Sask. premier and ministers match last year's travel costs in five months
Premier Moe to take government's second trade mission to India in past year
Saskatchewan's premier and cabinet ministers have spent as much on travel in five months than they did in the entire 2017-18 fiscal year.
Government records show the cabinet and premier spent slightly more than $260,000 on travel in 2017-18. But just in the first five months of this fiscal year, April 1 to September 30, they have spent virtually the same amount — $260,000.
Expenses for Minister of Trade and Export Development Jeremy Harrison's trip to Israel and Premier Scott Moe's trip this week to Toronto, are not public at this time. Those trips will put the travel expenses well above last year's total less than six months into the current fiscal.
"The fact of the matter is, this is representing the people of the province and standing up for the jobs in our communities," Moe said when asked about the trip to Toronto and his upcoming trade mission to India.
From April 1 to Sept. 30, 2017, former Premier Brad Wall spent $21,655 on travel. From the same period this year, Moe has spent $165,264.
Moe travelled to the United States once in May and twice in June and spent a week on a trade mission in China in September.
The China mission did not result in a trade deal but the premier was on hand when a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Carbon Capture and Sequestration Knowledge Centre and the China Petroleum University.
The China trip cost $98,000, with the majority of that expense being $54,000 in air travel for Moe and five other members of the government's delegation.
Upon his return, the government said Moe "met with a number of industry leaders and government officials to enhance Saskatchewan's trade opportunities and showcase our food, fuel and fertilizer sectors."
Premier and delegation headed to India
Moe is heading to India this month with a handful of government officials.
Last November, former Minister of Economy Steven Bonk went on a government trade mission to India.
"This is going to be a comprehensive trade mission. Significant work has gone into comprehensive agenda with a host of trade files and it's going to be productive," said Harrison.
"You might remember this a market of over a billion people. Of all of the exports that come from Canada to India, over 60 per cent come from Saskatchewan."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's went to India in February. Shortly after that a 100 per cent tariff was placed on Canadian chickpeas. Harrison called Trudeau's trip "not helpful".
"We need to defend our interests on these files because the federal government have been less than helpful on them when they are specifically related to Saskatchewan."
Harrison said of his recent trip to Israel was his only overseas trip as minister, a portfolio he has held for the better part of eight years.
"I'm not going to stand here and apologize for international travel. This is important outreach. One in five jobs in this province are dependent on exports."
Harrison said in order to grow the economy, the province has to expand to new markets and the only way to do that is by being in those markets.
"It is vitally important for our economic future."
Harrison said there are very Saskatchewan specific issues in which companies in the province face hurdles and need "government backing".
NDP leader supports travel if it is 'useful'
NDP leader Ryan Meili was critical of Moe's visit to meet with Premier Doug Ford in Toronto on Monday. The two premiers signed an MOU over reducing interprovincial trade barriers.
Meili said he has no problem with the premier and ministers travelling if it is "useful."
"If it is just for showboating, if it is just to do stunts and photo-ops I have a lot of problems with it. If it actually advances the interests of Saskatchewan it's of value."
Meili said the value is "difficult to measure" because he said the government can claim a victory if its goals are vague.
with files from CBC's Kevin O'Connor