Millions spent each year on free cars, drivers for federal VIPs

You know you’ve made it in this political town when you have a car and driver. Boy, are a lot people making it.


Politicians and senior mandarins, some living a short walk from Parliament Hill, climb each morning into the back of a taxpayer-supplied, chauffeur-driven set of wheels.


The cars, often black with tinted windows, are everywhere, waiting for the boss to come back from a meeting, lunch or a bit of shopping. Publicly funded luxury doesn’t come cheap — the fleet costs taxpayers millions of dollars per year


“What I don’t think Canadians are aware of are the number of officials who do have access to a taxpayer-funded car and driver,” says John Williamson, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “And it’s not just cabinet but also the unelected officials as well.”


In the private sector, company-provided limos and drivers are usually reserved for the very top tier of executives.

“We have done work with very big companies on both sides of the border and I have never negotiated a compensation package that has included a car and a driver,” says Toronto corporate headhunter Stephen Moore, a partner in Kinley & Connelly.

Working in Ottawa, however, can mean life in the luxury lane.

Those authorized to use the federal executive vehicle fleet include: cabinet ministers; ministers of state; secretaries of state; deputy ministers of the Crown and some other senior officials.

In Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, 26 cabinet ministers and six ministers of state (junior ministers) have a car and driver, a total of 32. The maximum price for a cabinet minister’s car is $32,400; lesser officials’ cars can cost up to $27,000.

The government provides 54 deputy ministers with vehicles. Many, but not all, also get chauffeurs.

The drivers are paid between $43,826 and $47,447 a year, not including the massive overtime such a job can entail. However, many drivers also have other duties.

Every three years, or 150,000 kilometres, the 85-vehicle executive fleet is replaced. Earlier this year it was decided new replacements for the often-idling rides will be hybrids or other low-emission models.

The cost to provide cars and drivers to cabinet ministers and their unelected deputies is about $6 million. Commission heads and other entitled officials push that figure up even higher.

There is a whole fleet of vehicles, of course, for the Prime Minister, his wife and their two children. For security reasons, the RCMP refuses to divulge how many black SUVs and other vehicles await Harper’s call.

on the perk list

Politicians and top bureaucrats aren’t the only people seeing Ottawa from the back of a taxpayer-provided car. Others provided transportation, directly or indirectly, include:

  • Gen. Rick Hillier, chief of the defence staff.

  • Ian Brodie, Harper’s chief of staff.

  • Sheila Fraser, the auditor general.

  • William Elliott, the RCMP commissioner.

  • The nine Supreme Court justices, who each have a car and driver.

  • Kevin G. Lynch, clerk of the Privy Council.

  • Moya Greene, president of Canada Post. (All Crown Corporation heads get a car and driver).

  • Robert Rabinovitch, CBC president and CEO.

  • Michaëlle Jean, the Governor General.