A week ago, Canadian International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda resigned from her post after her spending habits came into public view earlier this year. It was revealed that she was a lavish spender when it came to travelling. In one instance, Oda rejected a five-star London hotel for another venue that was more luxurious and more than twice the cost. During the same three-day trip, she hired a luxury vehicle and driver for an average $1,000 a day and even bought a glass of orange juice for $16. The difference in the rooms, car service and the orange juice were repaid after the figures were revealed.
According to newly released reports, Oda spent almost $16,000 on limo and vehicle services during the last five years. She spent $8,816 on luxury car rentals from Pearson International Airport to other Greater Toronto Area locations between August 2007 and April 2008. In February 2008, one trip racked up a $1,070 bill for a 12-hour rental related to an event to announce funding for a child protection partnership. Another $892.50 was spent on a car and driver to wait at the Sheraton Centre hotel in Toronto for ten hours while she went to the Toronto Garrison Officers’ Ball.
Most of the trips ranged from one to three hours at a cost of between $270 and $400. The invoices don’t clearly state where Oda was departing from or her destination. The other $7,179.82 was spent on rentals while Oda travelled abroad between 2009 and 2012. The expenses reportedly fell within the ministerial travel rules, which permit ministers to include fees for use of rental, government-owned or privately-owned vehicles. Her office made the final decision of how she travelled. She has since repaid $3,000 of this $16,000 bill, leaving taxpayers to foot $13,000.
Some questions about the minister’s spending habits overseas haven’t been resolved yet. According to records, she modified the amounts related to expenses on several recent trips. However, she won’t tell why the figures were changed. Then two weeks ago, she advised the prime minister of her resignation. She didn’t say why she was resigning, and her office only said that she wasn’t available for comment.
In a statement on her website, however, she said it’s been an honour and privilege to serve the constituents in Uxbridge, Clarington and Scugog for more than eight years. She has had the chance to witness the hardships of the most vulnerable people in the world during her time as minister for international co-operation. She has also seen the great compassion of Canadians for people in need. She’s grateful for her staff’s and House of Commons and Senate colleagues’ support. She added appreciation to Harper and his cabinet for their outstanding leadership.
Returning the sentiment, Harper said in a statement that he would like to thank Oda on behalf of the government for her hard work and dedication to the constituents of Durham and for her accomplishments. She made a substantial contribution to her riding, province and country since being elected into Parliament in 2004. Under her guidance, the nation has led a significant initiative to save the lives of mothers, newborns and children in the developing world. Through her leadership, they have also met their commitment to double aid in Africa ahead of schedule. This is a record to be proud of, he added.
Oda has also faced another major controversy at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Aid organisation Kairos was rejected government funding in 2009. Initially, Oda said in 2010 that the agency didn’t approve funding due to the organisation’s proposals not meeting government standards. However, she was forced to apologise to the House of Commons later when a document turned up showing that agency officials had given the funding the go ahead. She had the approval form changed to say that the approval was “not” given.
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