Friday, November 20, 2009

Stephen Harper's Flagrant Abuse of Military Jets is Costing Taxpayers a Bundle

Shortly after being elected, Stephen Harper took a bunch of his "boys" to a hockey game in a military jet. When the story broke he stated that he paid for the hockey tickets himself. But who does he think paid for the jet?

Well now several years later we learn that this is an ongoing practice, and the Canadian taxpayer is being charged thousands and thousands of dollars, so that Harper can flit around with friends and party donors. Of course, he refuses to tell us who are getting the free rides.

Tories silent on who flew on executive jets
Compiling list to take too much time
By Glen McGregor,
The Ottawa Citizen
November 19, 2009

The Harper government says it is unable to provide the names of passengers who have flown on its fleet of Challenger executive jets since 2006 because it would take longer than a month-and-a-half to assemble the list.

The jets, operated by the Department of National Defence, have made more than 1,900 flights with the prime minister, the governor general, cabinet ministers or other senior officials aboard since the Conservatives formed the government. The aircraft logged 9,916 hours in the air over that period.

In a question tabled in the House of Commons this fall, Liberal MP Dan McTeague asked the government to provide a list of passengers who flew on the jets and their destinations but, this week, DND said it could not comply.

"Given the large number of flights, a complete list of the names and titles of each passenger present on each flight manifest could not be generated in the time allotted," DND said in its formal response, tabled Monday. The department also claimed it could not provide a list of destinations of each flight.

The government had 45 days to complete the request, under House rules.

During past Liberal governments, DND routinely released the flight manifests with the names of the passengers and details about the origin and destination of each flight. It is unclear why DND was unable to provide similar information to McTeague.

McTeague says the denial of his request is one in a series of "cover-ups, obfuscations and frankly lame and unacceptable excuses" to withhold information, contrary to their pledge during the 2006 election campaign to bring more transparency to government.

A DND official said she could not provide an explanation as to why it couldn't answer McTeague's question. She said the department was still trying to locate a copy of the document tabled in the House of Commons.

Use of the jets has been politically sensitive in the past. In Opposition, the Tories often denounced what they claimed was excessive use of the jets by Liberal cabinet ministers. Jason Kenney, now minister of citizenship and immigration minister, once chastised the Paul Martin-led Liberals for their use of "flying limousines."

DND did release figures that show that the average cost of feeding passengers has increased sharply since the Tories formed government. It cost taxpayers about $66 for every flying hour to provide food and non-alcoholic beverages to the VIPs aboard the jets in 2005-06, the last full fiscal year under a Liberal government.

But in 2008-09, the food and drink costs jumped to $110 per flying hour.

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