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Allegations of financial mismanagement put brakes on H-o-S study

OTTAWA, Ont. -- A Commons transport committee junket to better familiarize members with the trucking industry and p...

OTTAWA, Ont. — A Commons transport committee junket to better familiarize members with the trucking industry and proposed Hours-of-Service (H-o-S) changes dies after total cost pegged at $360,000.

It’s hard to imagine spending $3,000 on coffee, but that’s exactly what the committee budgeted as six days of hearings were to truck their way across the country and breifly into the U.S. From Apr. 14-19, the committee of nine MPs planned to visit Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg for $117,048.

As well, one clerk, one researcher, one support staff, three interpreters and two console operators would also make the trip flying economy class for $68,000. A bus rental would drive members around at a cost $2,000; and while on the topic of ground transportation, every person was to be allowed $100 to go back and forth from the Ottawa airport, despite the fact it is usually a $25 cab ride from downtown.

While truckers are made to scrape by with 50 per cent of $33, each of the 17 travellers would also receive a per diem of $61.50 based on the Treasury Board rate for public servants. The per diem includes $10.70 for breakfast, $10.45 for lunch, $29.35 for dinner and $11.50 for incidentals. (By the way, MPs who recently saw their salaries rise to $135,000 from $131,000 do not receive per diems when they do committee work in Ottawa.) Accommodations were estimated at $14,875 for five nights; meeting room rentals came to $4,800 a day; beverages over three days would cost $19,200; and $3,000 was added for photocopying, faxes and couriers.

And that was just the western swing. There is more: The committee also wanted to travel to Saint John, N.B., St. Stephen, N.B., Halifax and Montreal for $82,038. From May 26 to May 31, it had planned to go to Washington and San Diego for $111,398, of which $75,690 was the estimated airfare and $24,500 was slated for accommodation. It’s expected, too, that the final report would have cost $50,000 to print, to pay for witnesses, and other expenses. The trip was cancelled after the Canadian Alliance denied unanimous consent to the travel, with James Moore, the Alliance transport critic, calling the proposed journey, “excessive and a waste.”

He noted the committee is not studying a piece of legislation, rather regulatory changes affecting the hours a trucker works. He says the issue has been studied for years and the committee should be looking at the airlines, the ports and the railways. Meanwhile, Commons officials say trips are always estimated higher than the actual costs.

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