OTTAWA — The federal government spent just over $400,000 on the state funeral of former finance minister Jim Flaherty, while it spent only $2,571 on late Liberal deputy prime minister Herb Gray’s service.
Documents obtained by the Huffington Post Canada through the Access to Information Act show taxpayers have already spent $324,589 on Flaherty’s service, with another $80,000 still to be paid out.
Invoices for the April 16 event in Toronto and an earlier visitation in Whitby, Ont., show audio production in the Cathedral Church of St. James, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered a moving eulogy, was the largest expense – at $60,815. The rental of large screens and chairs was a close second at $60,620.
Other costs included:
- $3,378 for two days of “personal security for the family” from a private firm LTD & Associates Inc.
- $6,130 on flowers, including two $800 urn arrangements;
- $1,130 on vehicles for the “practice” funeral;
- $422 to print and mount two portraits of Flaherty, including a 24x30 framed photo.
- $5,424 for six Greyhound 50-person buses to ferry people from the St. James Cathedral to the Arcadian Court.
- $46,616 for a reception at the Arcadian Court, of which $17,560 was for an open bar, with the rest going toward the room rental and 6,000 canapés.
- $15,880.74 to rent the cathedral, including $10,000 for the building and the West Lawn, and $1,800 for the choir.
- $36,963.51 to the W.C. Town Funeral Chapel in Whitby, where there was a private ceremony and visitation. This included $10,464 for the funeral service, $3,695 for a Dominion Maple ceremonial casket with a replaceable interior, $475 cremation fee, $9,435 for limousine service, and $650 to transport the body from Ottawa.
The Department of Canadian Heritage, which planned the event, enlisted three other government departments for help with the elaborate affair.
The protocol experts at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development were given a $40,000 contract to “conduct a comprehensive invitation process” for the memorial service.
Public Works was given $38,000 to pay for staff overtime and travel to install the risers, platforms and flags at the Toronto funeral. But they blew through that budget and informed head of the Ceremonial and Protocol service at Canadian Heritage a few days after the service that “it would be safe to assume the cost for the TO portion will increase by at least $40K.”
The RCMP was given a $10,000 budget (although it claimed only $6,857.20) to help pay for 11 Mounties to serve as pallbearers and vigil guards. RCMP officers from at least eight different offices were asked to head to Toronto, including officers from detachments in Hamilton/Niagara; Milton, Ont.; the Toronto airport’s drug enforcement unit in Etobicoke, and the special investigations anti-corruption unit in Ottawa. Several Mounties drove to Toronto by carpool, and all, including the Toronto-based personnel, expensed two nights at the Fairmont Royal York, which served as a base for organizers.
The Royal York bill, for the three-day use of two meeting rooms, including a media filing room, with Internet access, a desktop PC, a phone line and several printers, was $23,126.80.
Staff appear to have worked round-the-clock organizing the massive event.
One public servant went grocery shopping the evening of April 14 and early the following day for pop and creamers, muffins, ham and fruit for that day’s visitation at the Abilities Centre in Whitby.
A $1,515.75 invoice for translation also notes the use of “after-hours emergency service.” Celtic calligrapher Brian Dench, who worked on the memorial service program April 13 and 14, doubled his $300 rate “for immediate response at extreme hours.” The printing shop where 2,000 “20-pager + 4 page cover” funeral programs were produced noted the “rush turnaround” on its $5,864.70 invoice. The government also paid for 2,000 5x8 funeral memorial cards.
The $400,000-price tag does not include costs for the Toronto Police or any travel costs for attendees, such as the Governor General, the prime minister, cabinet ministers and other MPs.
Although Flaherty, who died from an apparent heart attack on April 10, was a member of the Privy Council, he had resigned from his post as finance minister a few weeks earlier and was not automatically entitled to a state funeral.
The elaborate service drew some criticism from those who felt a state funeral should be reserved for governors general, prime ministers and sitting cabinet ministers.
The government, however, noted that the prime minister has the discretion to offer a state funeral to anyone, as Harper had done with former NDP leader Jack Layton in 2011.
The controversy reached new heights, however, when former Liberal deputy prime minister Herb Gray, one of the longest serving members of Parliament (from 1968 to 2002), died on April 21, five days after Flaherty’s service.
Emails obtained by HuffPost show that staff in the department of Canadian Heritage were taken aback by a request from Gray’s assistant for help planning the former cabinet minister’s funeral arrangements.
“Just got a call from Herb Gray’s personal assistant. He wanted to know the protocol procedures and what he is “entitled” to with regards to his passing,” a Heritage Canada employee wrote.
Later, the Heritage Canada manager who a week earlier ran around getting food for Flaherty’s visitation, wrote his team to say Gray’s assistant wanted to know if the department offered any assistance with funeral arrangements because Gray had been accorded the title “Right Honourable.”
“[H]e asked if the Department could issue invitations to the funeral, help with seating plans and have people on site at the funeral to direct guests to their seats.”
“I … indicated we could provide advice for invitations, but that we do not manage invitation lists, and general advice on seating plans.”
The manager noted that only two Canadians held the title of Right Honourable without having been prime minister, governor general or chief justice of the Supreme Court: Gray and former Progressive Conservative minister Don Mazankowski. He noted that a third person who died in 2013, Martial Asselin, held the title but said that, aside from lowering the flag at half-mast, no “support” had been offered.
Later that afternoon, however, Heritage Minister Shelly Glover’s office weighed in to direct staff to offer the Gray family help co-ordinating the invitations and logistical advice about seating plans and precedence, as well as on-site support to greet and seat guests.
The department organized a four-person motorcycle police escort for Gray’s service at a cost of $2,274.98. Taxpayers also footed the $296.06 bill for flowers after an employee asked: “Do we need to pay for the flowers?”
The federal government typically sends flowers on behalf of the government and the people of Canada while the House of Commons and the Senate send a bouquet each. The flower costs for the two chambers were not included in the department’s invoices.
Read Flaherty's funeral program:
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