01/29/2013 01:06 EST | Updated 03/31/2013 05:12 EDT

$1 Million Spent To Ship PM's Armoured Cars To India

The government says it cost more than $1 million to ship Prime Minister Stephen Harper's armoured cars to and from India for his visit last year.

The information was released after New Democrat MP Peggy Nash filed two written requests for the information. The government is compelled to answer those sorts of questions.

The responses, which were tabled yesterday in the House of Commons, show it cost $1,030,092 for the operating costs of the C-17 Globemaster used to transport the vehicles to India and back

Personnel costs were another $31,356, for a total of $1,061,448.

Using Canadian government aircraft to ship the armoured cars saved at least $460,000, according to a response from the RCMP. The commercial cost would have been as much as $2 million.

Using the military's own "rates per flying hour" estimates for support, amortization and other associated costs, the total cost rises from $21,239 per hour to $36,111 per hour, or $1,751,383.50.

New Democrat ethics critic Charlie Angus said the government "has the nerve to tell senior citizens the cupboard is bare," but spent over $1 million to fly the prime minister's armoured cars to India, despite India's offer of high-security armoured vehicles.

"It was good enough for the prime minister of Australia, but not good enough for our leader. Where is the accountability?" Angus said in question period.

RCMP assessed threats

In his answer, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird pointed to India's history. The country has seen repeated terrorist attacks, including one in Mumbai in 2008.

"When we look to the security of our prime minister, we consult the experts, those that are experts in security," Baird said. "And when it comes to the national security and the security of our prime minister, we will take advice from the RCMP over the NDP every single time."

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said no one objects to money being spent to ensure the security of Harper or Gov.-Gen. David Johnston when they travel.

"The problem with this expenditure is India is a country where their ministers and others travel in armoured cars," Rae said. "There is a fleet of armoured vehicles in India. So, on this particular case of the vehicles having to be flown over, it's a little hard for me to understand why that was necessary."

The RCMP assessed the operational requirements, including "the protectee, public and officer safety considerations and a threat assessment of events/environment," and determined there were no appropriate vehicles in India, according to the response tabled by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.

RCMP recommendation

Because it could compromise security for Harper, no information on the selection criteria for the armoured cars would be provided, the response said.

"Given that the RCMP is responsible for the protection of the prime minister, the RCMP made the recommendation and took the final decision on appropriate vehicles and the selection and supply of appropriate transportation, to ensure the safety of the prime minister," the response said.

The prime minister was driven around in a black Chevy Suburban SUV with Ontario plates at his first stop in Agra, India. A second Canadian car, a black Cadillac sedan, met him on his arrival in New Delhi.

The response tabled in the House of Commons shows the C-17 departed Canada on Oct. 29, 2012, and left India for the return trip on Nov. 10, 2012. The total flying time was 48.5 hours.

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