The CSA’s Wild Travel Budget Pt.2

December 31st, 2016

We explored the Canadian Standards Association’s (CSA’s) wild travel budget in 2013.  Do you suppose their spending habits have changed since then?

In the three years since we last looked at CSA travel, their leadership hasn’t improved any.  Actually, it’s gotten worse.

Back in 2013, the CSA was spending $16.5MM per year on travel.  That was over $65k per day, just on travel. 

In their most recent financial report (released in May, 2016), the CSA admitted to now spending $22,238,000 per year on travel.  That’s much worse.

Why is that important?  Well, because it’s your money they’re spending. 

The CSA is an Agency of the Federal Government.  As such, they receive millions every year from the Treasury and have been given an impressive variety of taxation powers.  When CSA spends money lavishly, they’re lavishing your money on themselves.

And it’s a lot of money.  Annual travel costs in excess of $22MM translates to $88,952 per workday. 

The CSA was created to “coordinate the efforts of …standardization of engineering materials.”  That’s it.  Spending such massive amounts of money to merely coordinate things is problematic.  We don’t know CSA’s travel breakdown (as split between hotels, cars, or food), because they are exempted from the Freedom of Information Act, but we can get a pretty good idea of the scale of their spending habits by assessing their travel budget against current airfares.

Let’s look at how much travel they can afford with their travel budget.  We’ll start with current airfares to major centres that CSA might want to visit, and lets assume that the departures are from their base in Toronto. 

Current airfare rates from Toronto Pearson International Airport

$293 - Chicago
$487 - Cleveland
$300 - Ottawa
$604 - Vancouver
$300 - Montreal
$489 - Atlanta
$435 - Los Angeles
$443 - Seattle
$612 - London
$890 - Rome
$838 - Hong Kong

Of course, this is a bit misleading because CSA has corporate travel arrangements with its vendors, bulk rates essentially, so the actual cost to CSA would be marginally lower.

Also, average airfare prices have changed since our last review in 2013.  Domestic flights became more expensive, whereas international flights are now slightly cheaper.

Finally, for data enthusiasts, the above rates were pulled from iTravel2000 on Dec 31, 2016, and assumed an outbound date of Feb. 15th and a return date of Feb. 17th, 2017 for all flights listed.

Now comes the fun part….

How many times could someone travel from Toronto to elsewhere (and return) with CSA’s travel budget?

Annual return trips:

75,898 - Chicago
45,663 - Cleveland
74,127 - Ottawa
36,818 - Vancouver
74,127 - Montreal
45,476 - Atlanta
51,122 - Los Angeles
50,199 - Seattle
36,337 - London
24,987 - Rome
26,537 - Hong Kong

Monthly return trips:

6,325 - Chicago
3,805 - Cleveland
6,177 - Ottawa
3,068 - Vancouver
6,177 - Montreal
3,790 - Atlanta
4,260 - Los Angeles
4,183 - Seattle
3,028 - London
2,082 - Rome
2,211 - Hong Kong

Daily return trips (per workday):

304 - Chicago
183 - Cleveland
297 - Ottawa
147 - Vancouver
297 - Montreal
182 - Atlanta
204 - Los Angeles
201 - Seattle
145 - London
100 - Rome
106 - Hong Kong

Hourly return trips (every hour, 24hrs / day, every workday):

13 - Chicago
8 - Cleveland
12 - Ottawa
6 - Vancouver
12 - Montreal
8 - Atlanta
9 - Los Angeles
8 - Seattle
6 - London
4 - Rome
4 - Hong Kong

To paraphrase what we said in 2013, “do you really believe that CSA is flying a staff member to Montreal 12 times per hour, every hour, every workday?  Do you really think that some CSA executive is flying back and forth to Chicago 304 times per day?  Really?”

There is no excuse for this scale of reckless spending.  There is no reason for CSA to travel at an annual rate of more than seventy-five thousand round trips to Chicago, nor to spend for six-thousand round trips to Ottawa per month, every month, throughout the whole year.

The CSA has a Government Charter as a purely domestic regulatory Agency.  It has no Charter basis for any international presence whatsoever.  It has no legitimate need for travel at anything close to this scale.

Access to taxpayer’s wallets, and without oversight, tends to breed entitlement culture.  And it has.

Recently, one CSA executive traveled to Calgary for a meeting.  This executive, filled with self importance, decided that the only hotel in town worthy of their presence was the Fairmont Palliser.  At about $400 per night, it’s a posh place.  Given the CSA’s modest mandate however, this CSA man would’ve had a job justifying a night at the Howard Johnson’s.

But he didn’t feel bad about spending money like that.  After all, it wasn’t his money; it was yours.