Bev Oda: Car Service Spending In London Reimbursed By Embattled Tory Minister

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Bev Oda will pay back taxpayers for the cost of the car service she used in London after switching accommodations to the posh Savoy Hotel from the venue where the conference she was attending was being held. (CP
Bev Oda will pay back taxpayers for the cost of the car service she used in London after switching accommodations to the posh Savoy Hotel from the venue where the conference she was attending was being held. (CP

After paying back taxpayers for her luxurious hotel switch and a $16 orange juice, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda has reimbursed the treasury almost $3,000 for her London car service as well.

Oda first repaid $1,353.81 to taxpayers on Monday for the cost of rejecting one five-star hotel in London, England and rebooking at the swankier Savoy Hotel at more than double the rate. But initially, the minister didn't reimburse the money spent on transportation.

Oda's spokesperson Justin Broekema said the minister has now covered "the costs associated with changing hotels: the difference in cost between the two hotels, the cancellation fee, the car service in London and all incremental costs that should not have been charged to taxpayers."

The Minister charged $2,850 three days of a luxury car service, including 15 hours on June 13, 2011. Oda's itinerary shows she was supposed to be at the conference site — the Grange St. Paul's Hotel — from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. that day, after which she had private time.

Oda wouldn't have needed the transportation at all if she had not switched accommodations from the conference site to the posher Savoy.

In Question Period Thrusday, NDP MP Charlie Angus suggested Oda had "almost gotten away" with her excessive expenses. "This is a woman who needs her own personal third party manager," he said in the Commons, referencing the situation on the troubled northern Ontario reserve of Attawapiskat.

The Government's House Leader, Peter Van Loan, said all ministers are expected to conduct business at a reasonable cost to save taxpayers' dollars and that was one of the reasons Oda had repaid the "inappropriate costs."

Oda has called her pricey hotel upgrade "unacceptable" and apologized for the extra costs.

The minister has been hammered in Question Period and the media this week for initially failing to repay the money she spent on the car service, which provided transportation in the Mercedes or BMW range.

"This is a minister who was found in contempt of the Canadian Parliament, a minister who has racked up thousands of dollars in frivolous bills, a minister who tells hard-working Canadians that 'I'm sorry, a five-star hotel just isn't posh enough for me,'" said NDP ethics critic Angus on Wednesday.

"So if she will not answer, I will ask the man in charge. When he has an ethically challenged minister, what does she have to do in order to get kicked out of his Cadillac cabinet?"

Tory House Leader Peter Van Loan said his government had reduced ministerial travel expenses by 15 per cent compared with what the previous Liberal government was spending prior to 2006.

"In terms of accountability, the minister has been fully accountable, was accountable in this House and has repaid all inappropriate expenses," said Van Loan.

"The important consideration for all taxpayers is that the government is interested in seeing that taxpayer dollars are respected and managed carefully."

Now, it seems, Oda has decided the car and driver were inappropriate after all.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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