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Policies for Ministers' Offices - January 2011

Part 6 — Travel

6.1 Introduction

A minister intending to travel in Canada outside the National Capital Region must obtain prior approval from the Prime Minister's Office after reporting the proposed destination and the nature of the event.

Ministers are excluded from the requirements to follow the terms of the National Joint Council's Travel Directive, as explained in the Treasury Board Special Travel Authorities.

Ministers should use the Public Works and Government Services Canada Government Travel Modernization Office / Shared Travel Services Initiative (GTMO/STSI) when booking travel related to departmental business, paid from departmental budgets, or when pre-paid tickets are needed (thereby benefiting from the government-negotiated discounted airfares and flight insurance). Private travel agencies may be used where such use results in direct savings to the taxpayer and/or indirect savings through more efficient travel that better meets scheduling requirements.

Ministers booking directly with carriers or a travel agency or agent can either claim reimbursement following each trip, or charge the authorized expenses to Departmental Travel Expense Cards (DTEC).

Ministers can use their Designated Travel Card (DTC) or their personal credit card and be reimbursed for funds expended or they may request an advance from their department for travel costs. Expenditures claimed, however, should reflect probity and prudence in conducting the affairs of the department or agency.

Information regarding advances, DTECs and DTCs, and other financial matters is available from the senior financial officer in each department. DTECs and DTCs are to be used for official government business only.

Ministers travelling for their constituency should use the House of Commons Members' Travel Service.

6.1.1 Travel expenses

Although ministers are excluded from the requirement to follow the National Joint Council Travel Directive, it is recommended that ministers refer to that document, since it provides good examples of expenditures that are considered appropriate for program-related business travel.

Ministers are required to post on their respective departmental websites all travel expenses incurred on program‑related business. All travel expenses must be posted on a quarterly basis within 30 days following the last day of the quarter and must include the following information:

  • the period covered by the trip and the places visited;
  • transportation expenses; and
  • other expenses (such as accommodation and meals).

All parliamentary secretaries and exempt staff of ministers are also required to post all travel expenses on their respective departmental websites (see section 6.1.3).

Travel expenses for ministers, parliamentary secretaries and ministers' staff on portfolio and program-related business include the following costs that are charged against the other operating budget of the minister (exceptions for international travel may apply; please refer to section 6.5.)


  • GTMO/STSI service costs (e.g. airline tickets);
  • fees paid to commercial carriers;
  • fees for the use of privately owned, government‑owned, or rental vehicles;
  • fees for the rental of trains, aircraft, or marine transportation; and
  • other expenses for related services.
Other expenses

  • accommodation;
  • meals and incidental expenses;
  • luggage insurance when not provided by the carrier;
  • passport, visa, and required photo expenses;
  • telephone calls, facsimiles, Internet connections, and messenger services;
  • office services; and
  • other travel‑related services.

6.1.2 Reimbursement for travel expenses

Reimbursement procedures for the travel of ministers on departmental business is governed by a letter from the Minister of Finance dated December 5, 1963, that refers to Cabinet direction (included as Appendix C). Based on the document, ministers are asked to submit as their travel claims a signed statement that includes:

  • the period covered by the trip and the places visited;
  • transportation expenses; and
  • other expenses (such as accommodation and meals).

This statement of expenses may be submitted on a monthly (rather than a per-trip) basis and must include the following certification, pursuant to section 34 of the Financial Administration Act:

"I certify that the foregoing expenditures have been incurred by me on official government business in [month] [year]." [minister's signature]

Along with their signed attestation, ministers are required to submit original receipts and supporting documentation for hospitality and travel reimbursements to appropriate departmental officials. Receipts under the control of government institutions are subject to Access to Information (ATI) legislation and thus obtainable through ATI requests.

The aforementioned 1963 letter also specifies that, where requested advances are greater than the actual costs incurred, the difference should be remitted to the department in the form of cash or a personal cheque made payable to the Receiver General for Canada.

6.1.3 Travel expenses—ministerial staff

When a minister requires a parliamentary secretary[1], an exempt staff member, or a departmental staff member to travel on departmental business, reservations should be made via the GTMO/STSI and expenses shall be in accordance with the Treasury Board Special Travel Authorities and the National Joint Council Travel Directive, Rates and Allowances. Private travel agencies may be used where such use results in direct savings to the taxpayer and/or indirect savings through more efficient travel that better meets scheduling requirements. When travel has been booked directly with carriers or a travel agency or agent, claims for reimbursement can be made following each trip, or the authorized expenses can be charged to the Departmental Travel Expense Cards (DTEC). However, departments are not to be billed directly by the travel suppliers.

Travel expenditures are chargeable to the minister's other operating budget (exceptions for international travel may apply; please refer to section 6.5). They should be authorized by the minister or chief of staff (other than for his or her own travel) and reviewed by a senior financial officer.

