No, but what a waste!
Mary Simon’s appointment as Governor General had been surrounded by an aura of controversy linked to her poor knowledge of French. We should have suggested that he keep a low profile, while doubling his efforts to learn the language of Félix Leclerc.
But we recently learned that his recent trip to Dubai cost taxpayers more than $80,000… in catering costs!
The bill would be shocking in any context, but while just about everyone has to tighten their belts, it’s even harder to swallow.
And as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation pointed out, that’s just the cost of in-flight meals (for 29 passengers and 17 crew and security). The total bill, including accommodation, promises to be even greater. In short, everything indicates that we haven’t seen anything yet.
We understand that the Department of National Defense was responsible for choosing the caterer for this trip. Nevertheless, it is important to shed light on this affair, in order to draw lessons from it. And to avoid such lavish spending in the future.
And the government would do well to listen to the opposition parties on this. They make relevant suggestions.
The Bloc Québécois wants the Governor General to appear before the public accounts committee and wants the Auditor General to get involved.
Among the Conservatives, Gérard Deltell pointed out that the Governor General could draw inspiration from the frugality of the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, Michel Doyon. The latter would have reduced its operating budget by a third.
As for the NDP, it wants the creation of “mechanisms to ensure that this kind of excessive spending no longer occurs,” says Alexandre Boulerice. This could take the form of prior authorization by third parties, for example.
Let’s face it, the oldest institution in Canada is aging more and more badly. The fact that she is linked to the British monarchy is no stranger to her problem.
There would be basically two ways to fix it.
The first: to appoint to the post of governor general only bland candidates. Like David Johnston, who was more excited by the fact that Edward McDonald of Shediac had invented the tabletop crossword in 1926 (he wrote a book about such inventions) than by the idea of adopting a princely life.
But in the end, the institution would still continue to cost taxpayers dearly. Because barring exceptions, it is not the job holder who is the problem. This is the post!
Which brings us to the second – safest – way to fix the problem. The time for a modernization operation has come.
Let’s be realistic, no party except the Bloc Québécois will want to wage a battle in Ottawa to abolish the institution. The Constitution should be reopened.
However, it is possible to begin a serious reflection on the current mandate of this institution, as well as on the costs associated with it. Rideau Hall’s annual budget is $39 million. Is such an investment still necessary?
“The Governor General makes official and state visits abroad at the request of the Prime Minister. These visits are intended to support the international diplomatic objectives of the Government of Canada,” his office reminded us. She visited Dubai to “strengthen bilateral relations” and meet with members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Are these international diplomacy initiatives still relevant? Do they necessarily have to be of such magnitude? Aren’t there other tasks that are superfluous and could be reviewed?
We also suggested last year that it was time to look at “the expenses that governors general continue to charge, year after year, after they leave office”. It sticks in our throats, the generous retirement pension of $150,000 per year offered to Julie Payette after three years in office.
In short: urge a reform!