This photograph (and others) of Harjit Sajjan cost Canadians $161,000

This photograph (and others) of Harjit Sajjan cost Canadians $161,000
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Taxpayers spent $161,000 for photographers to take images of Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan on his various trips in what the Liberal government says is proof that Canada is re-engaging on the world stage. That cost covers only travel and accommodations for the military photographers and does not include their salaries.

The amount covers 26 trips since late 2015 to locations such as India, Trenton, Yellowknife, Brussels, Ukraine, Latvia, Iraq and Africa.

The photographers accompany the minister on the trips and are not assigned to specific military operations.

Sajjan’s spokeswoman, Renée Filiatrault, said in an email that such photographers are used by the military and the minister to support communicating with the public in Canada and abroad. She noted that the minister travels to international meetings and to various missions.

“As with previous Ministers, they often accompany the Minister of Defence,” Filiatrault stated. “Our government promised to re-engage in the world and communicate openly with Canadians and we are doing just that.”

Taxpayers spent $116,000 for photographers to take images of Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan on his various trips in what the Liberal government says is proof that Canada is re-engaging on the world stage. Harjit Sajjan / Twitter

On Friday, Sajjan’s staff posted a number of photos on Twitter of the minister meeting NATO officials in Brussels. Those images were taken by Canadian Forces photographers who accompanied the minister. That latest trip was not captured in the figures provided.

Such international meetings also often have official photographers assigned to events to produce imagery for the participants.

The DND did not have figures available showing how much was spent on photography for previous defence ministers.

Questions about such official photography have been raised before. In August 2016 CTV News revealed that that the government spent $17,000 on photographing Environment Minister Catherine McKenna. That money was for photography for 15 events, including a conference in Vancouver and the images were used by McKenna’s department on social media channels, including Twitter.

After the spending was revealed, McKenna acknowledged that savings could be made. “Pictures are an important part of how we transmit our message, but we need to do it in a way that is mindful of taxpayers,” she told journalists. “Previous governments used photographers as well but we can do better, and that’s something I’m committed to personally.”

When he was asked about the issue at the time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters that such official photography was “certainly one (area) that we are looking at as perhaps not the best use of public funds.”

In 2015 iPolitics reported that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government spent more than $2.3 million to photograph Conservative cabinet ministers since it had come to power.

The price-tag was revealed in a government response to a Liberal MP’s order paper question in Parliament. The spending covered 2,483 events that the government hired contract photographers to cover.

As a result, Veterans Affairs Canada faced criticism for spending $118,200 on photographs of ministers at various announcements while at the same time as cutting front-line services to veterans. Taxpayers spent more than $13,000 for photographs of then Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird during the week he was at the United Nations.

The Canadian Forces and some federal departments also have their own photography teams.

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