make his address.
According to the Public Accounts for 2015, the total funds used for the year ending March 31, 2015 of the Senate, House of Commons, and Library of Parliament combined was $549.1-million, which divided by 365 days, brings the average daily estimated cost to run Parliament to about $1.5-million. This total includes MPs’ travel as part of the House expenses.
Those costs are averaged over all days, including weekends, holidays, and sitting breaks. It’s unclear how much more it costs to run the Parliament buildings on days when MPs are there versus when they are not, so it’s unclear the total cost to taxpayers for Parliament to host Mr. Obama after the House has risen.
His appearance coincides with the North American Leaders’ Summit happening in Canada for the first time since August 2007, which has also been known also as the Three Amigos summit.
Mr. Obama, along with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, will join Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) for talks on a range of continental issues at the National Gallery, just east of Parliament Hill.