The media is making a mountain out of the molehill which is Davos: specifically the fact that a hamburger at the Ameron Swiss Mountain Hotel, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is staying, along with his entourage, sells for about $(CA)70.00 (CHF 55.00). It harks back to the “scandal” a few years ago when former International Development Minister Bev Oda ordered a $16.00 glass of orange juice and “For some reason, that one item has become a symbol of Oda’s excess and lavish waste of taxpayers’ money. Average Canadians do not frequently jet off to the U.K. Only a relative handful of Canadians would have ever stayed at the Savoy … [but] … while those costs are all largely abstract to the regular voter, the vast majority of Canadians can easily grasp the fact that $16 is way more money than one would spend for a large glass of fresh-squeezed OJ at the local Booster Juice.” I think Prime Minister Harper was correct to eject Bev Oda from his cabinet: small things like that do matter and the bigger issue, changing hotels, using an expensive limo service, did show an attitude that was wholly inconsistent with what Stephen Harper was preaching to Canadians. But Davos is different.
While the price tag at Davos, which may be shocking to the average Joe who might think that $15.00 is enough to spend on a burger, is high, it s not a scandal. A year ago I chastised Prime Minister Trudeau for skipping the World Economic Forum at Davos to mend domestic political fences in Canada because he and his government were mired in the “cash for access” scandal. I believed he should have been there in 2017 and I believe he should be there now, in 2018. In fact I think he should stay longer, at least long enough to rebut some of what i expect President Donald Trump will say … but Justin Trudeau needs to be back in Canada mending political fences, again, because of his “private island vacation“/”conflict of interest” scandal. I think that spending thousands of dollars a day for each member of a 75+ member team is, actually, good value for Canada … IF the prime minister can reassure a few global entrepreneurs and international investment managers about Canada’s prospects. Davos is where national leaders belong once a year or so, with the taxpayers paying the freight … and we are a first class, first world country so we do not put our prime minister and our most senior bureaucrats and business leaders in some grotty little two star pensions.
I have been a delegate to major international meetings in places like London, Geneva, Sydney, Madrid, Kyoto and Rome and so on and I will guarantee you that the official rates allowed for Canadian public servants (including senior military officers) are (albeit just barely) adequate for most of those places (Switzerland is notoriously expensive) but certainly not generous, and the levels of accommodation available at those rates do not include hotels which I, as an official and as a taxpayer, would consider appropriate for the prime minister or a minister or deputy minister … once again: we are a first world, first class country, one of the world’s top ten or twelve by almost every measure and we need to act like it.
So, there’s no scandal here, not, at least regarding $70 hamburgers … the scandal is that Prime Minister Trudeau must hurry back to Canada because, once again, the Librano$ are mired in a political-ethical-moral scandal. The media should stop worrying about the price of a burger in Davos; they should worry instead about the fact that we have a prime minister who appears to be completely devoid of any ethical compass.