Defence Minister Peter MacKay stayed in posh hotels during trips to Munich and Istanbul while his staff stayed in much less expensive accommodations.
MacKay billed taxpayers $2,904 for the two nights he spent at the Bayerischer Hof while in Munich for a security conference in February 2010, according to information obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) under Access to Information. His staff stayed at the Munich Park Hilton for $239 during the same trip, an eight minute drive away from the Bayerischer Hof.
Previous to Mackay's luxurious Munich stay, he had been in Istanbul for a meeting of NATO defence ministers, where he billed taxpayers $2,310 for three nights at the Ceylon Intercontinental Hotel. His bill included roughly $45 for meals. His staff stayed at the same hotel during the trip, but for $276 per night as opposed to $770 per night.
The Bayerischer Hof bills itself as a hotel for those who demand the best, "From queens to Hollywood legends to pop stars." It boasts five star accommodations.
The Ceylon Intercontinental is less exclusive, but also bills itself as a five star hotel.
Asked to comment, MacKay's spokesman Jay Paxton told Huffington Post Canada booked in the same hotel in which the conference was taking place.
"Canada has earned its seat at major international conferences, including the Munich Security Conference held annually at Hotel Bayerischer Hof. Nation-to-nation meetings that take place at these conferences advance Canadian interests and activities -- including the work of our men and women serving in Afghanistan. Canada booked accommodations at the same hotel the Munich Security Conference takes place," Paxton said.
Gregory Thomas, national director of the CTF, says the bills go beyond what most people would consider reasonable.
Thomas says cabinet ministers shouldn't be expected to stay in "dumps" when they travel, but the federation believes MacKay could have gotten a room for the same cost as his staff.
He says his group decided to file an access request for MacKay's expenses after it was revealed in September the minister had a search-and-rescue helicopter pick him up from a Newfoundland fishing lodge.
"If you don't want to attract attention to your expenses, don't get search-and-rescue helicopters to pick you up from your fishing trip," he said. "We saw that and it made us curious."
MacKay has been embroiled in controversy since it emerged the Defence Minister used a government search-and-rescue helicopter to travel to the airport in Gander, N.L. after a personal vacation at a fishing lodge. The cost of the flight has been estimated at $16,000.
MacKay has claimed the helicopter ride was pre-planned so that he could observe the search-and-rescue team in action. Opposition MPs have accused the Minister of lying, pointing to documents which suggest military officials discouraged the flight.
MacKay has threatened to sue over the accusations.
Government helicopters aren't the only public transportation MacKay likes to make use of. A study of cabinet ministers by The Globe and Mail found that MacKay spent $2.9-million on flights in the last four years. The only person who flew more on government jets was Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
With files from The Canadian Press.