The audit was launched in the wake of that 2017 Team Canada trip dubbed by some military officers as the “party flight” because of what unfolded on the RCAF passenger aircraft. Some of the VIPs on the taxpayer-funded Canadian Forces morale tour were drunk and abusive to the military flight crew, an earlier DND investigation determined.
In some cases there were processes in place to govern activities of the PR Operations Program but they were informal.
The program has four full-time employees and an annual budget of $400,000. It organizes VIP tours and other morale-boosting initiatives, such as appreciation events at hockey and baseball games for Canadian Forces personnel.
The audit didn’t examine specific events, the costs of those events, or whether value was received for the tax dollars spent.
After the VIP trip made headlines, Vance staunchly defended the tour, pointing out visits of such celebrities to overseas missions boost morale for the troops. “The band playing in the back of the plane, that’s some team building for people who have never met soldiers before and are going to go into maybe a dangerous place,” he said at the time. “So, it’s not a Mardi Gras. It’s not a party. It’s a mission.”
Privately, military officers challenged Vance’s claims. They noted the tour’s destinations — Greece and Riga, Latvia — were not dangerous places. In addition, they also point out most of those on the VIP tour have all been on previous visits to meet soldiers.
Vance blamed the military aircrew for not reining in the VIPs. They had the authority to get the VIPs under control but the crew lacked the training and confidence to do so, he noted.
Vance had said he had never heard of any issues with previous morale tours.
But after the general made that claim, military sources contacted this newspaper to point out that heavy drinking and partying was a feature on some of the previous tours. Photos were also provided from a 2010 military morale tour to Afghanistan showing similar behaviour, including one image featuring Williams with beads stuck up one of his nostrils. Other photos show individuals in the aisles of the aircraft with beer and a cooler set up on one of the seats.
This content was originally published here.