(Ottawa) Officials from Global Affairs Canada have been tasked with reviewing the processes in place to ensure that meals served on charter flights for high-level officials do not cost an arm and a leg like this was the case during a trip to the Middle East by the Governor General.
Posted yesterday at 8:16 p.m.
The Canadian Press
“We all agree that certain elements relating to flight expenses are problematic […] and that’s why we’ve already started implementing a task force to look at the processes,” Canada’s chief of protocol, Stewart Wheeler, said during an appearance Thursday before the government operations standing committee. and budget forecasts.
Mr. Wheeler was answering a question from the committee’s second vice-president, Bloc Québécois Julie Vignola, who wondered whether “diplomatically speaking, it’s out of the question” or not to plan “cold, transportable” meals, without going up to “no crust sandwiches with mustard cretons or banana peanut butter”.
Other MPs jumped into the fray, each time emphasizing their outrage at the revelations that the bill for some meals served on board the government plane carrying the Queen’s representative had been more than $80,000, or lunches and dinners at $350 per person according to the calculations of the Bloc Québécois.
The Liberal vice-chairman of the committee, Majid Jowhari, for example, suggested that a ceiling be established on spending per meal on flights, recalling in passing that the deputies must themselves respect daily allowances.
“It is precisely the type of flags that I would like our team to develop,” replied the chief of protocol to another deputy who had a similar request.
The meals served on the flights that sparked controversy did not have enough to raise “flags”, insisted Christine MacIntyre of the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, who was herself on a flight. “The costs shocked us all. We were served eggs, omelets,” she said.
Mme MacIntyre herself mentioned that it is not necessary to serve meals on “a small flight, a one and a half hour flight”.
Not that easy
Members have learned through their questions that national defense often has little leeway in ordering meals, despite the fact that Global Affairs Canada only asks for “standard” dishes like those served. on commercial flights.
It is common that at airports where government planes land there is only one caterer available. This type of “monopoly” prevents negotiation, explained Lieutenant-General Eric Kenny, commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
It is his organization which has the particular mission of ensuring safe travel for “VVIPs”, “very, very important” people or “very, very important persons”, he mentioned.
Plus, the costs associated with the food itself only make up a fraction of the bill. There are additional costs for handling and delivery, storage, cleaning and food waste management, the senior official listed, adding that these costs are charged regardless of the number of passengers on the flight.
Despite the lieutenant-general’s reluctance due to the fact that the costs would not be detailed by the caterers, many elected officials asked him to provide the committee with the menus and the breakdown of the expenses.
The Canadian government is now saving money by reducing the number of excess meals that are ordered to provide passengers with choice. The proportion was reduced to 65% in 2019 and then to 20% after the June revelations, said Lieutenant-General Kenny in response to a question from Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus.
It was mentioned that the meals served to the passengers are the same as those for the crew since it is simpler in terms of logistics, but that the latter are served among what is left.
While stating that figuring out how much to order is “an art”, according to the protocol chief, he noted that one of the conclusions of the discussions was that it is possible that “everyone is eating the same thing”, except for those with dietary restrictions. This is what would have happened during the trip to London for the funeral of the Queen last week.
Mr. Wheeler also stated that “at no time in the process” does the Governor General review the menus that are served.
The summoning of the representative of the Governor General and the Department of National Defense is the result of an initiative by the Bloc Québécois.
The Bloc leader, Yves-François Blanchet, declared Thursday that his formation intends to implement a “strategy” to “make a denunciation in good standing of the monarchy”, the governor general being, according to him, another example of “a patent of ‘another millennium that shouldn’t exist’.