Canadian taxpayers had to pay nearly half a million dollars so the Liberal cabinet could gather for an “affordability” retreat last summer which produced no new plans for the economy.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) received government records showing that the retreat cost taxpayers at least $412,000. Following that, data from online proactive disclosures and answers to order paper questions by the National Post revealed on Monday that the bill for the retreat had risen to $485,196.
The costs could be higher as some receipts are still outstanding, and various departments did not disclose their expenses related to the retreat.
From August 21 to 23, 2023, Trudeau and his cabinet convened at a waterfront hotel in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. The retreat focused on addressing the affordability and housing challenges confronting Canadians.
“Spending more than four hundred grand on a three-day retreat to tackle affordability is tone-deaf and unacceptable,” said Franco Terrazzano, the CTF’s federal director, in a press release.
“It seems like the Trudeau government’s only solution on affordability is to waste other people’s money flying around the country talking to each other,” added Terrazzano. “It’s a shame they don’t have offices in Ottawa, or Zoom accounts, so they could do some of this work without spending thousands of dollars.”
The Privy Council Office, which organized the retreat, initially reported in November that it spent $160,467 on lodging and transportation.
Notably, the office reported $100,922 spent on hotel accommodations and a $52,394.53 hospitality bill for a “banquet” that the PCO claims was the cost of feeding all the attendees for the entirety of the retreat.
Conservative ethics critic Michael Barrett released a video discussing the news shortly after it broke.
“Justin Trudeau had a $50,000 dinner at his so-called affordability retreat,” said Barrett. “This is the same guy who took an $84,000 vacation to Jamaica while Canadians were just struggling to afford to keep heat on their homes and to be able to put gas in their cars to get to work.”
These costs came as Canadians are lining up at food banks in record numbers reaching nearly two million people a month. A third of food bank users are children, said Barrett. He added that Canada is experiencing a housing and homelessness crisis, with active Canadian Armed Forces duty members also having to live on the streets.
The PCO also spent $36,277 on airfare for its staff and ministers, $58,891 for meeting room rentals during the retreat, $49,572 for equipment rentals, and $35,001 for the rental of communications and networking equipment.
“We are looking forward to continue to do the work we’ve been doing on housing and do even more,” said Trudeau as the retreat was wrapping up. “We recognize, and Canadians know that there’s not one silver bullet that’s going to solve the housing challenges.”
Despite the significant investment, the retreat ended with no new initiatives or announcements to address the core issues of housing affordability.