Environment Minister’s two-day China trip cost $140K: documents

Flying and lodging Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and his seven-person delegation in Beijing cost at least $140,073.60

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OTTAWA — Canada spent $140,000 to send federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and his entourage to a two-day Chinese government international policy convention in Beijing this past August.

Costs to attend the annual general meeting of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development — an advisory board of the People’s Republic of China on which Guilbeault serves as executive vice chairperson — are detailed in the response to an Oct. 24 order paper question filed by Conservative MP Damien Kurek.

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The documents put the cost of flying and lodging Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and his seven-person delegation for four days on the ground in Beijing at $140,073.60 — although more claims are pending.

Aside from Guilbeault — the highest-ranking non-Chinese member of the advisory board — Canada’s delegation consisted of assistant deputy minister Sandra McCardell, Canada’s “climate change ambassador” Catherine Stewart, Canada’s ambassador to China Jennifer May, Environment staffers Gail Cockburn and Pamela Bowles, along with Guilbeault’s chief of staff Dominic Cormier, chief political Adviser Eddy Perez and operation director Elena Mitchell.

Per-person costs ranged from $10,158.43 to $18,917.78 — with Guilbeault’s tab including $14,825.06 spent in airfare, $1,339.71 in accommodation, and $1,195.20 in meals and incidentals.

Support costs by Global Affairs Canada for the trip were budgeted at $35,812.

A Government of Canada press release issued in August billed the meeting as a means for Guilbeault to “spur action on a number of environmental issues, including the implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework, created last December when Canada was the host of the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15), which committed countries to protecting 30 per cent of global land and water by 2030.”

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Last month, the National Post reported that Canada spent $1.5 million to send 400 of its delegates to that summit, held last December in Montreal.

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The minister’s itinerary for the two-day meeting in Beijing started with an Aug. 28 meeting between Guilbeault and his Chinese counterpart, Huang Runqiu, described as an opportunity to discuss “priority areas for Canada and China bilateral relations on the environment and climate change,” with topics to include the CCICED meeting to come, and previously-agreed-to environmental frameworks.

The CCICED meeting kicked off later that day, ahead of an opening plenary featuring Guilbeault as a speaker, an international breakfast hosted by Guilbeault, and a variety of forums and meetings.

According to carbonfootprint.com, flying seven people from Ottawa to Beijing on commercial flights burned just under 60 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

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The Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s Franco Terrazzano questions why the government’s climate policy always seems to come with large price tags.

“This government’s favourite way to fight climate change is to burn through jet fuel and taxpayers’ cash,” he said in an interview.

“It’s hard to believe the government can’t figure out a better way to help the environment than flying politicians and bureaucrats around the world, racking up six-figure expenses then sending Canadian taxpayers the bill.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Guilbeault’s office said the magnitude of the climate crisis requires co-operation with China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter.

“This is an independent international forum, one that Stephen Harper’s Conservative Government also joined on many occasions,” the statement read, declaring the engagement a success.

“Through a range of formal and to-the-point sessions, both countries looked at strategies for China to reduce its carbon emissions, to implement nature protection goals outlined in the Global Biodiversity Framework and on pathways to increase climate finance to developing countries. It permitted Canada to keep these vital lines of communication open and allowed us to stand up for these issues of global urgency.”

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Conservative ethics critic Michael Barrett accused the environment minister of being a climate hypocrite.

“While Canadians were cancelling their vacation plans and forgoing travel to see loved ones because of Trudeau’s inflationary spending and carbon taxes, Trudeau’s most fervent supporter of his punishing carbon tax was burning tonnes of jet fuel and $140,000 taxpayer dollars to meet with his Communist Party friends in Beijing,” he told the National Post.

This is the same Liberal minister who refuses to take the tax off farmers, First Nations, and families this winter, but drives up his own emissions at the expense of Canadians.”

Government travel and junket spending by the Trudeau Liberals have attracted attention.

Taxpayers were left with the bill for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s junket earlier this year to the star-studded Global Citizen NOW summit, which cost $61,000 in hotel rooms for the two-day conference.

During the Queen’s funeral last September, the federal government spent nearly $400,000 for 31 hotel rooms, the Toronto Sun reported — including a $6,000-per-night at the posh London Corinthia Hotel for the butler-staffed “River Suite.”

While it was eventually revealed the PM and his now-estranged wife stayed in the suite, government minders tried hard to keep that fact from the press, with the office of Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly ordering communications staff to not respond to reporters’ inquiries on the matter.

• Email: [email protected] | X: @bryanpassifiume

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