The Trudeau Liberals have left taxpayers with a $600,000 tab for luxury hotel rooms they used sparingly last summer.
From last June 30 to July 4, Canada hosted in Vancouver the annual meeting of delegates from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE).
Parliament expected 700 delegates in attendance, but only half (365) came. Even fewer stayed at government-approved hotels in place of cheaper accommodation near the Vancouver Convention Centre — where the conference took place.
The OSCE, of which Canada is a member, is tasked with improving relations between the West and former Eastern Bloc countries.
Organizers booked rooms at the Hyatt Regency, the Pinnacle Hotel Harbourfront, the Fairmont Pacific Rim, the Fairmont Waterfront and the Marriott Vancouver Pinnacle Downtown.
The final bill came to $596,000 for 1,400 overnight stays, reported CBC News. The room rates ranged from $425 to $1,024 a night — though the cost of the booked accommodations is not yet known.
Because the government contracts guaranteed each hotel a minimum amount of revenue, taxpayers had to pay for the unoccupied rooms.
Liberal MP Hedy Fry pitched for Canada to host the conference and defended the decision in spite of the government waste.
"We had a pretty normal delegate showing, and then, for whatever reason, people just didn't turn up," Fry told CBC News. "I think one of the reasons, we found out later on, was that also our hotel rooms had increased since pre-pandemic. The cost of hotels in Vancouver just shot up post-pandemic."
She pledged to only pay for the accommodation of delegate members who attend moving forward.
Regardless, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) condemned the expenditure as "a complete waste of money," adding another chapter in this government's long history of “splurging” on luxury hotels and conferences.
"Not only are Canadian taxpayers charged an arm and a leg when politicians and bureaucrats travel abroad, now we learn we're also getting soaked when we host conferences at home," said Franco Terrazzano, CTF federal director.
"How in the world can the government spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on luxury hotel rooms that weren't even used? The feds are more than $1 trillion in debt, so its hotel and conference budget should be the first thing on the chopping block," he said.
Former Newfoundland auditor general Elizabeth Marshall, turned senator, also questioned the exuberant conference with its audio-visual costs exceeding the $1.8 million budget by $649,000.
"It is very concerning, especially in the current economic times, when people are lined up at food banks while we're looking at a $1.8 million event that went 35 percent over budget," Marshall testified at the Senate's internal budgets committee. "That does not look good on either the Senate or the House of Commons," she added.
Conservative Senator Don Plett urged the committee not to "sugarcoat and pass this off."
Opposition parties also pushed back against the governing Liberals, calling it "a massive deficit" and "a disastrous waste of money."