Parliamentary secretaries and all ministers' departmental and exempt staff members that are required to travel on department-related business must post on the departmental website all travel expenses incurred. All travel expenses must be posted on a quarterly basis within 30 days following the last day of the quarter and must include the following information:

  • the period covered by the trip and the places visited;
  • transportation expenses; and
  • other expenses (such as accommodation and meals).

When exempt staff members accompany a minister, the appropriate signature is necessary to upgrade travel to business class, in the event that the minister does not personally sign the travel authority.

Expenditures incurred by a chief of staff should be authorized by the minister or the minister's senior delegate for financial matters. Parliamentary secretaries, chiefs of staff, directors, and chiefs of staff to ministers of state have the same travel entitlements as the Executive Group at the EX-02 level and above (refer to the Special Travel Authorities), except when accompanying the minister, in which case the air travel entitlement may be upgraded if so determined by the minister.

Separate claims should be submitted when a member of a minister's staff claims reimbursement for disbursements made on behalf of the minister and his or her own travel expenses. The former should be accounted for separately, included in any reports or ministerial travel expenses.

6.2 Executive vehicles for use by a minister

Unless a minister personally directs otherwise, the department provides a motor vehicle for the minister's official use on government, portfolio, or ministerial business and for personal use. Ministers of state are to be provided the same level of entitlement for motor vehicles as ministers receive.

6.2.1 Official use

Official use encompasses any use of the vehicle for the effective conduct of official business, including constituency business, for which travel would normally be reimbursed by the House of Commons. Official use includes, but is not necessarily limited to, the following:

  • travel to and from a departmental office, the House of Commons, or any other place where business is transacted;
  • travel to and from airports when proceeding on business travel or when meeting visiting dignitaries;
  • travel to and from diplomatic or other social functions attended in the capacity of a minister;
  • travel under any circumstances when, for personal protection, the presence of a security officer is required;
  • transportation of classified material to, from, and between various work locations, including a minister's residence; and
  • any other use that helps in the discharge of responsibilities as a minister of the Crown.

6.2.2 Personal use

Ministers are authorized to make personal use of the vehicles provided by their departments. Exempt and departmental staff, including the driver, are not authorized for personal use of an executive vehicle. The executive vehicle is also available to the minister's family and household for personal use whenever it is not required for official business. For Income Tax Act purposes, any use of an executive vehicle for anything other than official business generally constitutes a taxable benefit. In accordance with Subsection 5.3.3 of the Directive on Fleet Vehicles: Light Duty Vehicles, departments must ensure that a log book (or other appropriate utilization tool) is assigned to every vehicle in order to track utilization data.

The computation of the taxable benefit is based on a number of factors including amount of use and a standby charge. Details on the calculation of the taxable benefit are available from the following Canada Revenue Agency interpretation bulletin. A deduction is made at source for the use of the vehicle.

6.2.3 Selecting an executive vehicle

The maximum price limit for the purchase of an executive vehicle is adjusted annually by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. Information on the current maximum price limit can be obtained at Authorize Maximum Price.

Executive vehicles are to be acquired through procurement arrangements established by Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) as detailed in the Directive on Fleet Vehicles: Executive Vehicles, and the Directive on Fleet Vehicles: Light Duty Vehicles. The list of executive vehicles that can be purchased may be viewed at PWGSC's Government Motor Vehicle Ordering Guide. It is important that departments consult with PWGSC headquarters before making any decision on the purchase of executive vehicles. For insurance purposes, departments must also inform PWGSC headquarters when they take possession of an executive vehicle or when such vehicle is transferred to another department. It should be noted that vehicle leases must be avoided.

6.2.4 Maintaining executive vehicles

Ministers and their successors who acquire vehicles are expected to continue using a vehicle over its useful life. If a minister's vehicle becomes surplus to requirements before its useful life is over, arrangements can be made for the vehicle to be redeployed through PWGSC. A vehicle should not be disposed of outside the federal government when there are other eligible executives in need of it.

All the costs of operating and maintaining the motor vehicle are borne by the department, not ministers' budgets. However, no public funds shall be used to pay fines for traffic violations, including parking violations. To ensure that the taxable benefit portion of operating executive vehicles is uniformly calculated, the Treasury Board requires the department to record all information about usage and operating costs in a systematic manner.

Like all other government vehicles, those used by ministers are expected to be registered with a private-sector fleet management company for fuel, maintenance, and repair. This is generally the same company that is used for the departmental fleet. A "fleet" card is provided and should be used to pay for all required fuel, repairs, and maintenance for the vehicle. The use of the card allows automatic capture of vehicle data in the departmental fleet database. PWGSC has awarded a standing offer to a fleet management company, and details on the services offered can be viewed at PWGSC's Government Motor Vehicle Ordering Guide and by accessing Fleet Management Support Services. Notwithstanding the normal government practice to self-underwrite government vehicles, all executive vehicles shall be fully insured commercially. PWGSC is responsible for the purchase and administration of the proper insurance coverage. It pays up front for the coverage and invoices the appropriate departments accordingly on an annual basis. It is important that departments provide PWGSC headquarters with an up to date list of names of those who drive executive vehicles and ensure adequate insurance coverage of these individuals at all times.

