Bev Oda's Savoy Hotel Stay: International Aid Minister Declines 5-Star Hotel For Another At Twice The Cost

CP  |  By Posted: 04/23/2012 4:00 am Updated: 04/25/2012 3:14 pm

Bev Oda Hotel Savoy
It seems only the best will do for International Development Minister Bev Oda, who refused to stay at one five-star hotel in London, England, last year and rebooked at a swanky establishment for more than double the cost. (CP)

OTTAWA - International Development Minister Bev Oda repaid taxpayers Monday for the cost of rejecting one five-star hotel in London, England and rebooking at a swankier establishment at more than double the rate.

Oda's office revealed the reimbursement about eight hours after The Canadian Press first reported the hefty lodging bills, and three days after the agency began asking questions about the expenses.

Spokesman Justin Broekema said Oda paid the fee difference between the two hotels, as well as the cancellation fee at the first one.

Oda was originally supposed to stay at the Grange St. Paul's Hotel, site of the conference on international immunizations she was attending.

Instead, she had staff rebook her into the posh Savoy overlooking the Thames, an old favourite of royalty and currently owned by Prince Alwaleed of Saudi Arabia.

PHOTOS: SEE THE HOTEL

The switcheroo is reminiscent of a controversial trip six years ago, when Oda rejected a minivan for transportation and opted for a limousine instead. She reimbursed taxpayers for some of those costs after that story emerged in the news media.

Oda had a luxury car and driver in London shuttling her between conference site, her new hotel and beyond at an average cost of nearly $1,000 a day. There was no indication from her office whether any of those travel costs were reimbursed.

The bill for three nights at the Savoy last June set back taxpayers $1,995, or $665 a night. The government still had to pay for a night at the hotel she rejected, costing an additional $287.

An orange juice Oda expensed from the Savoy cost $16.

Quick Poll

Are Bev Oda's London expenses excessive?

VOTE

"The minister preferred not to stay at the Grange St. Paul's upon our arrival there and we had to pay,'' says a note on an expense sheet.

In last month's budget, the Canadian International Development Agency suffered cuts that rang in this year at $380 million.

A political staffer travelling with Oda stayed at the cheaper hotel, which is no shack _ it features views of St. Paul's Cathedral, an enormous glass atrium, four restaurants and five bars.

A chauffeur drove Oda around the city at a cost of $2,850 over three days. On the first day of the conference, the Canadian government paid for the car to be on call for 15 hours. The Savoy is two kilometres from the Grange.

John Alan of John Alan's Car Service said he couldn't recall which kind of car Oda used, but said his cars were in the Mercedes or BMW range.

While in London, Oda represented Canada at a donors conference for the GAVI Alliance, a global health organization that works to immunize children in poor countries. Canada has given $253 million to GAVI since 2001. Microsoft chairman and philanthropist Bill Gates attended the conference, as well as British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Cameron's government announced in 2010 that it would be limiting the use of chauffeur-driven cars by its ministers. Some British ministers will take the tube in traffic-clogged London rather than call up a car, a spokesman said.

NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen called Oda's choice of accommodation "incredible.''

"Can one night at the Savoy be justified? I suppose if you're in a high-flying rock band, but as a minister who's meant to be engaging with the world's most poor, most needy and coming from a government that's demanding that Canadians tighten their own belts, the hypocrisy is reeking,'' Cullen said.

The National Citizens' Coalition, formerly led by Stephen Harper, is calling on Oda to resign her post.

Oda has been criticized for champagne tastes in the past.

In 2006, she used limousines to ferry her to and from the Juno Awards ceremony in Halifax, racking up $5,475 in bills. When the expenses were criticized in the House of Commons, she said she had reimbursed the federal treasury $2,200.

A year later, Oda billed taxpayers more than $1,200 for another limousine ride that took her to both a government event and a party activity. The NDP cried foul when those expenses were not spelled out in the government's public disclosures.

THE SAVOY HOTEL


  • Savoy Hotel

    The Savoy hotel name is lit in green neon at the front entrance on December 6, 2007 in London. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • Prince Charles At The Savoy

    Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales leaves after the Savoy hotel's grand re-opening on November 2, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images for The Savoy)

  • Savoy Hotel

    (Savoy/Fairmont Hotels)

  • Savoy Hotel

    (Savoy/Fairmont Hotels)

  • Savoy Hotel

    (Savoy/Fairmont Hotels)

  • Savoy Hotel

    (Savoy/Fairmont Hotels)

  • Savoy Hotel

    Actor Stephen Fry enters the Savoy Hotel. (Savoy/Fairmont Hotels)

  • Savoy Hotel

    (Savoy/Fairmont Hotels)

  • Savoy Hotel

    (Savoy/Fairmont Hotels)

  • Prince Charles At The Savoy

    Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales greets chefs at the Savoy hotels grand re-opening on November 2, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Roland Hoskins - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

  • Savoy Hotel

    Doorman Tony Cortegaca stands at the entrance to the Savoy Hotel on December 6, 2007 in London. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • Savoy Hotel

    A statue of a black cat called Kaspar sits at the entrance to the Savoy Hotel on December 6, 2007 in London. Kaspar the cat, carved in the 1920s from a single piece of wood by designer Basil Ionides, is placed on the table of 13 guests dining in private at the Savoy. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • Savoy Hotel

    LONDON - DECEMBER 06: A member of staff checks glasses on a table in the ballroom at the Savoy Hotel on December 6, 2007 in London. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • Savoy Hotel

    A worker cleans the revolving doors in the main entrance lobby of The Savoy hotel on December 6, 2007 in London. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • Savoy Hotel Contents To Be Auctioned Off

    Two concierges man the front desk at the Savoy Hotel on December 6, 2007 in London. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • Savoy Hotel

    Workers continue the 220 million GBP refurbishment of the Savoy hotel on August 10, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

  • Savoy Hotel

    Breakfast is prepared at the Savoy Hotel on December 6, 2007 in London (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • Savoy Hotel

    The Savoy hotel name is lit in green neon at the front entrance on December 6, 2007 in London. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

FOLLOW CANADA POLITICS

Filed by Brodie Fenlon  |