Canadian diplomats spent $139,000 abroad on circus tickets, concerts and galas

In Budget 2023, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland claimed her government would cut spending by $14 billion through internal cuts to travel and other perks.

Canadian diplomats spent $139,000 abroad on circus tickets, concerts and galas
Chrystia Freeland
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Canadian diplomats continue to act like bourgeois, champagne socialists as new records revealed they spent over $139,000 on entertainment abroad.

The Department of Foreign Affairs tabled an Inquiry Of Ministry, which said diplomats, since May 1, 2019, had spent $139,114 on circus tickets and other perks, reported Blacklock's Reporter. The list of ticket purchases covered 11 pages.

Conservative MP Doug Shipley disclosed the expenses to the House of Commons after asking for all details "with regard to government expenditures on gala or concert tickets."

Spending included $13,055 for tickets to Cirque du Soleil performances in Lisbon, Madrid, New York City and Vilnius. Other purchases include a bill for $895 to attend a Bryan Adams concert and $475 to participate in a block party in Bangkok.

Canada's Ambassador in Colombo billed $3,018 to attend a dance party and banquet "to celebrate 15 years of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer activism" in Sri Lanka. Other diplomats billed taxpayers to attend plays in Prague and concerts in Budapest and Zagreb.

In Budget 2023, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland claimed her government would cut spending by $14 billion through internal cuts to travel and other perks.

"Does that include layoffs or hiring freezes?" asked a reporter. "No, it does not," replied Freeland.

However, less than one month after tabling the budget, the federal government quietly cancelled the Strategic Policy Review, which pledged to save taxpayers $9 billion over five years. 

PBO Yves Giroux notes the review is not mentioned anymore despite only being announced the year before.

"Budget 2023…does not reference the government's 'comprehensive Strategic Policy Review' and instead proposes to achieve savings by 'refocusing government spending' through predetermined spending reductions," reads a PBO analysis.

They also note the budget did not assess program effectiveness as promised and has since been replaced by another pledge of "cross-government program effectiveness reviews."

If it remained, the review would have assessed the effectiveness of government programs and how to adapt them to "a new post-pandemic reality" with the government since ending its distribution of COVID support to Canadians. 

In Budget 2023, Parliament proposed a 3% cut in "eligible spending" by departments and agencies by 2026/27. They committed to working with federal Crown corporations to achieve "comparable spending reductions" in that period.

Ottawa estimates these measures would save taxpayers $15.4 billion over the next five years. 

The feds also expect to reduce or delay unallocated funding, saving $6.4 billion more over six years. Projected federal spending this year fell $3.8 billion from fiscal year 2021/22.

The PBO said aside from proposing roughly 15% less spending on management consulting and travel, Ottawa failed to identify how best to become more "fiscally responsible," as the Strategic Policy Review promised.

"Savings will come from government operations," Freeland told reporters on March 28. "I think those savings are eminently obtainable." It was "really important to be a fiscally responsible government," she added.

In his April 18 testimony at the Senate national finance committee, Budget Officer Yves Giroux said he found no evidence of cuts to unnecessary federal spending, reported Blacklock's Reporter.

"With successive governments having announced reductions in travel expenditures, if we followed all these commitments throughout the years, the Ottawa airport should be closed by now," he said. "It's still open."

"Has the government lost control of its expenditures?" asked Senator Clément Gignac. "I don't know if they have lost control, but I can certainly say expenditures are rising [steadily]," said Giroux. 

"If you plot this on a graph and look at the trend, we see the trend line going in one direction over the next three years."

The PBO previously criticized Ottawa for revising its fiscal Outlook, with no sign of returning to a balanced budget for the next five years.

"This budget is giving taxpayers big deficits, more money wasted on interest charges and higher taxes," said Franco Terrazzano, Federal Director of the CTF. "This government doesn't care about fiscal prudence or helping taxpayers."

The deficit for 2023 is $43.9 billion in 2023 — over $10 billion higher than forecast in the fiscal update last fall. The Taxpayers Federation claims there is no plan to balance the budget, with the government also overspending Budget 2022 by $18 billion.

The PBO's recent Economic and Fiscal Outlook projects an $8.7-billion deficit in 2027/28 instead of the previously projected surplus of $4.5 billion last fall.

Since last fall's financial statement, revisions to the private sector economic outlook and fiscal developments have lowered the budgetary balance by $26.1 billion over five years — or an average of $4.4 billion annually. But that was before including new spending measures.

"Following this downward revision, the government announced $69.7 billion in new spending that was partially financed by $14.0 billion in revenue-raising measures and by $12.8 billion in spending restraint measures," said Giroux in a press release.

According to the CTF, the government pledged to find $3.95 billion in savings in 2023, but total spending is still increasing by another $20 billion in 2023 to $490.5 billion. "If you're spending more money, you're doing a bad job of finding savings," said Terrazzano on March 10.

The debt will total $1.2 trillion by the end of this year, with interest charges on the debt costing taxpayers almost $44 billion in 2023 and reaching $50 billion in 2027. 

"Was there enough wiggle room for unforeseen events?" asked Senator Tony Loffreda. "With the level of spending the government is incurring, every time the government spends a bit more, it gives itself less and less flexibility to face unforeseen events such as a potential financial crisis," replied Giroux.

"A balanced budget means less debt for Canadian kids and grandkids to pay back, less money wasted on interest charges and room to cut taxes," said the federal CTF director.

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