Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland stayed in the wrong city during the latest climate conference in Scotland, according to documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
“Did Freeland forget to check Google Maps?” asked Franco Terrazzano, Federal Director of the CTF. “Taxpayers shouldn’t be billed thousands of dollars extra because a minister stays in Edinburgh when the actual conference is in Glasgow.”
Freeland travelled to Scotland for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, better known as COP26, with Deputy Minister of Finance Michael Sabia, then-policy director Leslie Church, and Bronwen Jervis, a senior communications advisor.
While the conference was held in Glasgow, all four stayed 86 km away in Edinburgh during the two days Freeland was attending the gathering. The finance department paid over $3,000 for St Andrews Chauffeurs, a luxury executive car service, to shuttle Freeland, Sabia, Church and Jervis between the two cities.
According to Google Maps, it takes about 90 minutes to drive from Edinburgh to Glasgow.
About 121 trains run between Glasgow and Edinburgh per day, including multiple direct trains. Train passengers are able to make the journey in 49 minutes.
While prices may have varied at the time of COP26, Freeland’s group could have paid roughly $50 each, per day and round trip, for first class seats on direct trains going back and forth between the two cities, adding up to around $400.
“Here’s a crazy idea: the next time Freeland wants to attend an international conference she should try staying in the same city instead of billing taxpayers for a luxury chauffeur service,” said Terrazzano. “And why did the minister and her staff drive when they could have taken trains that were cheaper and faster?”
The finance department paid for rooms at Edinburgh’s Hotel Indigo, a four-star “boutique hotel” located in the downtown core of the Scottish capital. The rooms for Sabia, Church, and Jervis each cost between $650 to $680 per night, while Freeland’s room was over $740 a night.
Freeland’s flight to Edinburgh cost $11,573 and Sabia’s flight cost $10,640. Church paid $4,215 and Jervis paid $3,235.
The combined cost from all four travellers was just under $42,000 for a three-day trip.
The finance department didn’t explain why the four delegates had stayed in Edinburgh despite the conference being in Glasgow.
It also did not explain why a private chauffeur service was paid to shuttle the delegates, or provide any explanation on why train tickets were not purchased instead. Questions about the flight costs were also unanswered.
Canada’s 276-person delegation was the largest one sent by a G7 nation to the COP26 conference, including the United Kingdom, which hosted the event and sent 227 delegates.
Full costs for 2021’s conference have been listed as over $1 million, though a full total has not been published. The federal government spent over $680,000 for a previous conference in 2019.
“It’s extremely disappointing that the finance minister is taking taxpayers for a ride like this,” said Terrazzano. “Freeland is supposed to be protecting the public purse, not wasting tax dollars on luxury shuttles because she didn’t stay in the same city as the conference.”
Photo of Edinburgh in main image originally by Chris Fleming from UK - Evening view across Carlton Hill towards the Caste, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38431348