/Fewer perks for the privileged

Fewer perks for the privileged

From Shaman’s Rock

By Jim Poling Sr.

I’ve always been in love with the RCAF – the Royal Canadian Air Force.

My love affair began young when I set out to become an RCAF fighter pilot. Fate intervened and I ended up flying typewriters instead of fighter jets.

My love swelled this week when I read the RCAF is cutting back expensive snacks and other amenities it serves its privileged passengers.

The RCAF flies big wigs like the governor general, prime minister, various politicians and bureaucrats on official business in Canada and abroad. Those privileged passengers get in-flight drinks, meals on glass dishes, newspaper and magazines and other amenities, such as flower arrangements, to ensure their comfort.

Defence department overlords have decided to reduce amenities and have their privileged passengers travel more like the rest of us. 

If they follow through, the saving of taxpayer funds should be substantial. For instance, the governor general’s trip to Dubai last March cost taxpayers $1.3 million, which included $100,000 in-flight catering for 30 people – roughly $3,300 a person.

Those folks had a choice of beef Wellington, chicken scaloppini or beef carpaccio for each leg of the trip. Government records show costs of $552 for ice, $526 for limes and lemons, $110 for four litres of apple juice and $1,000 for water.

The aircraft was restocked during the Dubai trip. Replenishing the supply of potato chips, cashews, yogurt and granola cost several thousand dollars, according to government figures.

The RCAF has ordered that in-flight snacks no longer will be bought at foreign stops. All snack items will be purchased in Trenton where the transport aircraft are based.

Also, all non-alcoholic drinks, such as mineral water, will be sourced in Canada and  

Newspapers, magazines and flowers no longer will be available on flights.

Meal choices will be more closely scrutinized and all passengers will be served the same standard choices. No more wide-ranging menus.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) seems happy with the changes. Franco Terrazzano, the federation’s national director says, however, more needs to be done to reduce extravagance and improve transparency.

“Taxpayers expect bureaucrats to be capable of exercising restraint and using common sense,” he was quoted in the media. “That means not enjoying beef Wellington on an airplane when Canadians can’t afford hamburgers.”

He added that taxpayers should be given more detailed information on travel spending, For instance, receipts could be posted online. even posting receipts online. Getting basic information now is like pulling teeth, he said.

Cutting in-flight extravagances should help the RCAF to escape being nominated for one of the CTF’s annual Teddy Waste Awards. The awards, pig-shaped trophies, are given each year to the worst garment waste offenders. They are named for Ted Weatherill, the federal bureaucrat fired from his job as Canada Labour Relations Board head for reckless spending, including a $700 lunch for two in Paris.

Travel and food are big ticket items in federal spending. Global Affairs Canada has won a Teddy for spending $11.2 million to fly chefs around the world (first-class) to cook at various embassies. This was part of some government program called the Mission Cultural Fund.

The federal Liberal government also has picked up a Teddy lifetime achievement award for sending 276 delegates to the 2021 climate change conference in the UK. The huge cost of that jaunt included $3,000 for a luxury limo service to take Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland from Edinburg to Glasgow, where the conference was being held.

It’s unclear why Freeland stayed in Edinburg, roughly 90 kilometres from Glasgow. Her room in Edinburg’s Hotel Indigo cost roughly $750 Canadian a night.

Ottawa’s food bills should become a bit smaller when Prime Minister Trudeau spends time at his Harrington Lake cottage this summer. He won’t have to order in. He will be able to cook for himself in the new $700,000 to $1 million kitchen his government has installed at the cottage.

The federal government spent another $2.5 million to replace a “backup” cottage at Harrington Lake. The backup was considered necessary temporary accommodation while the main cottage was being renovated. It is to be used by security details and other officials when the main cottage renovations have been completed.