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Taxpayers pay for $1,000 resort trip
Minister Ramsay defends stay in Montebello, Que. for mining exec's wedding as an 'opportunity to get together with some key figures'

Randi Beers
Northern News Services
Monday, August 10, 2015

After the national roundtable on missing and murdered indigenous women wrapped up in Ottawa this February, Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister David Ramsay hopped into a rental Audi A4 and drove approximately 100 km to attend a wedding at a five-star resort in Montebello, Que. - all on the government's dime.

NNSL photo/graphic

A dogsledder rides on the grounds outside the Fairmont le Chateau Montebello in Montebello, Que. Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister David Ramsay charged two nights at this hotel to the GNWT in order to attend a wedding earlier this year. - photo courtesy of Leonardo Worldwide Corporation

The bride was Yvonne Jones, the Liberal MP for Labrador, and the groom was Joseph Lanzon, vice-president of corporate affairs for Canadian Zinc Corporation, the company which owns the Prairie Creek zinc, lead and copper project currently working toward becoming a full-fledged mine in the Deh Cho.

According to ministerial expense reports obtained by News/North under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Ramsay charged the GNWT for his rental car, two night's stay at the Fairmont le Chateau Montebello and per diems for his breakfast, lunch, dinner as well as incidental expenses during his stay.

Ramsay defends the expenses, calling the wedding an "opportunity to get together with some key figures" and the most economical use of his duty travel time.

According to the GNWT duty travel rules, if a travelling employee has unscheduled days between meetings while on the road, he or she is expected to consider whether it is more cost-effective to travel back to Yellowknife or rent a hotel room and work from afar.

Ramsay told News/North it was more economical for him to attend the wedding than it was to fly home in the free time he had between meetings during this trip.

"I was on my way to Toronto and after that in Washington," he said.

"I was gone from Yellowknife for nine days again right between a conference on missing and murdered indigenous women and the (mining) conference in Toronto ... That was the best use of my time and with our (directive on) duty travel I must be economical and maximize productive work time and it maximized my productive work time."

Premier Bob McLeod went to Montebello with Ramsay, according to his travel itinerary, but his trip is listed as personal business and he did not claim any of the expenses he incurred while staying at the luxury hotel.

The total amount Ramsay expensed the territorial government to attend the event is $1,093.06. This includes a $757.77 hotel bill, $286.08 for a Budget rental Audi A4 picked from their luxury "cool cars" selection and $119.40 for per diems.

A total of $70.19 is subtracted from Ramsay's hotel claim as it is listed as a bar expense.

The wedding is included in a travel expense report spanning the dates of Feb. 26 to March 7 in which the minister claimed his trips to the national roundtable on missing and murdered indigenous women in Ottawa, the wedding in Montebello, a Prospector's and Developer's Association of Canada convention in Toronto and a Pacific Northwest Economic Region summit in Washington D.C.

Although the trip to Montebello appears in Ramsay's expense claim, it is not listed on the Industry, Tourism and Investment ministerial travel report, which is made public on the Department of Finance website on a quarterly basis.

According to assistant comptroller Louise Lavoie with the Department of Finance, ministers authorize their own expense claims for all domestic travel, although the reports do go through the Department of Finance for oversight to make sure travel occurs according to standards listed in the department's financial administration manual.

"If there is anything that catches their attention that is not explained, if there is any sort of variance ... there should be a written record in the travel report," said Lavoie.

There is no indication in Ramsay's report that the wedding he attended was flagged by a Department of Finance expenditure authority.

This isn't the first time cabinet members of this assembly have been the subject of scrutiny for their duty travel. In January 2013, Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins accused cabinet ministers, including then-Transportation Minister Ramsay, of violating territorial travel policy for bringing family on a government charter plane to the Deh Cho Bridge launch party.

At the time, News/North reported Ramsay brought his girlfriend and two children, Premier McLeod brought his wife and Education Minister Jackson Lafferty brought his son.

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