09/20/2012 06:06 EDT | Updated 11/20/2012 05:12 EST

Libyan Mission Racked Up $11M In Hotel Bills


When the Royal Canadian Air Force deployed over Libyan skies, its pilots bedded down safe and sound in hotels in Sicily.

In fact, all Canadian troops there in support of the UN-backed mission in Libya were booked into hotels — an initially ad hoc solution that lasted for nearly nine months and cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

CBC News has learned the Armed Forces likely spent about $11 million on hotel bills, which amounts to more than 10 per cent of the military's $103 million total cost of the mission.

One spreadsheet shows $7.7 million for accommodations for a few hundred troops in two or three locations on the island of Sicily.

NDP Defence critic Jack Harris says that's a hefty price.

"It was a temporary mission, and as a result you are going to get a temporary cost," he said. "But our understanding was — and the Canadian public was led to believe — that they had all the co-operation of the government of Italy, and the use of their base to run operations out of."

Cruise ship considered

Even though the military had secured access to an air base near Trapani, Sicily, it was unable to get military accommodations there.

It spent considerable effort looking at whether and where it could build a temporary base for Canadian troops. It also solicited cruise ship owners who might be prepared to lease a vessel to act as a floating camp.

Military planning documents obtained by CBC News show the military knew that option would be expensive especially if the mission carried on for more than just a couple of months, as it did.

But officials worried about the optics of the air force waging a war over Libya while bedding down on a cruise ship off Sicily.

A ship might make sense, one official wrote, "but we need to survive the Globe and Mail test."

In the end, the military decided not to rent a ship or build a camp, but to rent hotel rooms.

In May, the military said it had spent more than $30 million on food, transportation and accommodations for the mission.

On Wednesday, the military said it was unable to confirm the CBC's figures. Spokesman Daniel Blouin said the military was still working to break down the figures.

But, Blouin says, all those costs were incurred in an effort to free the people of Libya from the regime of former dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

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