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Harper used taxpayer money to pitch keystone to Americans

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's bold showcase in New York City on September 26 cost taxpayers $65,500 and featured keystone lobbyists.

Harper's Canada "won't take no for an answer" stance on keystone made cross-border headlines in a saga that is increasingly straining the Canada-US relationship. Usually hosts, this time the Canadian American Business Council, are supposed to pick up the tab for events but this time, Canadian taxpayers can expect a bill of $65,582.91 which includes $6,650 for coffee, $33,500 for room rental, $9,234.50 for a 23% service charge on the preceding elements, and $14,709.15 for audio-visual services.

The PMO defends the costs stating the bill, sent accidentally to CTV, represents multiple events in the same city and time frame.

“The Prime Minister was in New York to further Canada's commitment to child and maternal health, in addition to meeting with hundreds of business leaders, who play a key role in helping to advance Canada's efforts to create jobs and economic opportunities for Canadians, to encourage investment in Canada,” the PMO said.

“This figure does not reflect the fact that the costs were shared with the CABC, reducing the cost to the Government.”

The event featured American businessmen and corporate lobbyists. CABC's own Andrew Shaw is listed as a lobbyist for the keystone pipeline. While the CABC claims it is a “non-profit, non-partisan, issue-oriented organization,” they have law makers in Washington who are openly lobbying on behalf of TransCanada.

NDP’s foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar says “It is entirely wrong and totally unethical,” to bill taxpayers for this event.

“They have been outed,” Dewar said. “The curtain has been pulled back and what we see behind the curtain is a lobby firm.”

Scotty Greenwood of the CABC defends the event, claiming the organization did nothing wrong.

“As long as you comply with the law and declare who your clients are, you disclose what you are doing, it’s something the board of directors of the Canadian American Business Council has been comfortable with for the last 12 years,” she said.

Harper's bold stance is one the Republican Party has taken in light of the US Government shutdown. Lobbyists on both sides have been fighting hard to either defeat or approve the project on both sides of the border. It is clear where Harper stands and while he tries to get the deal past, he is embarking on a journey that may be mired in more sut than cash.

The Canadian government should be governing in the interests of all Canadians, but as time continues, it appears taxpayers are picking up the bill for orchestrated photo-ops and events for lobbyists to put business interests over those of the public. Whether one agrees to the keystone project or not becomes irrelevant as the Conservative government steps further away from facts and closer to the corporate lobbyists who are currently setting the agenda on both sides of the border.

Do you think the lobbyists are linked to the US Government shut down? Do you think the timing of Harper's prorogation and American trip, along with the US Government shut down, was a coincidence or planned? How do you feel about paying $65,500 for Harper's photo-op south of the border when the event was hosted by another organization? Share this article and join the discussion and let us know what you think: Facebook, Twitter, Google+.

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