IN THE NEWS ~ MP refuses to join flight for cost concern

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MP refuses to join flight for cost concern
BRYN WEESE, PARLIAMENTARY BUREAU

An NDP MP is boycotting a private government flight to B.C. Wednesday for the Paralympic Games because he says the cost is excessive and commercial flights are available.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay and four others are flying to Vancouver for the Paralympic Games in a Challenger jet, which costs $9,000 an hour, including flight costs such as fuel.

The NDP's Peter Julian, a B.C. MP who said he turned down an invite to join the flight and will make his own way to B.C. in economy class, said using the Challenger will cost upwards of $100,000 for a round-trip flight.

"Here's clearly a case where commercial flights would be better value and better for the taxpayer," Julian said.

But Dan Dugas, a spokesman for MacKay, said the Challenger was being used because MacKay had to be back in Ottawa Friday morning for question period.

Dugas said Julian will end up costing taxpayers more because the jet is still going to B.C. and taxpayers will also be footing Julian's bill, whereas he could have flown for free with MacKay.

Liberal MP Scott Andrews accepted MacKay's invite, but admitted he had reservations" about taking the Challenger.

But Andrews said there is a difference between using a government plane to support the Paralympics and to fly to Tim Hortons for a photo-op, as Finance Minister Jim Flaherty did last Friday to promote the government's plan to rein in spending. Flaherty's private flight reportedly cost $3,100.

bryn.weese@sunmedia.ca