The Prime Minister’s Office expenses rose by 6.9 per cent in the last fiscal year as spending for all ministerial offices, including the PMO, reached $68.21-million, according to the federal government’s public accounts for 2020-21.
The great majority of ministerial office spending, including the PMO, was for personnel. Of the $68.21-million spent by ministerial offices, $67.3-million was spent on personnel. All the cabinet ministers, excluding the PMO, spent $58.16-million on their offices last year.
The public accounts, which were tabled in the House of Commons on Dec. 14, show that cabinet office spending rose more than $6.25-million from 2019-20 to 2020-21. The new accounts audit government spending from April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021.
Justin Trudeau’s (Papineau, Que.) PMO spending reached $10.05-million in the last fiscal year, an increase of 6.9 per cent from $9.39-million in 2019-20. The PMO spent $9.84-million on staffing.
The increase was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the PMO.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on Canadians’ lives and the way they work. Workplaces needed to adjust to the new reality to ensure public health and continued operations. The Prime Minister’s Office was no exception,” a PMO spokesperson said in an email, noting that the office created a task force dedicated to responding to COVID-19 issues.
“This is especially important as we face new variants and work to finish the fight against COVID-19. The government will continue to take any and all necessary steps to ensure that Canadians are protected and that we get through this pandemic, together.”
The PMO remarked that its spending is “in line with or lower than some previous governments,” highlighting that adjusted by inflation the $9.84-million spent by the PMO of then-prime minister Stephen Harper in 2009-2010 would be $12.14-million in 2021.
After the PMO, then-government House leader Pablo Rodriguez (Honoré-Mercier, Que.) was the highest-spending office with $2.96-million, closely followed by the ministerial office of Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.) at $2.93-million.
Freeland’s finance minister’s office spent an additional $937,274 from when she was shuffled into the position on Aug. 18, 2020, until March 31, 2021. Before bidding adieu to Parliament Hill, the office of then-finance minister Bill Morneau spent $892,936 for a total annual spending of $1.83-million for the finance minister’s office—a slight increase of 1.3 per cent compared to the previous fiscal year. In its only full fiscal year in place, then-middle class prosperity minister Mona Fortier (Ottawa-Vanier, Ont.), also given the title of associate finance minister, spent $1.02-million. The middle-class prosperity cabinet post has since been discontinued.
Rodriguez’s office spending was the largest rate of increase among all ministerial offices, jumping by 114 per cent from 1.38-million in the previous year when the now-Canadian Heritage minister took over the role from Bardish Chagger (Waterloo, Ont.). Rodriguez has also been the cabinet minister responsible for Quebec since November 2019.
A spokesperson for the Government House Leader’s Office spotlighted Rodriguez’s two roles behind the increased expenditures as his predecessor didn’t occupy two separate roles while in the position.
“This meant that in addition to hiring staff for the Government House Leader’s Office (GHLO), the government House leader and Quebec lieutenant hired staff for a second office—the Quebec Lieutenant’s Office,” the spokesperson said in an email. “The expenditures for the Quebec Lieutenant’s Office were included with the GHLO expenditures in the public accounts, since the new office fell within the purview of Minister Rodriguez. Therefore, these are expenditures for two offices, not just one.”
The spokesperson also noted that with the 2019 election returning a minority Parliament, it brought “additional responsibilities” for the GHLO which led to the hiring of additional staff members.
Freeland’s deputy prime minister’s office has an added $973,925 for exempt staff in ministers’ regional offices, which was formerly a responsibility of the procurement minister until the end of June 2020.
Spending for ministerial offices under the Privy Council Office—which included Trudeau, Freeland, then-government House leader Rodriguez, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister and then-Queen’s Privy Council president Dominic LeBlanc (Beauséjour, N.B.), and then-special representative for the Prairies Jim Carr (Winnipeg South Centre, Man.)—jumped by 28.4 per cent, from $13.7-million to $17.6-million. The fiscal year of 2020-21 included the first full year of Freeland serving as second-in-command and Carr’s then-new position, whose office spending totalled $145,652.
