Bev Oda Expenses: Hotel Room Smoking Penalty Among Oda's Charges To Taxpayers

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BEV ODA SMOKING EXPENSES
Conservative Minister Bev Oda has a cigarette break at the back of Parliament Hill in Ottawa, in this Feb. 16, 2011 file photo. Bev Oda's background made her looked great as a candidate on paper. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick | CP

OTTAWA - A penalty of $250 US for smoking in a hotel room was among the expenses charged to taxpayers by Bev Oda, Canada's former minister of international co-operation.

The then-minister was dinged in 2010 for smoking in a hotel room during a trip to Washington, D.C.

Oda had been in the U.S. capital for a conference organized by maternal health advocates.

Her department confirms she expensed the fee, but paid it back two years later following a review of all her expense claims.

That review was in ordered in April after The Canadian Press revealed a number of extravagant expenses on a trip to London in 2011, including a $16 glass of orange juice.

Oda resigned from cabinet and the House of Commons in July.

The issue of her expenses had become a thorn in the Conservative government's side, with backbench Tory MPs reporting that they heard about her high-flying ways on the doorstep more often than any other issue.

Cabinet ministers are required to publicly disclose their spending on travel and hospitality.

The files made public for Oda show that expense reports for several trips during her five years as international co-operation minister have been amended.

But the details of why they were changed aren't posted to the website.

Officials in her department say some — but not all — of the amendments in her expense claims are the result of repayments.

A total dollar figure for the amount she was forced to repay the public purse has never been revealed, but her office insists that every questionable expense was repaid.

Many had questioned why Oda spent so long in cabinet, given her spending habits.
During the London trip in 2011, she billed taxpayers for the cost of rejecting one five-star hotel in London, England and rebooking at a swankier establishment at more than double the rate. She also hired a luxury car and driver at an average cost of nearly $1,000 a day.

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 taxpayer $2,200 of the bill.

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.

Besides the spending scandals, Oda left a mixed legacy behind at CIDA.

Some praised her ability to focus the agency's work and more directly target aid, especially in making the decision to untie assistance, meaning goods could be sourced from wherever they were most cost efficient.

But others criticized her approach to partnerships with the non-governmental sector, arguing that those relationships had become politicized.

She was replaced in the post by Julian Fantino, who had been leading the government's efforts on the F-35 fighter jet file.

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