TORONTO (JTA) — Members of Parliament accepted free trips to Israel more than to any other country, a report by Canada’s ethics commissioner reveals.
Lawmakers’ trips to Israel outnumbered other destinations by nearly 2 to 1 during 2008.
The report on "sponsored travel" shows that the Canada-Israel Committee paid more than $160,000 to send 24 federal politicians on trips to Israel, often with their spouses. Half of those traveled to Israel in May to mark the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state.
"From our perspective, it’s anything but a junket," Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Canada-Israel Committee, told the Sun media chain.
In the past, all-expenses paid trips for lawmakers to Taiwan usually outstripped other destinations. However, only 12 members of Parliament accepted trips to Taiwan last year.
Fogel said the trips give lawmakers a unique chance to understand the plight of Israel and the Middle East. He said the Canada-Israel Committee sponsors most members of Parliament only once and prefers parliamentarians in their first or second terms.