Opposition slams price tag for Clarkson visit

Ottawa says Governor General's polar trip cost $5.3 million, not $1 million as media had reported

Opposition politicians say the $5.3 million price tag for Adrienne Clarkson's recent circumpolar state visit is another example of excessive Liberal spending.

The media had reported Clarkson's tour, to promote Canadian culture in Russia, Iceland and Finland, would cost $1 million.

On Friday, Ottawa said the trip, which included Clarkson and 59 prominent Canadians, cost $5.3 million.

Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham, who approved the trip, acknowledged the visit was expensive.

"It would be unreasonable not to recognize that this was very expensive and I think we have to look at the way we can constrain these expenses."

Conservative MP Peter MacKay says nobody is being held to account for the spending.

"It's another example of excessive spending on the part of government departments, on the part in this case of the Governor General where nobody is taking responsibility," said MacKay.

NDP MP Pat Martin says the expenses were unacceptable.

"If it's not the Liberal party with their hands in our pockets, it's the Governor General," said Martin. "I mean, Canadians think they are being fleeced."

He called for a moratorium on the Governor General's future travels, saying Canadians have had enough.

"There's a zero tolerance attitude about wretched excess of any kind across the nation," said Martin.

Clarkson's office said she made the state visit at the request of the government and will continue to do so when asked. The Governor General has steadfastly defended her spending, saying it reflects a more active role for the office.