Global Affairs defensive as cultural fund confirmed to be overbudget, burning through millions

Author: 2020/05/22


A little-known pot of money held by Canada’s foreign service has been going overbudget by millions each year since launch.

In 2019, government documents obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter showed that the Department of Foreign Affairs used a $1.75 million “mission cultural fund” to fly Canadian chefs business class to overseas postings anywhere from Jerusalem to Singapore.

The expenses included roughly $15,000 to fly an unnamed chef to the Dominican Republic to cook for a 2017 Canada Day banquet, meant to promote the country’s “global image.”  

After the initial reports on the chef expenses, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation asked for the total amounts paid out by the fund since the launch of the program.

The records released by the ministry show the program well over-budget from launch.

From 2016 to 2017, the fund spent $2,088,577, over budget by $388,577. According to Global Affairs, 217 initiatives were supported that year.

The next year, the fund spent $5,240,646, over budget by $3,490,646. 621 initiatives were supported that year.

From 2018 to 2019, the fund spent $4,008,018, over budget by $2,258,018. 634 initiatives were supported that year.

Amounts for the current budget year are pending.

A breakdown of the spending by month is not available as of this report, but the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has sent information requests seeking that information.

The fund was introduced in 2016 and meant to “leverage Canadian cultural initiatives to promote our artists abroad while advancing foreign policy priorities,” according to Global Affairs Canada’s Stuart Savage, speaking during a Senate committee hearing on Dec. 6, 2017.

The ministry told the Canadian Taxpayers Federation that money from the fund is spent after proposals are submitted from Canadian embassies, which are reviewed and approved at headquarters.

The proposals are made with “local cultural partners” for funding, and have criteria including the amount leveraged from those local partners and value for money.

As for why the fund was going overbudget each year since launch, the ministry was defensive.

According to the foreign service, Canadian Heritage increased the money in the fund by $5.2 million in the first two years as part of Canada 150 celebrations.

The amount in the third year was the result of “investment of surpluses” by Global Affairs to support a “high demand from missions and their local partners for Canadian culture.”

For the latest budget year, Global Affairs says the budget has returned to $1.75 million.

Asked about plans to revise the budget of the fund, the ministry simply stated they were considering ways to “advance cultural diplomacy.”  

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has submitted access to information requests in order to view every activity supported by the fund, per year and per month.

Once the records are released, this story will be updated.  

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