Parliamentary exchanges a 'travel package' for politicians, senator says
Senator Kelvin Ogilvie says these trips cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars per year
A Nova Scotia senator is calling most parliamentary exchanges a waste of taxpayers money after another federal politician, P.E.I. Senator Libbe Hubley, recently spoke about her trip to the Turks and Caicos.
The trip was a special exchange through the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
But Conservative Senator Kelvin Ogilvie, who was not on the trip, questions whether much comes from such exchanges. He spoke about his views with CBC Radio Mainstreet host Preston Mulligan.
Ogilvie: "I'm aware that trips have taken place among many members of Parliament to many countries around the world. They usually provide some sort of report in their respective chambers when they return. And they host groups from those countries in return.
"And I'm not personally aware of any time that the trips resulted in information that informed an important issue before Parliament in a timely fashion."
Mulligan: "What do you think the value is for taxpayers?"
Ogilvie: "Well, I think it serves to provide a good travel and holiday package perhaps, or travel package is perhaps a better term, for parliamentarians. If having parliamentarians with limited experience see more of the world is a good thing then … maybe that's a good thing.
"I, however, question the overall value of the total expenditures. I'm not suggesting that in some cases some knowledge experience hasn't occurred that has benefited debate or something in some way … I suspect some has occurred, but I think in a great majority of cases perhaps the money could be better spent."
Mulligan: "What's expected of the parliamentarians, the senators, when they're on these excursions?"
Ogilvie: "I think they're relatively free spirits in that regard. I would say that they're expected to hold meetings … with their counterparts in whichever country they occur. They usually, I think, justify their trip by looking into one issue or another that might be of some common interest to the two parliaments, or two countries, in some way.
"But I have to say that when I speak to my fellow parliamentarians when they return from the trips, mostly what I hear about are the great restaurants they visited and some of the lovely scenery."
Mulligan: "How much do you suppose this costs taxpayers annually?"
Ogilvie: "Well it would have to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars because you can't take even a small group of people to any part of the world without it involving, you know, tens of thousands of dollars … in an individual trip.
"Of course the more people that go, the larger the expense. Airfare and hotels would be the biggest expenditures. The host country usually, I think, provides a lot of the entertainment costs from their end, but of course that is reciprocated when those delegations come back and visit Canada."
'Meetings and dialogue'
P.E.I. Senator Libbe Hubley, who was appointed to the senate as a Liberal in 2001, declined an interview with Mainstreet. An email statement from her staff said:
"The Canadian Parliamentary Association provides the primary means of regular consultation between the members of the 172 parliaments and legislatures in the countries, states, provinces and territories in 51 of the Commonwealth's 54 countries. It pursues this objective by means of meetings and dialogue facilitated during visits like the one to Turks and Caicos."
The statement said the trip was initiated by Conservative MP Joe Preston, and MP Todd Doherty represented the Conservatives on the exchange.