Rounding out the other three cabinet offices with spending of more than $2-million are the offices of then-heritage minister Steven Guilbeault (Laurier-Sainte-Marie, Que.) at $2.25-million, the combined innovation minister’s offices of Navdeep Bains and François-Philippe Champagne (Saint-Maurice-Champlain, Que.) at $2.1-million, and Justice Minister David Lametti’s (LaSalle-Émard-Verdun, Que.) office at $2.01-million.
A spokesperson for the office of Treasury Board President Mona Fortier (Ottawa Vanier, Ont.) said that the government is “committed to responsible financial management and oversight of public funds.”
“Expenditures for ministers’ offices fall under policies for ministers’ offices, which ensure consistency with current government administrative policies and provide clarification of policies and guidelines,” the spokesperson said in an email.
“As is typical in general federal election years, in the fiscal year 2019-2020, some Ministers’ offices had lower staff utilization in that fiscal year, compared to a full year of utilization. As a result, the expenditures reported in public accounts 2020 are lower than those that would be reported in another year.”
Ministerial spending for all cabinet ministers’ offices has increased to $68.21-million in 2020-2021 from $61.96-million in 2019-2020; $62.87-million in 2018-2019; and $56.88-million in 2017-2018.
For the four ministers tasked to the Department of Employment and Social Development—which included Employment, Workforce Development, and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough (Delta, Que.), then-families, children, and social development minister Ahmed Hussen (York South-Weston, Ont.), then-labour minister Filomena Tassi (Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, Ont.), and then-seniors minister Deb Schulte—their offices’ spending increased by 27.8 per cent to $5.55-million up from $4.34-million of the previous fiscal year’s.
Among the largest rates of increase for ministerial office spending were the offices of then-international development minister Karina Gould (Burlington, Ont.) and then-Treasury Board president Jean-Yves Duclos (Québec, Que.). Gould’s office spending increased by 57.6 per cent to $1.27-million compared to the $806,755 spent by the combined ministerial office of Gould and then-international development minister Maryam Monsef in 2019-20. The Treasury Board president’s office spending rose 37.8 per cent from the $1.04-million spent by Duclos and his predecessor Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra, B.C.) in 2019-2020 to $1.45-million the next year.
A spokesperson for the office of the international development minister said in an email that “expenditures vary from year to year due to the various changes in the minister’s office structure,” noting that those changes can be related to “several factors such as staffing levels.”
The spokesperson for Fortier’s office said that the decreased funding of an election year seen in the public accounts of 2019-2020 was behind the jump in spending in the recent public accounts for the office.
“Expenditures were $1.5-million in 2018-2019 and $1.4-million in 2017-2018, compared with $1.04-million in 2019-2020 (the election year), and $1.43-million in 2020-2021,” the spokesperson said.
Despite the need to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, the spending of the office of then-health minister Patty Hajdu (Thunder Bay-Superior North, Ont.) only received a modest bump. It rose 4.5 per cent from $1.49-million to $1.56-million.
While some ministerial offices saw a significant jump in spending, about a dozen offices had decreases in spending.
Office spending for then-public services and procurement minister Anita Anand (Oakville, Ont.) dropped by 26 per cent compared to the year before, mostly coming as a result of the public accounts not listing ministerial regional offices under the procurement minister. The office’s spending went from $2.4-million to $1.78-million. The combined foreign affairs minister’s office of Marc Garneau (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-Westmount, Que.) and Champagne came in at $1.82-million, a decline of 12.8 per cent compared to the previous year’s office held by Champagne and Freeland, which spent $2.09-million. The office of then- Crown–Indigenous relations minister Carolyn Bennett (Toronto-St. Paul’s, Ont.) spent 10.6 per cent less in 2020-21 then the year before, spending $1.24-million compared to $1.38-million.
Ministerial travelling spending plummets during pandemic
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, ministerial office spending on domestic and international travel took a nosedive.
Expenses for domestic and international travel for cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries were down 94 per cent, dropping from $2.03-million to $113,185. For international travel for cabinet ministers, parliamentary secretaries, and ministerial staffers, there was a decrease of 93 per cent in spending, going from $1.49-million in 2019-20 to $98,418 in 2020-21.
