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Cost of passengers’ food and drinks on Trudeau flights to Philippines, Turkey — $1,300 per person

OTTAWA — Passengers who accompanied Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his first two international trips were apparently well fed.

The government has revealed, in response to a written question by the Conservatives, that the cost of food and beverages supplied aboard a government Airbus used for the trips amounted to just over $1,300 per person.

Conservative MP Blaine Calkins calls the price tag “outrageous.”

But a spokesman for National Defence, which is responsible for the government’s fleet of air craft, says the total includes the actual cost of catering and delivering multiple meals on each round trip, as well as related costs such as disposable cutlery, napkins, dish washing, airport administrative fees and security charges and local taxes.

Daniel Lebouthillier said the defence department “tries to keep costs to a minimum” when choosing items from a catering company’s menu. But the department’s options are “sometimes quite limited” when dealing with caterers at overseas airports.

Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian PressPrime Minister Justin Trudeau departs after attending the G20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey on Monday, November 16, 2015., en route to the APEC Summit in the Philippines. The government has revealed, in response to a written question by the Conservatives, that the cost of food and beverages supplied aboard a government Airbus used for the trips amounted to just over $1,300 per person.

The total also includes the cost of feeding and watering journalists who covered the trip, which would have been wholly or partially recovered since media outlets pay hefty fees for a seat on the prime minister’s plane.

Given the number of legs in each of the lengthy trips and the number of meals served, the Prime Minister’s Office said the cost actually works out to $54 per person for each meal — which compares favourably to the $41.70 per person the previous Conservative government acknowledged spending in 2009 on meals during trips on Challenger jets, smaller air craft which are used only for short-haul flights within Canada and occasionally the United States.

Calkins was not mollified by the explanation.

More than $1,000 for food and beverages per passenger per trip “is more than the average Canadian earns in two weeks,” he said.

“Again, I’m just not sure anybody’s minding the store when it comes to remembering that it’s taxpayers who are on the hook for all these things.”

Calkins said the meal tab is part of a “pattern” of excessive spending by the Trudeau government, which has been plagued for weeks by the disclosure of generous expenses claimed by political staffers, including the prime minister’s top two aides, for relocating to Ottawa and by ministers for limousine and photographers’ services.

Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian PressTrudeau arrives in Manila, Philippines on Tuesday, November 17, 2015, to attend the APEC Summit. The Prime Minister’s Office said the cost actually works out to $54 per person for each meal — which compares favourably to the $41.70 per person the previous Conservative government acknowledged spending in 2009 on meals during trips on Challenger jets.

Some of those expenses, including a portion of the Trudeau aides’ moving expenses, have been reimbursed.

The latest disclosure shows that $72,040 was spent on food and beverages for 55 passengers — including almost two dozen journalists — aboard the prime ministerial plane during a trip to Turkey and the Philippines last November for a G20 summit and an APEC leaders’ summit.

Another $81,383 was spent on food and drink for 62 passengers — including more than a dozen journalists — aboard the prime minister’s plane for a trip later the same month to London, where Trudeau met the Queen, Malta, where he attended a Commonwealth summit, and Paris, where he participated in a United Nations climate change conference.

For security reasons, the prime minister is required to fly only on a government plane, even for purely personal trips.

By Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

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