Canada’s top military officer spends $1 million on VIP flights, including vacation

Canada's Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk has spent more than $1 million since 2008 flying on government VIP aircraft as an alternative to commercial flights.

Flight logs obtained by CTV News indicate Natynczyk used a CC-144 Challenger to fly to St. Maarten Island to begin a vacation after he missed a flight for a cruise holiday with his family.

The Caribbean flight cost taxpayers approximately $92,956.80.

The defence documents also show more than $1 million was spent transporting Natynczyk to various "military appreciation nights" at National Hockey League and Canadian Football League games.

The Challenger jets have also taken Natynczyk to military fundraisers throughout Canada over the last two years. Among those, his flight to attend the Support Our Troops Gala in Edmonton in September 2009 cost taxpayers $79,822. It's estimated the gala itself raised only between $200,000 and $250,000.

CTV News stated that unlike the prime minister and the Governor-General, the chief of defence staff is not required to fly on a Challenger jet for security reasons.

But in a statement, Natynczyk's office defended his VIP flights as necessary because his schedule requires "flexibility."

"It is important to note that (Natynczyk) attends official Canadian Forces appreciation events and official ceremonies on behalf of the Canadian Forces."

He "makes every effort to use commercial flights whenever available and where his official travel schedule permits," the statement says.

In a media scrum Friday afternoon, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters government staff are expected to reimburse Ottawa for the costs of any personal travel they undertake using Crown-owned aircraft.

"When they are used for personal or private travel, we expect that travel at commercial rates to be reimbursed to taxpayers," said Harper, speaking to reporters in Saskatoon.

"That's what I do and I think that's protocol that should be expected across government."

As part of the Harper government's attempts to cut $4 billion from the annual budget, it commissioned a report earlier this year to seek recommendations on how to save money with the military.

Natynczyk's flights may be a good place to start.

(CP Photo)

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