Maverick New Democrat Pat Martin had some choice words for Tories in question period on Friday over the $50,000 paint job that turned Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s official airplane from grey to red, white and blue.
“Never mind the $90,000 mystery cheques, I wonder how it feels for grassroots Conservative MPs to be forced to defend using tax dollars to play ‘Pimp My Ride’ with the prime minister's flying Taj Mahal,” the colourful MP said. “I wonder, did they use the PMO’s slush fund to rebrand ‘air force run’ in Conservative Party colours?”
For those not familiar, “Pimp My Ride” was an MTV show in the mid 2000s, hosted by rapper Xzibit, where junk cars would be given cool upgrades and funky designs.
Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, accused the NDP of opposing Tories “every time we start to do anything good for Canada.”
Obhrai said the Airbus will now carry Canadian national symbols.
“I do not understand why they have a problem with Canadian national symbols,” Obhrai said.
STORY CONTINUES AFTER SLIDESHOW
But Martin wasn’t the only opposition member to raise the issue in the House Friday.
Liberal MP John McCallum joked he was actually “impressed” by the Tories.
“I did not think the government could come up with one action that would waste money, hurt the Canadian Forces, and inflate the Prime Minister's ego all at once,” he said.
McCallum says the blue paint on the airplane now means the Canadian Forces cannot use it for military operations.
Tory MP Chris Alexander, a parliamentary secretary to the minister of national defence, said the repainting was merely part of the routine maintenance.
“It is a small proportion of the overall cost,” he said. “And it is done with a view to promoting Canada, promoting Canada’s interest abroad, in our best traditions, as we have always done.”
The Huffington Post Canada first reported last summer that Harper’s staff directed in meticulous detail the design of the plane, going so far as to instruct defence department officials to include a faded maple leaf on its tail similar to one used on the Tories’ election campaign bus.
HuffPost also reported in February the blue paint job would not be cost neutral, as officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and National Defence had pledged for more than two years.
From a story by Ottawa bureau chief, Althia Raj:
Under the window of the cockpit, in italicized script, are the words: “True North Strong and Free” and “Une épopée des plus brilliants exploits” in French. There is a flag on the front door next to Canada’s coat of arms and the RCAF logo near the back of the plane. The white tail, which has a thick blue line and thin red line, features a large drawing of the Canadian flag and its military identifier number 150001.
Canadians will finally get a good look at Harper’s flashy new plane as he heads to Europe next week. While in the United Kingdom, Harper will become the first Canadian prime minister to address the British parliament in in 70 years.
The aircraft is also used to transport the Governor General, foreign dignitaries and members of the Royal Family.