Cabinet Billed Over $275,000 in Expenses for 2022 Inflation Summit

Cabinet Billed Over $275,000 in Expenses for 2022 Inflation Summit
Members of the federal cabinet stand behind Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he speaks at a media availability after a cabinet shuffle at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on July 26, 2023. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)
Amanda Brown

Cabinet incurred expenses exceeding $250,000 during a three-day retreat focused on addressing inflation, according to records.

The retreat took place at a Vancouver Hyatt in the fall of 2022 and incurred substantial costs, such as tens of thousands of dollars worth of food including catering from a café known for its $88 "millionaire's cut" steak and lobster plate.

“Families are feeling the impacts of global inflation particularly through rising food and gasoline costs,” the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a statement at the time. “The Prime Minister and ministers will keep working together to further strengthen the economy to meet the needs of Canadians, making life more affordable for families.”

The cabinet retreat spanned three days from Sept. 6, 2022. “Cabinet will drive progress on our continued efforts to make life more affordable for Canadians and keep delivering economic growth that benefits anyone,” the PMO said, as first reported by Blacklock’s Reporter.

Room charges were $129,469. Cabinet also hired private security guards costing $11,533 even though the RCMP were already in attendance. Over three days, expenses totalled $275,469, according to an Inquiry of Ministry tabled in the Commons.

The food bill came to $46,266, comprising $8,850 spent at Cactus Club Café. The menu featured items such as $28 spaghetti, $32 ravioli, $24 hamburgers, and an $88 New York strip loin steak with sautéed prawns and lobster tail known as the “millionaire's cut.”

“Our focus this week as we kick off what will be a busy and important fall of parliamentary work is on the economy,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters at the time. “Whether it’s to make sure we’re growing the economy, making sure we’re creating good jobs now and into the future or directly supporting people and the challenges they are facing around the cost of living, that is our focus.”

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters in Vancouver that she was aware of how the cost of living affected Canadians. She said that "getting that kind of direct fingertip feel of what is happening with the Canadian economy and what Canadians are feeling was really important."

The meeting's expenses were made public at the request of B.C. Conservative MP Rob Morrison, who sought a breakdown of all outlays over $1,000 by category for the cabinet retreat.

The revelations follow a year of scandals surrounding government expense claims, most notably those accrued by the Governor General Mary Simon in 2022.

Data from government documents said Ms. Simon had four overseas engagements and 17 domestic trips across Canada at a cost of $2.78 million, spread across several government ministries and departments.

Franco Terrazzano, director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said the amount was shocking in view of the country's current affordability issue.

"Simon should have the decency and good judgement to understand that many Canadians are struggling and cannot afford to pay for her expensive trips," he said.