Bill for India trip balloons

The Canadian Press
Mia Rabson

OTTAWA–New documents suggest the bills for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s troubled trip to India in February exceed $1.5 million.
The latest figures released by the government include $323,000 for hotel stays, $485,070 to fly and staff the VIP Airbus for 43.7 hours over the nine-day trip, $5,235 for cellphone fees, $5,100 to buy Canadian wines for use at official events, and $17,044.21 to fly Vancouver Chef Vikram Vij to India, where he cooked a dinner for a meeting and an official reception at the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi.
Conservative MPs say the lavish trip was a huge waste of money and produced virtually no return on the investment other than the embarrassment of the Prime Minister’s Office accidentally inviting to a reception a man convicted of attempting to murder an Indian politician more than 30 years ago.
Trudeau said the trip helped secure $1 billion in two-way business deals between Canadian and Indian companies that will help create 5,800 jobs in Canada.
He also noted he spent less to go to India for nine days than Prime Minister Stephen Harper did to travel there for six days in 2012 or three days in 2009.
Trudeau’s office said the 2009 India trip cost $1.4 million and the 2012 trip $2.5 million.
The latter bill included $1.2 million to fly two armoured Cadillacs and a bullet-proof SUV when the RCMP deemed them necessary for security purposes.
Trudeau used cars provided by the Indian government, with Canada spending about $58,800 on cars and drivers for the trip.
Conservative MP Alex Nuttall, however, said the trip cost a lot with nothing to show for it but an “international embarrassment.”
“At this point, the evidence is that it was a complete and utter failure,” Nuttall charged.
Trudeau’s Indian excursion was supposed to improve ties between Canada and India, a country of more than 1.3 billion people with one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
On Harper’s 2012 trip, a goal was set to increase two-way trade between Canada and India to $15 billion by 2015.
It has grown substantially, more than doubling to $8.4 billion in 2016, but still is far shy of the goal.
Indian concerns about Sikh separatist sympathizers dogged Trudeau throughout the trip and it appeared Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi purposely gave Trudeau the cold shoulder for the first several days.