Then-foreign minister Champagne’s office spent the most in this category, spending $24,008 on ministerial travel and $93,801 on international travel for himself and his staff.
Then-environment minister Jonathan Wilkinson’s (North Vancouver, B.C.) spent the second-most on travel with $14,893, followed by the then-Treasury Board president Duclos with $12,299.
Bains’ innovation office compiled the second-highest international travel spending, with a meagre $3,004, followed by the office of then-infrastructure minister Catherine McKenna with $1,096.
The Hill Times
EDITOR’S NOTE: The headline of this article was updated on Dec. 30 at 5:09 p.m., to clarify that the Prime Minister’s Office cited the COVID-19 pandemic as impacting its own increased spending, not the increased spending across all cabinet offices. A spokesperson for Treasury Board President Mona Fortier said that overall cabinet office spending rose compared to the previous year as some offices had lower spending the year before due to the election in the fiscal year of 2019-2020.
Total ministers’ office expenses for 2020-21:
- Prime Minister (Justin Trudeau): $10,050,503
- Government House Leader (Pablo Rodriguez): $2,963,178
- Deputy Prime Minister and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister (Chrystia Freeland): $2,930,430
- Canadian Heritage Minister (Steven Guilbeault): $2,256,815
- Innovation Minister (Navdeep Bains until Jan. 12, 2021; François-Philippe Champagne): $2,101,676
- Justice Minister (David Lametti): $2,014,959
- Economic Development and Official Languages Minister (Mélanie Joly): $1,961,483
- Environment and Climate Change Minister (Jonathan Wilkinson): $1,867,045
- Small Business, Export Promotion, and International Trade Minister (Mary Ng): $1,854,828
- Finance Minister (Bill Morneau until Aug. 17, 2020; Chrystia Freeland): $1,830,210
- Foreign Affairs Minister (François-Philippe Champagne until Jan. 11, 2021; Marc Garneau): $1,827,926
- Public Services and Procurement Minister (Anita Anand): $1,780,107
- Public Safety Minister (Bill Blair): $1,774,962
- Immigration Minister (Marco Mendicino): $1,704,429
- Indigenous Services Minister (Marc Miller): $1,602,915
- Natural Resources Minister (Seamus O’Regan): $1,572,265
- Health Minister (Patty Hajdu): $1,567,768
- Employment, Workforce Development, and Disability Inclusion Minister (Carla Qualtrough): $1,567,617
- Women and Gender Equality, and Rural Economic Development Minister (Maryam Monsef): $1,576,640
- Fisheries and Oceans Minister (Bernadette Jordan): $1,553,054
- President of the Queen’s Privy Council and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister (Dominic LeBlanc): $1,512,842
- Veterans Affairs Minister (Lawrence MacAulay): $1,502,038
- Defence Minister (Harjit Sajjan): $1,456,503
- Treasury Board President (Jean-Yves Duclos): $1,435,284
- Families, Children, and Social Development Minister (Ahmed Hussen): $1,438,098
- Infrastructure and Communities Minister (Catherine McKenna): $1,400,194
- Labour Minister (Filomena Tassi): $1,313,748
- Agriculture Minister (Marie-Claude Bibeau): $1,293,864
- International Development Minister (Karina Gould): $1,271,750
- Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister (Carolyn Bennett): $1,242,569
- Seniors Minister (Deb Schulte): $1,211,539
- Transport Minister (Marc Garneau until Jan. 11, 2021; Omar Alghabra): $1,164,150
- National Revenue Minister (Diane Lebouthillier): $1,157,115
- Middle Class Prosperity Minister (Mona Fortier): $1,029,984
- Digital Government Minister (Joyce Murray): $1,008,978
- Diversity, Inclusion, and Youth Minister (Bardish Chagger): $1,000,620
- Northern Affairs Minister (Dan Vandal): $950,882
- Special Representative for the Prairies (Jim Carr): $145,65
Source: Public Accounts of Canada 2020-2021