OTTAWA — Nunavut Conservative candidate Leona Aglukkaq spent more than $140,916 as environment minister to attend a climate change conference with 26 staff and government officials.
The Canadian delegation at the meeting in Lima, Peru, for the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Dec. 2014, didn’t generate much news — aside from the government’s own release.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who attended the conference, said Aglukkaq and federal officials should have stayed home and saved taxpayers the money.
“The world would have been better off if Canada had not shown up at any negotiations,” May told The Huffington Post Canada. “The world community is increasingly angry with Canada for showing up, because we drag down progress.”
Aglukkaq spoke to sparsely populated room at the closing event, May said, and the minister repeated talking points that erroneously gave the impression that Canada was actually tackling oil and gas emissions even though no regulations have ever been adopted.
The bulk of the travel costs for the Canadian delegation — $92,188.80 — was spent on hotel rooms at Dazzler Lima, a hip downtown hotel with a rooftop pool. The hotel bill suggests that the delegation left 28 rooms unoccupied but taxpayers were still stuck with the $6,652.80 in extra costs.
Aglukaaq and the 26 officials used 26.13 tonnes of carbon emissions, according to an online carbon footprint calculator, to fly to the conference in Lima. Aglukaaq flew first class at a cost of $7,860.87, while her chief of staff and director of communications flew coach at a cost of $3,464.68 each. The only other public servant whose travel costs have been disclosed managed to get there for $2,650.58.
Flight costs for other employees of Environment Canada are not disclosed because they are mid-level staff.
Per diems cost about $31,286 while the total cost of the airplane trips was not disclosed. Rough estimation would place the costs at an additional $55,000 to $85,000.
The Canadian Embassy in Lima went to great effort to organize a private reception for the environment minister on Dec. 8, but she originally booked a flight scheduled to arrive after the reception had ended.
The government described the evening reception as a “discussion” the minister was hosting to highlight the importance of incorporating traditional knowledge into environmental decision making, May wrote in a blog at the time. The Green Party leader, who was the only Canadian MP present at the conference, was not invited to the embassy’s event.
Hunter Tootoo, the Liberal candidate in Nunavut who, polls suggest, is giving Aglukkaq a run for her money, said he thinks constituents will be interested to find out more about the minister’s first-class travel plans.
“I’d be saying, look how come you spent $100,000 on hotel rooms to attend a climate change conference in [Peru] but when there is one in Toronto, you’re off boating in Baker Lake,” Tootoo said.
Earlier this summer, Aglukkaq chose not to attend the Climate Summit of the Americas and instead spent her time in her riding with voters. Her office told The National Observer she was celebrating “the creation of Nunavut and the culture of Nunavummiut.”
Aglukkaq's spokesman Ted Laking said the Greens and the Liberals were being hypocrites for suggesting Canada should not have participated in the UN process to address climate change. It "is shocking and shows a lack of principles," he wrote in a statement.
“Canada makes no apologies for participating in the UN led climate change negotiations every year. While at the COP20 negotiations Minister Aglukkaq had several key bilateral meetings including one with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon," he added.
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