A Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) cabinet minister is again mired in controversy after taxpayers learned he billed them $60,000 to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF).
Economy, Innovation and Energy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon’s trip to Davos, Switzerland, proved costly but wasn’t his first expensive trip as minister.
Fitzgibbon spent $125,000 on ministerial travel in the first three months of 2023 — including $56,553 for the 2023 WEF Summit, as Le Journal de Montreal first reported.
The minister also attended the 2022 WEF Summit for $44,097. He also participated at the United Nations COP 27 climate change conference last November in Egypt, billing taxpayers $42,589.
In July 2022, Fitzgibbon attended the Farnborough air show in the U.K. for $56,106. A couple of months prior, he charged Québécers $21,601 to attend Mission Innovation in Israel.
Over the past two years, he collectively spent over $300,000 on travel and nearly $250,000 in 2019 and 2020.
The minister’s most expensive missions include a spring 2019 trip to attend the Hannover Fair in Germany, which cost taxpayers over $155,000 to accommodate 14 people. In December 2019, Fitzgibbon and four others travelled to Korea, Japan and China for $147,000.
Economy spokesperson St-Amand said the province “often brings in new foreign direct investment, creating export opportunities for Québec companies” during these economic missions.
At the 2023 WEF Summit, Fitzgibbon met with prominent business leaders, including those from Amazon, Moderna and SNC-Lavalin.
The cost breakdown for the January junket includes $30,579 spent on transportation, with $8,609 business class airfare and $21,000 on chauffeur services for eight days. He spent another $14,481 on accommodations and other fees, while $11,492 went towards the travel costs of an accompanying staffer.
Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) Québec director Nicolas Gagnon denounced the minister’s “princely tastes.”
“We expect a minister of the economy to go out and meet with economic players and bring back investments, but that being said, it’s still being done at a very high cost,” Gagnon told Le Journal.
“We don’t see any indication that the minister is trying to spend more prudently. In the end, it’s the taxpayers who pay for his princely tastes.”
Le Journal notes the minister spent $21,000 on chauffeur services despite the forum offering free shuttles to reduce pollution.
However, Ministerial spokesperson Mathieu St-Amand clarified Investissement Québec employees used the costly chauffeur service — not the minister. Their round-trip costs to Davos are not yet known.
In addition to controversies surrounding expenses, Fittzgibbon has encountered troubles with the province’s ethics commissioner multiple times since being elected in 2018. He has so far faced six ethics investigations, prompting him to resign from cabinet in 2021.
Quebec’s ethics commissioner recommended that Fitzgibbon be ineligible to sit again in the legislature following a report that the minister violated the National Assembly’s code of ethics by opting not to sell shares in firms doing business with the province. However, he chose to remain in the legislature.
Fitzgibbon secured re-election last October and is again serving in cabinet.