Harper gives EU leaders free plane ride; CBC report pegs tab at over $300,000 | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Harper gives EU leaders free plane ride; CBC report pegs tab at over $300,000

Stephen Harper boards a military Airbus A-310 plane on June 11, 2013 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
September 28, 2014 - 6:25 PM

OTTAWA - The Prime Minister's Office is defending a decision to give a European Union delegation a free plane flight home last week at a cost that one media report estimated at more than $300,000.

Jason MacDonald says a Canadian Forces Airbus was offered as a courtesy to ensure "that no elements" of Friday's Canada-EU summit were cut short.

Two top European Union leaders, Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso, were in Ottawa where they signed a Canada-EU free-trade agreement.

The CBC is reporting that adding a Toronto reception to the visit would have made it impossible for the EU delegation to catch a commercial flight from Ottawa and make it to a Saturday meeting in Brussels.

The CBC says Prime Minister Stephen Harper authorized the use of the Airbus that he normally uses on foreign trips.

Sunday's CBC report estimated the cost of the flight to be in the neighbourhood of $338,055, basing its calculations on government figures from 2012 on the estimated hourly cost to operate the aircraft.

An initial email response from MacDonald did not contest the CBC's cost estimate, instead touting the benefits of the trade deal and the summit.

"Friday's Summit allowed business leaders to meet and discuss the opportunities the Canada-Europe Free Trade Agreement present," the email said. "The Airbus was offered as a courtesy to our European Union guests."

Harper has touted the trade deal as a major achievement for his government, which faces an election next year.

Last year he flew to Brussels with great fanfare for a signing ceremony on an agreement in principle.

Concerns were raised last week that some EU members might try to scuttle the deal, but Van Rompuy, the European Council President and Barroso, the European Commission President, both joined Harper in dismissing any suggestion the deal faced any significant difficulties.

It must still be approved by all 28 EU members and the Canadian provinces.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2014
The Canadian Press

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