CTF taking legal action to force feds to disclose who stayed in $6K hotel room

Author: Ryan Thorpe 2023/02/15

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is launching a legal challenge with the Office of the Information Commissioner to force the government to disclose who stayed in the $6,000-per-night luxury hotel suite during Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral.

The CTF filed an access-to-information request for documents showing who stayed in the room. But the government redacted the name of the individual in question, citing security concerns and a clause in the Access to Information Act that prohibits the release of personal information.

“As a matter of principle, the government owes taxpayers transparency,” said Franco Terrazzano, Federal Director of the CTF. “Taxpayers paid the bills, and we deserve to know who wasted our money staying in the $6,000-per-night hotel room.”

Canada sent a sizeable delegation to Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral in London in September 2022. 

The delegation included Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family, Governor General Mary Simon, four former prime ministers, two former governors general and three First Nations leaders, among others. 

In October 2022, the Toronto Sun reported the delegation expensed nearly $400,000 in hotel costs alone, including the $6,000-per-night “River Suite” at the Corinthia Hotel. 

The Corinthia is described as “one of the top luxury hotels in central London,” and the $6,000-per-night suite boasts a view of the River Thames, a marble bathroom and “complimentary butler service.”

“Several top-shelf hotels including The Four Seasons, The Langham, The Savoy, even the Shangri La all offer lower prices than the Corinthia,” according to the Toronto Sun.

In response to questions from the Toronto Sun, the government refused to identify the individual who had stayed in the River Suite. 

Soon after, a spokesperson for Governor General Mary Simon – who was then in hot water over runaway costs on her March 2022 trip to the Middle East – confirmed she did not stay in the River Suite.  

This week, the Toronto Sun reported that bureaucrats in Global Affairs drafted several responses to media requests on the matter, but were ordered not to respond by political staff in Minister Melanie Joly’s office. 

Last fall, the CTF filed an access-to-information request seeking documents naming the person who stayed in the River Suite. The CTF received a response, but the name in question had been redacted. 

The government cited clauses “16(2)” and “19(1)” of the Access to Information Act when justifying its decision to redact the name, which relate to “security” and “personal information,” respectively. 

A lawyer representing the CTF has filed an official complaint with the OIC, seeking to compel the government to release the unredacted records. 

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs to come clean and tell taxpayers who stayed in the River Suite,” Terrazzano said. “You don’t get to be prime minister and hide how you spend our tax dollars.”

The OIC is the body responsible for investigating complaints and resolving disputes related to the federal access-to-information system.

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