POLITICS

Canada Military Name Change: Cost To Taxpayers Not Yet Revealed

03/14/2012 04:41 EDT | Updated 05/14/2012 05:12 EDT
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HALIFAX - One Access to Information request to determine how much it cost Canadian taxpayers to rechristen the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Canadian Navy: $5.

The value of the move, in the words of Defence Minister Peter MacKay: "Priceless."

Even so, seven months after Ottawa announced plans to change the names of the military's air and maritime divisions , the Defence Department says it still needs more time before it can reveal how much public money has been spent on the move.

Last September, in response to an Access to Information request, the department said it would need 130 additional days to respond.

The department now says it must consult with the Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister's Office, about possible cabinet confidentiality issues before disclosing how much it has cost to add the royal moniker.

The department says it is still awaiting a response from the Privy Council on the matter.

During the announcement in August, MacKay was asked repeatedly to explain how much the name change would cost.

"You can put a price on it if you like," MacKay said at the time. "To me, it's priceless."

NDP defence critic David Christopherson says the public has the right to know the costs of a taxpayer-funded initiative to change the military's name.

"If we can't even get this kind of simple information out of the Conservative government, we are royally screwed," he said Wednesday.

"Everything starts from the premise that's it's an absolute secret and nobody can know, and we have to slowly unravel the fingers from the death grip on the information to get it out.

"Why? Why this culture of secrecy?"

Scott Andrews, the Liberal access to information critic, said a cost should be available by now.

"They do this through freedom of information laws: put off, put off, put off," he said.

"They either haven't done their work, or they know the cost and they don't want it out there."

A Defence Department spokesman declined to comment on the reasons behind the delay, saying it was up to the Access to Information division of the department to comment.

John O'Connell, deputy director of strategic planning at the department's Access to Information division, said it was up to public affairs to comment.

The new names are now emblazoned on the websites of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Under the change, what was once the Land Force Command is now the Canadian Army.

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