COLOGNE, Germany – Prime Minister Stephen Harper is set to arrive for his first-ever visit to Israel Sunday afternoon leading a monster-sized delegation that includes 21 rabbis.
Harper left Ottawa Saturday night with his red, white, and blue Royal Canadian Air Force jet crammed with what is easily the largest delegation he has ever had for an overseas trip.
The plane landed here to refuel before continuing on to Tel Aviv.
As the plane departed Ottawa, Harper’s aides distributed a list of 208 individuals that is part of Harper’s official accompanying party for his four days in Israel.
In addition to the 21 rabbis, there are also 27 chief executives of Canadian companies, at least one Roman Catholic priest, a handful of lobbyists, and other representatives from corporate Canada.
On top of that, Harper is travelling with cabinet ministers James Moore, Ed Fast, Christian Paradis, John Baird, Jason Kenney and Joe Oliver.
But that’s just the start of the parliamentary contingent. There’s also eight MPs — Alberta’s Blake Richards, Ontario’s John Carmichael, Chungsen Leung, David Sweet, Peter Kent and Mark Adler, and BC’s James Lunney — plus two senators — Irving Gerstein and Judith Seidman.
Harper is also travelling with his regular retinue of advisors, press secretaries, RCMP security staff and bureaucrats. And, in the back of the plane, there is a regular-sized group of about 15 members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery who will report on the trip.
The travel and hotel bills for all but the media will be picked up by the Canadian taxpayer. That total is not yet available.
Media organizations, including Sun News Network, pay their own freight. For this trip, media organizations are paying $8,000 for the flight, hotel and ground transportation for each reporter, photographer, and camera person covering Harper’s trip.
After four days in Israel, Harper heads to Jordan Wednesday for three nights before returning home next Saturday.