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400 bottles of wine on the plane: Federal politicians have access to limitless alcohol on government flights

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OTTAWA — Long flights can be gruelling, but those travelling on official government planes have limitless alcohol to take the edge off.

Between December 2016 and December 2017, passengers aboard government aircraft consumed 401 bottles of wine, 584 cans of beer and five 250-millilitre bottles of vodka, at a total cost of $8,179. The numbers were provided in answer to a question from Conservative MP Dean Allison.

Alcohol is provided free of charge for officials on international government flights. According to the answer tabled in the House of Commons Tuesday, “the service of non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages on the Airbus and 707 for official delegations on international flights has been a standard practice since the 1970s.”

Members of the media travelling on official flights pay a flat fee that covers all services, including alcohol.

During Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s week-long official trip to China last December, more than $2,200 worth of alcohol — 121 bottles of wine and 241 cans of beer — was consumed on flights. That amount translates to about two bottles of wine and four cans of beer for each of the roughly 56 passengers for the flights to and from China.

During flights to and from Vietnam for Trudeau’s official visit last November, the delegation of about 50 people drank 76 bottles of wine and 79 cans of beer, worth $1,685. When the prime minister visited Scotland in July, the beer and wine was supplemented by four 250-millilitre bottles of vodka.

But not every official flight is so boozy. When former governor general David Johnston travelled to China last July, the 40 passengers drank just 33 bottles of wine and 27 cans of beer — less than one of each per person, with a total value of $632.

The prime minister is required to fly on official government planes for security reasons. During his official trips, it’s routine for members of the media to fly with the official delegation.

The numbers come as more people are speaking up about a culture of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour on Parliament Hill, and in Canadian political circles more broadly. Alcohol played a role in recent allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against Patrick Brown, who resigned as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives last week. Brown is alleged to have made advances on two women after they had been drinking, while he had not.

On Monday, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett warned that MPs should be careful about alcohol consumption on and around Parliament Hill. “You wouldn’t have a drink before you go to a really important meeting,” she said.

— With files from the Canadian Press

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