A delegation of business people and others accompanying Stephen Harper on his upcoming trip to the Mideast will have their air travel and some accommodation costs paid for by taxpayers, the Prime Minister's Office says.

In Ottawa Friday, CTV News' Robert Fife tweeted: "PMO says taxpayers will pick up the tab for 'significant delegation' travelling with PM Harper to Israel."

PMO spokesperson Jason MacDonald said the delegation will include leaders from various communities, including cultural communities, who will participate in meetings and events during the week-long trip. MacDonald told reporters Friday, that he does not yet have a complete list of the others who will be in Harper's entourage.

MacDonald did say that their expenses, the full extent of which are not yet known, will be paid for out of government coffers.

"Typically, when people are invited to fly with the prime minister on a trip like this, as part of the delegation, the government of Canada will cover the costs for the travel," MacDonald said.

MacDonald clarified in a tweet Friday afternoon that travel costs will not be covered for the entire delegation.

“Only 30 or so actually flying on govt plane, rest are paying their own way there,” MacDonald tweeted to CTV’s Don Martin.

A phalanx of cabinet ministers will also be joining the prime minister on his visit, including Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Employment Minister Jason Kenney, Development Minister Christian Paradis, Industry Minister James Moore, Trade Minister Ed Fast and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver.

The PMO announced the Mideast travel plans Friday, confirming travel intentions Harper first announced at a Jewish National Fund of Toronto event on Dec. 1.

On Friday, the PMO said Harper's first official visit to the Mideast will include stops in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.

According to the official announcement, Harper's trip is aimed at, "promoting commercial relations, advancing peace and security, and reinforcing the principles of democracy and good governance in the region."

The prime minister's itinerary includes:

  • Meetings with the Israeli Prime Minister and President during his three days in Israel, from Jan. 19 to 22
  • A meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Jan. 20
  • Meetings with Jordan's King Abdullah II and Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour during his visit to the kingdom from Jan. 22 to 25.

Harper will also receive an honorary degree from Tel Aviv University during his trip and become the first Canadian prime minister to address the Israeli parliament.

"I look forward to exploring ways of increasing economic cooperation with our partners while promoting the fundamental Canadian values of democracy, freedom, good governance and respect for the rule of law that are the foundations for peace," Harper said in a statement.

With files from The Canadian Press