MPs, senators increase spending on foreign travel, hosting guests by 30% this year

Cost for hosting visiting delegations and travelling abroad increases to $4.5M

By Hannah Thibedeau, CBC News

MPs and senators are on track to spend $4.5 million to meet with their parliamentary counterparts around the globe this fiscal year — $1 million more than was spent last year.

According to information on the calendar of events for parliamentary associations, the groups of MPs and senators tasked with promoting Canada’s interests abroad, the $4.5 million will cover at least 134 meetings. It means hosting a number of visiting legislators from around the world in Canada and funding at least 69 trips abroad by delegations of Canadian MPs and senators.

Canadian parliamentarians have travelled to France, China and Portugal and are planning to visit cities such as Washington, Las Vegas and Kingston, Jamaica, according to the list of scheduled trips.

Last year these groups took 83 trips at a cost to taxpayers of more than $3.5 million. That was the largest number of trips abroad in five years, according to Colette Labrecque-Riel, the director general of international and interparliamentary affairs in the House of Commons.

Labrecque-Riel presented the latest 2016-2017 expenditures to the Board of Internal Economy (BOIE) , the governing body of the House of Commons, on Nov. 2.

She disclosed the information under new rules governing the formerly secretive BOIE. Previously, details on the spending were kept under tight wraps, but some meetings are now televised and transcripts are publicly released.

Labrecque-Riel says the number of activities increased last year and used up 98 per cent of the budget. That’s “somewhat unheard of” for associations, she said, noting that activities were “significantly higher” than in previous years.

Increased costs

Canadian parliamentary associations are required to pay membership fees to take part in meetings held by international organizations. Those fees represent a large part of the total budget for parliamentary travel. In 2016-2017 membership fees took up $1.3 million of the $3.5 million budget.


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