The office of the Governor General has come under scrutiny following revelations of its exorbitant spending on dry cleaning over the past five years.
Taxpayer Dollars at Stake
According to multiple sources, including data from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) and information tabled in the House of Commons, the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General has spent a staggering $117,566.34 on professional dry-cleaning services from January 1, 2018, to May 30, 2023. This works out to an average monthly expenditure of over $1,800.
Julie Payette, who served as the Governor General from late 2017 to January 2021, was succeeded by the incumbent, Mary Simon. The disclosure of these expenses has led to renewed calls for transparency and accountability in governmental spending.
Breaking Down the Costs
A closer look at the numbers reveals that a significant portion of the dry cleaning expenses was earmarked for specific purposes. About 80% of the bills, or nearly $95,000, went towards cleaning uniforms worn by military personnel, hospitality staff, and student tour guides. Furthermore, more than $13,500 was allocated to the cleaning of household linens such as tablecloths and napkins.
Interestingly, nearly $10,000 of the expenses were for the personal clothing of the Governor General. This includes $6,576.12 for outfits worn by Julie Payette and $2,974.64 for those of Mary Simon.
The Response from Rideau Hall
Amidst the backlash, the Governor General’s office has offered explanations for the high costs. Although the office possesses an in-house laundry service catering to items like dishtowels and bed sheets, it does not have the required infrastructure to provide dry cleaning services. A spokesperson highlighted, “Dry cleaning is required for military uniforms, hospitality and student uniforms, as well as for larger and more delicate household items (i.e. heritage and embroidered tablecloths) which account for 92% of dry cleaning costs.”
Additionally, the office faced challenges in 2022 due to construction that caused a significant water disruption at Rideau Hall. This disruption forced the office to outsource an increased number of items for dry cleaning, which would have typically been laundered in-house.
Voices from Parliament
Conservative MP Kelly McCauley, representing Edmonton West, has been at the forefront of this issue, raising questions about the expenditures. “While a record number of Canadians are going to food banks just to get by, this latest spending scandal is disgraceful,” McCauley voiced his concerns. “Taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for such out of control spending.”
In light of these revelations, McCauley, who also chairs the House Government Operations and Estimates Committee, has spearheaded efforts to bring greater financial transparency and accountability to the Governor General’s office. The committee has recommended publishing an annual report on its website, detailing its activities and financial statements.
A Larger Conversation on Spending
The current spending habits of the Governor General’s office have been a point of contention for many. Earlier in the year, it was brought to light that a March 2022 trip to the Middle East by the office came with an $80,367.19 fee solely for in-flight catering.
Franco Terrazzano, director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, remarked, “This is another perk the governor general enjoys that struggling Canadians can’t afford.” He further questioned, “Why does the Governor General’s office need to spend so much on dry cleaning when it already has staff doing laundry and there’s a six-figure expense account for new clothes?”
The unfolding of these events continues to fuel debates on the judicious use of taxpayer dollars and the need for more stringent checks and balances in governmental expenditures.