Tuesday, July 22nd23.6°C
22712
22412

Federal budget lockup includes hundreds of free lunches for bureaucrats, experts

OTTAWA - There's no free lunch, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is fond of saying. Next week, however, Canadians will be paying for hundreds of them.

Free lunches and refreshments will be provided to Finance Department staff, their provincial counterparts, private-sector economists, accountants, tax lawyers and think-tank researchers who attend Tuesday's all-day federal budget lockup.

The lockup is an Ottawa tradition that gives insiders a sneak peek at the budget in secure rooms, where attendees are incommunicado for hours until the document is made public in the House of Commons, at about 4 p.m. ET.

Once inside, no one is allowed to leave, so the Finance Department feeds them and provides refreshments, without charge.

Last year it cost taxpayers more than $14,000 to feed and refresh some 1,470 people, and officials expect a similar number this year, with similar costs.

The free-lunch exceptions, however, are the 700 locked-up journalists who for several years have been provided free coffee and tea, but must dig into their own pockets for unremarkable food from a small canteen inside the media lockup.

A spokesman for the department defended free lunches for bureaucrats and guests who head into the lockup in the morning.

"As participants could not leave their respective rooms for security reasons, a light cold lunch was provided," Jack Aubry said in an email, referring to the 2013 budget lockup. Lunch was accompanied by complimentary coffee, tea, juice and water.

Aubry said final estimates for such hospitality costs for Tuesday's lockup are not yet available. "However, it is expected that the size and scope of this year's events will largely mirror those of last year."

Last year's March 21 budget cost a total of $82,483 for hospitality, room rentals, audio-visual equipment, transportation and other items, for lockups in four separate locations.

This year's news media lockup starts at 9:30 a.m. ET in the downtown government conference centre, formerly a railway station.

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act show that three days before last year's budget lockup, Flaherty pre-approved hospitality costs of up to $18,540.

About 200 Finance Department staff and 270 others were to be provided free lunches worth about $28.50 each, for a projected total of $13,395. And 1,470 people were to be given free refreshments at about $3.50 each, for a total of $5,145.

Last year's lockups were held in four locales: the National Arts Centre, the Hampton Inn hotel and the Finance Department's own offices in downtown Ottawa, as well as the government conference centre.

The entire 2013 lockup bill was estimated at almost $111,000 — including $30,000 for security guards, movers, police and paramedics — but the final bill came in some $28,000 below projections.

Flaherty approved another large hospitality bill last August, for a two-day gathering of private-sector movers and shakers in Wakefield, Que.

The retreat cost taxpayers more than $16,000, with a hospitality bill of more than $6,800, including meals and wine.

Follow @DeanBeeby on Twitter

The Canadian Press


Read more Business News

22439


Recent Trending




Today's Market
S&P TSX15315.13+65.14
S&P CDNX1010.884.40
DJIA17113.5461.81
Nasdaq4456.016+31.312
S&P 5001983.53+9.90
CDN Dollar0.9311-0.0002
Gold1313.40+4.2001
Oil104.30-0.29
Lumber332.50+6.20
Natural Gas3.761-0.011

 
Okanagan Companies
Pacific Safety0.200.00
Knighthawk0.01-0.005
QHR Technologies Inc1.19+0.04
Cantex0.06+0.005
Anavex Life Sciences0.33-0.018
Metalex Ventures0.07+0.005
Russel Metals35.60+0.61
Copper Mountain Mining2.83+0.14
Colorado Resources0.215+0.015
ReliaBrand Inc0.10+0.019
Sunrise Resources Ltd0.025-0.005
Mission Ready Services0.19+0.01

 



21411

FEATURED Property
14436168856 Hampshire Crescent
10043325 bedrooms
$189,900
more details
image2image2image2
Click here to feature your property
Please wait... loading


Labour shortage in BC

The mainstream media are finally waking up to something unusual in British Columbia – a labour shortage. If the experience of Alberta is a guide to our own future, the highly skilled labour will...


Learn to delegate effectively

Photo: ContributedI have the pleasure of witnessing people delegate tasks quite often. Sometimes with tremendous success and sometimes with disastrous consequences. I have chaired a lot of committees...


Euro debt woes re-emerge

Big Picture Euro debt woes re-emerge Europe’s debt woes jumped back into the headlines this week trumping other economic, geopolitical and corporate developments. Word that one of Portugal&rsquo...

_








Member of BC Press Council


22581