When Prime Minister Stephen Harper touted the Keystone XL pipeline in front of a business audience in New York City, his appearance was among events at a hotel that cost Canadian taxpayers more than $65,500, CTV News has learned.

A Sept. 26 event, hosted by the Canadian American Business Council, made headlines after Harper said he wouldn’t “take no for an answer” from the U.S. when it comes to approving the controversial pipeline project.

Harper spoke at a gathering of international business executives at the New York Palace Hotel.

The host usually picks up the tab for its guest speakers at such events.

A hotel bill mistakenly sent to CTV’s Washington bureau shows that Ottawa was on the hook for a total of $65,582.91.

The charges include:

  • Coffee services: $6,650.00
  • Room rental: $33,500.00
  • 23% service charge each for above: $9,234.50
  • Audio visual services (including equipment rental, labour and setup charges): $14,709.15

In a statement to CTV News, the Prime Minister’s Office said the hotel was used for three separate events, reflected in the cost.

“The Prime Minister was in New York to further Canada's commitment to child and maternal health, in addition to meeting with  hundreds of business leaders, who play a key role in helping to advance Canada's efforts to create jobs and economic opportunities for Canadians, to encourage investment in Canada,” the PMO said.

“This figure does not reflect the fact that the costs were shared with the CABC, reducing the cost to the Government.”

Scotty Greenwood of the Canadian American Business Council said the costs were “shared” and the council paid for “pieces” of the events.

NDP’s foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said Canadian taxpayers should not have to cover any costs.

“It is entirely wrong and totally unethical,” he said.

There are other red flags: Andrew Shaw, who works for the business council, is listed as a lobbyist for the Keystone pipeline.

The Canadian American Business Council, which claims to be a “non-profit, non-partisan, issue-oriented organization,” has offices inside a major law and lobbying firm in Washington that represents TransCanada’s Keystone project.

“They have been outed,” Dewar said. “The curtain has been pulled back and what we see behind the curtain is a lobby firm.”

But Greenwood said the business council has done nothing wrong.

“As long as you comply with the law and declare who your clients are, you disclose what you are doing, it’s something the board of directors of the Canadian American Business Council has been comfortable with for the last 12 years,” she said.

With a report from CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife