National Post (Latest Edition)
Payette’s swearing-in blew budget, documents show
Documents show glitzy affair cost $649K
OTTAWA • Julie Payette’s swearing- in as Governor General in 2017 blew past its pre- approved budget limit, costing taxpayers $ 649,000 for a glitzy afternoon and evening, newly released federal documents show.
The federal budget had set aside $ 500,000 for an installation ceremony, knowing that someone was due to replace David Johnston at Rideau Hall on Oct. 2.
Instead organizers spent 30 per cent more than expected for the two- part event: a midday ceremony attended by 1,000 guests on the Hill, and then an evening cocktail party for 2,000 at the Canadian Museum of History.
This scale of extra spending required personal approval by Mélanie Joly, the minister of Canadian Heritage.
And the expense documents released through an access- to- information request hearken back to the days when the federal government was flush with cash, and not afraid to splash it around.
It was, after all, the year of Canada 150, and of the hundredth anniversary expedition to Vimy Ridge.
From the CF- 18s flying overhead to the musicians, the $ 40,000 snacks and the $ 32,000 open bar bill ( tax and tips extra), the documents lift a curtain to reveal the costs of throwing the big federal party to welcome Payette. Including $ 18,000 for drapes, flowers and other decor.
But they also show how some public servants worked to save money, buying supplies where they could at Costco and even Dollarama.
There were even some surprising freebies, at least for the Canadian Heritage budget. National Defence didn’t charge a cent to bring in artillery ( four guns and crews) and ammunition for a 21-gun salute. The military also covered the cost of sending two CF-18S from Bagotville — $34,800.
Even so, with only 10 days to go before the ceremony, a Heritage staffer had to write a briefing note to the minister to explain the high cost and ask for approval to spend it.
“Each Installation Ceremony is unique and reflects the preferences of the individual involved and the ongoing evolution of the Office of the Governor General,” the note says. It adds: “The Department is managing these costs within existing funds.”
Among the details in the 257 pages of Canadian Heritage expenses are:
❚ ❚ Food at the evening cocktail reception ($ 40,000) included slow- braised Alberta beef over Prince Edward Island mashed potatoes, fried chicken bites with maple whisky glaze and chive cream, apple pie pops with smoked Canadian bacon maple sauce, and maple balsamic quinoa and grain bamboo cones.
❚ Drinks ( estimated in advance $ 32,000) were also Canadian: Jackson Triggs sauvignon blanc and merlot, and Molson, Rickard’s and Coors beer, estimated at three per guest. Plus soft drinks. The documents don’t give the final bar bill. There were 12 bartenders behind three “mega-bars.”
To this overall food and drink bill of $ 72,000 they added tips ($ 8,935), an administration fee and sales tax, totalling $96,854. Documents also mention a hospitality contingency fund ( about $ 15,500), in case guests were thirsty. They don’t tell whether it was spent.
And that ’ s on top of $ 20,384 for snacks ( no alcohol) for the afternoon crowd of 1,000, from the House of Commons food service.
❚ Music was everywhere. Payette is herself an accomplished musician. And she brought in big-name acts for the Hill ceremony, with a total entertainment bill estimated in advance at $110,000. (Each of the following fees had tax added as well.)
Ginette Reno sang for $ 12,500; her fee included attending the rehearsal and sound check.
Singers’ contracts also include a separate section that stipulated the correct words to O Canada and God Save the Queen.
The ceremony also brought Zuruba, a Montreal percussion band with an Afro- Brazilian sound. Its contract called for recessional music at the end of the Hill ceremony, a carnival- style performance “and fusion with a funk rhythm.” Fee: $15,000.
Innu singer- songwriter Florent Vollant, $ 7,250. Counter-tenor Daniel Taylor, from Toronto, $11,500. Tafelmusik, baroque musicians from Toronto, $ 7,011.25. Claudette Commanda, an Algonquin elder from Maniwaki for an Aboriginal ceremony, $500.
Stage manager, $1,160.
EACH INSTALLATION CEREMONY IS UNIQUE.
❚ Then there were all kinds of logistics, and those add up. The ceremony required invitations and programs at a buck apiece ($7,869); audio equipment ($9,100) and bus rental for VIPS ($5,000).
This is where staffers turned creative, shopping at Jean Coutu (makeup for one performer), Costco ( some items for the boxed lunches for staff on site) and Dollarama (25 packs of napkins, $3 each.)
❚ Since some people travelled to the ceremony the final estimated cost of transportation and accommodations ran to $35,000.
❚ There were $ 150,000 in payments to other government departments, National Defence, Rideau Hall, the Senate and Public Services and Procurement Canada.