Security costs for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry hit more than $50,000 in the few months the couple lived in Canada as they stepped back from their royal duties, according to documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation through access to information requests.
The costs were piling up even as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to say whether or not Canadians were paying to protect the royal couple.
The documents show the RCMP spent at least $56,384 from Nov. 18, 2019, to Jan. 19, 2020. The email records also show the RCMP was worried about the issue “costing us huge” while attracting a lot of media attention.
“More than $50,000 is nothing to sneeze at, especially when you consider the fact that this is taxpayers’ money covering bills for one of the most famous and wealthy couples in the world,” said Aaron Wudrick, Federal Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “Had the government not cut them off and had Meghan and Harry stayed in Canada, the bill could have easily turned into millions.”
The current bill does not include the salaries paid to the Mounties on duty and only shows the pay costs such as overtime, travel, meals, incidentals and accommodations.
More than 80,000 Canadians signed the Canadian Taxpayers Federation petition telling Trudeau to welcome the royal couple, but to not pay for their costs with taxpayers’ money.
During the couple’s brief time in Canada, there was much debate over who was to pay for their protection. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation advocated against spending any taxpayers’ money on the couples expenses. The petition drive generated media interest from London to Washington.
“We’re proud to have given voice to the vast majority of Canadians who felt subsidizing the Sussexes’ lifestyle choices was an outrageous use of tax dollars,” said Wudrick.
The RCMP unit in charge of protection recognized the debate at the time, with National Division commanding officer Bernadine Chapman touching on the furor in an email to two colleagues on Jan. 10, 2020.
“Media is on this like a hot potato ... so lots of coverage of the potential of the royals to spend half their time in Canada now, as an independent couple. Media spin is about the cost to Canadians,” wrote Chapman. “We are having a greater conversation next week on the go forward on this. This has a potential to cost us huge!”
The email exchange happened on Jan. 10, 2020, and concerned a briefing note meant for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair. The briefing appears to have been presented to Blair in early February, after multiple public dodges on the issue of paying for the royal couple’s needs by both Blair and Trudeau.
Blair first touched on the issue on Jan. 21 in Winnipeg, telling reporters at the time: “I can tell you now we are not engaged in providing those security services.”
When that turned out to not be the case, Blair later told the CBC in February the contradiction was due to a “misunderstanding,” and taxpayer-funded protection would cease “in the coming weeks.”
Asked for comment, the RCMP said their protection of the couple ended on March 14. They refused to provide a total summary of costs for the whole visit.
“For security reasons and to protect our operations, we are not releasing salary costs,” read a statement from the RCMP. “Security costs for protection are covered through the existing operational budget.”
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has filed access to information requests to obtain the total of all public spending on the couple throughout their stay in Canada, including RCMP salary costs.