Tony Clement says Crown corporations to be hit with new travel restrictions
Move comes a week after CBC exposed luxury junkets by Royal Canadian Mint staff
The federal government is bringing in new rules for Crown corporations to try to rein in their spending on travel and hospitality, a week after a CBC investigation exposed luxury trips by Royal Canadian Mint staff and executives — including the government's own patronage appointees.
Treasury Board President Tony Clement said Monday that a recently revealed "abuse of taxpayer money" is prompting the changes.
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"Recently, I have been made aware of incidents where expenditures have not been managed in a responsible manner. This abuse of taxpayer money is unacceptable and will not be tolerated," Clement said in a statement.
The new measures will subject all 44 federal Crown corporations to the standard government-wide directive for travel, hospitality, conferences and events. That document sets out steps public officials must take before authorizing travel and hospitality expenditures, such as determining whether a meeting could be held by video conference instead of in person, and stating justifications for each business trip.
The directive does not contain any explicit restrictions on business-class flights or on reimbursing officials for travel by their spouses. But it does say that all trips must use "the most economical means" of travel and that the number of people travelling for government work must be kept to the "minimum necessary."
Currently, Crown corporations have latitude to set their own travel and hospitality rules, though the government has leaned heavily on many them for years to conform to its policy. The rules of several Crown corporations reviewed by CBC News specifically allowed executives to bring along their spouses on trips abroad, or to fly business class on short-haul flights, neither of which is permitted for federal bureaucrats.
"This initiative will ensure Crown corporations have a consistent and uniform oversight mechanism, bringing them in line with the same guidelines as public service employees," Clement's statement said.
Last week, an investigation by CBC's the fifth estate reported that the Royal Canadian Mint authorized and paid for staff and senior executives — including the Conservative government's own appointees on the mint's board of directors — to go on a series of networking junkets after the conclusion of major international conferences.
In the most recent case, 11 mint staff and executives stayed for three days at a luxury, all-inclusive beach resort in Mexico last year.
In previous years, personnel went on post-conference trips to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, a Thai beach resort and the Austrian countryside.
The mint announced June 1 that it was overhauling its travel policy to forbid such trips.