Further information on insurance can be found in section 5.5 of the Directive on Fleet Management: Executive Vehicles.

6.3 Air travel

Ministers and ministers of state, with the written agreement of the Prime Minister's Office and with the approval of the Minister of National Defence, may travel on National Defence (DND) flights without charge and, under certain circumstances, may use administrative fleet aircraft provided by DND. Executive aircraft should be used only in cases where commercial air service is not available or suitable. These aircraft are to be used only when the purpose of the trip is to carry out ministerial or departmental business. National Defence Guidelines (Appendix B) for the Use of Government Administrative Aircraft give full details on executive flights and how to arrange for them.

Ministers, officials, and other authorized personnel will not be charged for flights on DND Administrative Flight Services Challenger aircraft that are used for departmental or Government of Canada business. Information on these guidelines is available from DND.

Ministers and ministers of state, with the written agreement of the Prime Minister's Office and with the approval of the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities may also travel on Transport Canada aircraft without charge. These aircraft are be used only when the purpose of the trip is to carry out ministerial or departmental business.

When people who travel commercially on government business qualify for financial benefits offered by airlines arising from travel, such as free tickets or compensation for rescheduled flights offered by airlines, these benefits are the property of the Crown. With respect to loyalty points such as Air Miles, the National Joint Council (NJC) Travel Directive has been extended to ministers and their exempt staff. Under the Directive, loyalty points collected during official government travel can be used for business or personal travel. When used for personal travel, they are a taxable benefit. For further information, see Loyalty and other points programs.

Ministers, parliamentary secretaries, their family members and exempt staff may be restricted from travel on non-commercial chartered or private aircraft. Please refer to the Conflict of Interest Act for details.

First-class air travel for ministers has been restricted as a result of the February 1992 budget, as one of the initiatives to reduce government spending. Economy or business class should be selected within the continental United States and Canada.

For overseas flights, first-class travel may be selected in limited circumstances, such as when ministers are obliged to conduct business shortly after deplaning, when there is no business class service on a given flight, for air travel in excess of nine hours, or for specific medical reasons.

Budget 2009 (under "Stronger Departmental Management" in Chapter 4) contained some further restrictions for air travel for ministers and their staff: "…business class travel will no longer be allowed on any flight that is less than two hours for ministers, their staff, and….". This also applies to ministers of state.

6.4 Rail travel

Ministers may use the free railway travel afforded all members of Parliament and their families.

6.5 International travel (government business)

When considering travel arrangements abroad, ministers must seek the approval of the Prime Minister's Office. They must also consult with the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the foreign policy aspects.

The Prime Minister's Office, acting on behalf of the Prime Minister, will authorize the travel, as appropriate, bearing in mind government priorities and other ministerial absences from Ottawa. No trip should be planned or in any way confirmed until it has been cleared through the Prime Minister's Office.

Once the trip is approved, procedural and substantive arrangements for the visit, including contact with host governments and program development, must be made through the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.

Costs for international travel incurred by ministers, parliamentary secretaries, and ministers' staff, where the travel is required for departmental operational or program purposes only, may be charged to a special fund centre, created from existing reference levels, within the minister's department or agency. All such are to be publicly disclosed under the normal requirements of proactive disclosure.

6.6 International travel (private)

When considering foreign private travel, ministers should, well before departure, inform the Minister of Foreign Affairs in writing so that the department can advise them about any issues that could complicate their visit. This practice applies especially for countries that are designated by Canada as requiring special consideration or security precautions.

6.7 Ministers' spouses

When the spouse of a minister accompanies that minister on official government business, such travel must be pre-authorized by the Prime Minister's Office and only if the attendance of the spouse at an official function is essential for reasons of protocol. During such events, the spouse is to act as host or hostess, or the spouse is to assist the minister in the conduct of his or her responsibilities.

Travel expenses incurred by spouses on official government business will be reimbursed by the sponsoring department(s) in accordance with the provisions of the National Joint Council's Travel Directive, unless there is another exception authority in place to provide entitlements over and above this directive.

Ministers, at their discretion, may be accompanied by their spouses on government-owned or operated aircraft. There is no charge for the spouse's flight.

As indicated in Canada Revenue Agency's Interpretation Bulletin IT 470R (Consolidated), these reimbursements may be taxable, depending on the circumstances.

6.8 Travel by members of the House of Commons with or on behalf of a minister

Where a member of the House of Commons is travelling either with or on behalf of a minister on departmental business, subject to approval by the minister, these costs may be charged to the department. In accordance with the Special Travel Authorities, when members of Parliament travel on such departmental business, their travel expenses are governed by the NJC Travel Directive, specifically the provisions for "travellers," but such travel is subject to trip approval by the Governor in Council of an order in council submitted to the Privy Council Office, upon request by a minister[2]. In addition, all such travel must be disclosed in accordance with proactive disclosure requirements.

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