Harper’s abuse of Challenger jets, government resources unacceptable

by: Obert Madondo | April 2, 2014

The Conservatives’ abuse of the Challenger jets and other government resources might end soon if the New Democrats are successful with their latest motion.

On Tuesday, the NDP tabled an opposition day motion in the House of Commons that would limit the use of the jests to Canadian government business only.

The NDP wants MPs to declare that, “in the opinion of the House, government planes, and in particular the plane used by the Prime Minister, should only be used for government purposes and should not be used to transport anyone other than those associated with such purposes, or those required for the safety and security of the Prime Minister and his family.”

“The Conservatives are taking advantage of government resources for party benefit and we need to establish clear rules to stop this,” said NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus. “There is no good reason why Conservative party officials are flying around on these planes and not even paying the full costs. The planes are exclusively for government business or to transport the Prime Minister and his family.”

The motion follows revelations that Harper has been using the jest to fly Conservative Party officials and friends. According to iPolitics:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party has racked up tens of thousands of dollars in flights on government Challenger aircraft to ferry the prime minister, staff and a longtime party fundraiser around the country, iPolitics has learned.

While the party or Conservative officials repaid the Department of National Defence for use of the planes to travel to partisan Conservative Party events, the amount the party has repaid pales in comparison to the cost to taxpayers incurred by using the government planes.

An analysis by iPolitics of invoices obtained under the Access to Information Act shows that the Conservative Party has reimbursed DND 17 times since April 2006 for a total of $37,272. However, with the cost of flying the Challengers ranging between $2,314 and $3,868 an hour, those flights cost Canadian taxpayers more than $118,090…

Among those who have taken advantage of a ride on the Challengers is Mark Kihn, a longtime fundraiser for the Conservative Party and one of the close inner circle of people Stephen Harper consulted when he contemplated running for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance.

Last year, the prime minister blurred the lines between his party and the government when he had one of the government planes, an Airbus Polaris, painted blue, red and white, the colours synonymous with the Conservative party of Canada.

Then NDP leader Tom Mulcair accused Harper of converting the aircraft into a mobile campaign billboard for the Conservative Party.

“The colours of the plane, the whole detailing is clearly patterned on the Conservative Party,” Mulcair said. “I can tell you this, that when we form government in 2015, we will not be painting that plane orange.”

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter.com/Obiemad