08/02/2013 05:39 EDT | Updated 10/02/2013 05:12 EDT

Where Is This Free Rent Of Which You Speak?

What follows is an open letter to MP Bernard Trottier.

Dear Mr. Trottier,

During Tuesday's Power & Politics segment on CBC television, you stated that Foreign Service Officers receive numerous benefits, such as housing allowances and dry cleaning. As a Foreign Service Officer, I found this particularly interesting as, in my 10 years in the Department of Foreign Affairs, I have never had dry cleaning paid for, and have always paid rent for my accommodations (well, I guess I should admit one exception -- I was not asked to pay rent on my tent or shipping container for the year I was posted to Kandahar).

After hearing your remarks, I investigated how to claim dry cleaning expenses, as you informed me I am allowed to do, but to my utter shock I discovered that I am not eligible for this perk, nor have I been at any time during my 10-year career.

I propose two solutions to clear up what I can only assume was a completely unintentional mistake on your part: 1) you could issue a public retraction of your statements, admitting that the "benefits" that you outlined were wildly exaggerated, or 2) you could actually provide me with the benefits that you claimed I am entitled to by paying for my rent and dry cleaning. I would be more than happy to send receipts directly to your office.

All of this, of course, misses the point entirely because any "benefits" that we receive are the exact same ones that any public servant receives while working abroad and therefore cannot in any way be used to differentiate the FS from any other employment group, as you tried to do in the interview. This would be like saying that we receive lots of benefits that separate us from other Canadian taxpayers, like driving on paved roads in Canada, ignoring the fact that every Canadian enjoys this benefit as well.

I can only imagine that you received some incorrect information concerning these matters, and it was not a willful attempt on your part to mislead the public on a national news show. I would simply respectfully ask that you ensure that your staff keeps you better informed of the facts before you weigh in on this debate in the future.


Martin Cooke

Foreign Service Officer


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