OTTAWA – The new Liberal government is blowing too much money on pricey office renovations, including hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by the minister of infrastructure, Conservatives charged Tuesday.
Alberta Tory MP Blaine Calkins says the Liberals can’t seem to help themselves when it comes to spending.
“The show stopper is the minister of infrastructure and communities, who spent $835,000 on renovations and paintings,” Calkins said during question period.
Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi says he essentially had to set up an entirely new department, with space for his staff, a deputy minister and public servants.
“Our commitments require a dedicated minister, a dedicated ministry and a dedicated DM in order to deliver on the expectations of Canadians,” Sohi responded.
That meant a new office and new staff.
“That is where the expenditures have occurred.”
Outside the Commons, he said his ministry started out sharing space in another department, then moved to vacant space in another building.
“It’s a basic office, like any other office that you have for ministers and the staff,” he said.
“We had to follow Treasury Board guidelines,” added Kate Monfette, the minister’s director of communications. There are no paintings, however, she added.
Calkins said new ministers have been blowing money on other things, including $20,000 for furniture and TVs for Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and $27 for a towel rack for another minister.
“Do the Liberals really think it is okay to spend $1 million on TVs and towel racks?” he asked.
Calkins also went after Finance Minister Bill Morneau over the cost of a recent trip.
“He travelled to New York with three staff members, all with round-trip tickets costing $4,000 each,” Calkins said.
“When will the minister realize the money he is burning through is not his own trust fund, and start reining in his reckless spending habits?”
Morneau said he wants people to know what’s going on in Canada.
“I believe it is important to go abroad to talk to investors, people who might invest in our country, to let them know what we are doing here,” he said.
Other records tabled in Parliament this week also covered the cost of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s March trip to Washington.
The Conservatives have decried the size of Trudeau’s entourage, which included ministers, his mother and his in-laws.
The documents put the estimated total cost of the March 9-11 government visit to Washington at $257,219.42.
The tally includes 134 separate charges for travel, accommodation and meals from ministers and officials that come to $111,376.13.
The overall figure also includes administrative costs, courier services, gifts and translation services.
The documents say no invoices were processed for meals and incidentals for the prime minister, his wife and close associates at the time of the accounting. In addition, they say accommodations were provided by the host government for Trudeau and his immediate party.
In a note outlining the costs, the government says the Canadian delegation took important steps to revitalize the Canada-U.S. relationship, engaging the Americans on issues including climate change, environment and energy, international security, counter-terrorism, border co-operation and trade.