Politics

Canada's embassy spending soars

Federal spending on Canadian embassy properties and diplomatic residences abroad has soared 430 per cent since Stephen Harper's Conservative government came to power on a promise to rein in the diplomatic decorators.

Federal spending on Canadian embassy properties and diplomatic residences abroad has soared 430 per cent since Stephen Harper's Conservative government came to power on a promise to rein in the diplomatic decorators.

The front entrance of the Canadian embassy in Brasilia, Brazil. The latest government figures show Canadian taxpayers shelled out $85.2 million last year on dozens of Foreign Affairs department property projects. ((Reuters))
The latest government figures show Canadian taxpayers shelled out $85.2 million last year on dozens of Foreign Affairs department property projects that range from all-new embassies to an elevator in Kabul.

The information contained in the latest federal public accounts shows that in 2005, the year before the Conservatives came to office, total spending on Canada’s diplomatic digs was just over $16 million.

The public accounts show Foreign Affairs currently has projects worth just under $200 million that are either under way or have just been completed.

The latest compendium of diplomatic makeovers for the past year includes a new embassy in Spain, relocated into a magnificent downtown office tower described by Foreign Affairs as "the most prestigious and emblematic building of the 21st century in Madrid."

Just fitting up the embassy offices in the ultra-modern Madrid tower cost Canadian taxpayers $4.7 million.

A few lucky embassy staffers got some nice digs in the past year. The Canadian government paid $2.5 million for one house in Washington, and another $2.1 million for a staff quarters in London.

Canada’s embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, was damaged by the devastating earthquake in January this year. In the aftermath, the Canadian government paid $1.4 million for emergency repairs to the embassy, and another $1.7 million for temporary staff housing.

After years of trying to move from owning embassies to leasing them, Foreign Affairs is now building a number of new ones, including in Moscow ($8.3 million), Damascus ($6.4 million), Prague ($4.8 million), Dhaka, Bangladesh ($4.2 million), and Stockholm ($4 million).

Construction of a new embassy in Pakistan has already cost more than $7 million just for the land and preliminary plans.

The largest single embassy project detailed in the public accounts for the past year was in Kabul, as Canada prepares to withdraw from its combat mission in Afghanistan and expand its civilian presence there.

Spending on the project in the past year topped $20 million, including $9 million for renovations, $11 million to buy property, and another $1.4 million to clear it of possible landmines.

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