Governor General’s four-day visit to Germany cost taxpayers $700K

Governor General’s four-day visit to Germany cost taxpayers $700K

Expenses for the four-day state visit include $103,000 in in-flight catering for the government aircraft’s 33 passengers

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Governor General Mary Simon’s first overseas trip as vice-regal to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair and meet with German leaders cost taxpayers over $700,000 in travel expenses for the four-day visit — including over $100,000 in in-flight catering costs for the transatlantic flight, documents reveal.

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The documents were provided in response to an order paper question submitted by Bloc Québécois MP Julie Vignola. The cost breakdowns show over $50,000 of public funds spent hosting several receptions and banquets, as well as more than $45,000 in hotel bills.

The Department of National Defence spent $272,277.53 on the trip, largely related to flying the Governor General and her delegation from Ottawa to Germany, with stopovers each way in Gander, Nfld.

In-flight meals for the trip came to $103,263.85, consisting of 98 breakfasts, 325 lunches and 107 dinners for the 33 passengers as well as the crew.

Air and ground transportation costs, which include fuel and ground transport costs for the 19 air crew members, rang in at $97,622.24.

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Lodging the CFB Trenton-based air crew at hotels both in Germany and Ottawa cost $13,962.21, while other expenses incurred by DND personnel — including landing and handling fees, incidentals and satellite communication charges — came to $56,756.23.

The Governor General, her husband Whit Fraser and 31 other guests departed Canada on Oct. 17 2021 to attend the 2021 Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany, billed as the world’s largest trade show for book publishers, and organized by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association.

Accompanying the Governor General aboard the Royal Canadian Air Force CC-150 Polaris VIP transport aircraft included Canada’s then ambassador to Germany Stéphane Dion and his wife; Canada’s protocol chief, Stewart Wheeler; parliamentary poet laureate Louise Bernice Halfe; executive committee chair of the German-Canadian association Atlantik-Brücke; pollster Nik Nanos; and author Kim Thúy.

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Also aboard the plane were staffers, managers and advisers from the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, visits officers from Global Affairs Canada, and official photographers, as well as military aides-de-camp, medical staff and a logistics team from the Department of National Defence.

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The trip was the first official foreign visit by Simon after she assumed the post of Governor General in July 2021, however other trips by the Governor General taken since then have been criticized by the opposition for their extravagance.

Last March, the governor general and a 29-person entourage famously racked up a $93,117.89 catering bill during her trip to Expo 2020 in Dubai, an excursion that included overseas stopovers in London, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait.

Unlike the Dubai trip documents which listed such in-flight fare as chicken scallopini, pork tenderloin, beef Wellington and over 400 euros for lemon and lime garnishes, documents for the Germany trip include no information on menus. The controversy over the Dubai trip led the military earlier this month to announce it would be banning certain frills such as in-flight flower arrangements and wide beverage selections from VIP flights.

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The response by Global Affairs Canada to the BQ MP’s order paper question described the 2021 book fair visit as a “state visit to the Federal Republic of Germany,” which included stops in Frankfurt and Berlin.

“The focus of the visit was to strengthen bilateral relations between Canada and Germany, and represent Canada at the world’s largest publishing trade show.”

A press release issued by the book fair lists Canada as the “guest of honour” for the event.

An official itinerary published by Rideau Hall show the Governor General’s aircraft arriving in Berlin on the evening of Sunday, October 17, followed by a Monday full of meetings in the German capital, including with Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and then German chancellor Angela Merkel, in addition to a tour of the Brandenburg Gate with Berlin Mayor Michael Müller, followed by a state dinner.

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While in Berlin, the delegation stayed at the city’s Ritz-Carlton hotel at a cost of $28,210.10.

Details on how many rooms were booked, and who stayed in them, were not provided.

After laying a wreath at the Neue Wache to commemorate “victims of war and tyranny” (cost of the wreath is listed at $348.69), the Governor General and her delegation boarded their plane for the 425-kilometre journey southwest to Frankfurt, where Simon delivered remarks at the fair’s opening ceremonies.

Hotel charges in Frankfurt were spread across three venues — $41,630.66 in room charges at the Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof, $2,611.42 at the Hilton Frankfurt City Centre, and $987.68 at Gekko House.

Other expenses included $58,786.42 in airfare for a four-person advance visit team from Global Affairs Canada, $78,624.05 for rented vehicles and drivers for police-led motorcades, and $9,100.49 in other transportation costs.

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Charges for official hospitality include a $19,794.10, dinner for 77 guests and $24,158.15 for a 150-person reception — both hosted by Dion — as well as $5,792.22 for a 37-person lunch for the Canadian delegation, and a $796.77 working lunch ahead of a panel discussion.

Also included was $1,905.49 for a stay at Hotel St-James in London for the four-person advance team for an aborted planned visit with Queen Elizabeth, cancelled due to the Queen’s declining health.

Costs to the RCMP for protection details came to $78,540, consisting of $64,236 in travel expenses and $14,304 in billed overtime.

Rideau Hall was asked to comment on the expenses on Thursday, but did not provide a response before press time.

Vignola, who is also government operations critic for the Bloc Québécois, a party opposed to the Canadian monarchy, described spending $700,000 in taxpayer’s money for a four-day junket as nonsensical.

“While the population is tightening its belt to cope with inflation, the Governor General, whose function dates back to another century, is downright squandering public funds,” she told National Post.

“The GG’s travel craziness must stop. The Bloc Québécois’s position is clear: we must get rid of this archaic function, the cost of which far exceeds its usefulness.”

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