Ode to Bev Oda

When comparing Canadian politics to our counterparts south of the border, we come up pretty short in terms of excitement. Let’s face it: Canadians are a pretty boring lot in this regard. Yet, from time to time, a humdinger surfaces. This week, one such missive hit the newsstands, tying with it one of the grand dames of the hotel world. The story is somewhat humorous as well as instructive.

Bev Oda is a Canadian cabinet minister, a member of the Conservative Party and, up until now, one of those hardworking politicians that few Canadians could even identify in a police lineup. Her official portfolio includes responsibility for distribution of Canadian aid to the world’s underdeveloped nations. Quite ironic!

It seems as if Bev was attending to official business in London. The hotel she was booked into was the Grange St. Paul, which was also the location of the conference. The group rate was $287/night. The property is ranked #200 out of 1,056 on TripAdvisor, with 4/5 stars. Evidentially, this was not good enough!

It appears Minister Oda unilaterally decided to check out of the Grange and acquaint herself with The Savoy. The Savoy was $665/night, and a limousine was booked for nearly $1,000 per day for the commute to and from her new digs. Of course, the media took this apart on her expense account, even identifying $16 for a glass of orange juice (let’s hope it was fresh-squeezed!).

Now, it is true that one could argue that The Savoy, being a Fairmont-managed property, is Canadian, and thus all she was trying to do was repatriate funds back home. But I suspect that this would not fly. Nor did Ms. Oda argue that she was trying to substantiate TripAdvisor’s #92 ranking for the Savoy and its 4.5/5 stars, or that she was on a fact-finding mission to confirm the authenticity of The Savoy’s recently completed renovation. (My stay there last year — on my own dime, I might add — confirms the workmanship is indeed terrific.)

Humor aside, the fact is this: When we are traveling on someone else’s dime, we have to be respectful and act frugally. There are many opportunities to add expense, and while we might say to ourselves that we deserve it for working those extra hours and weekends, it is simply not our money. Politicians should know better. Oda’s actions were such a flagrant misuse of public funds that even her apology and partial return of funds will dog her career forever. But heads up for everyone that draws a salary: Spend incrementally at your own peril, as you are fully and forever accountable.