In The Media

Auditors find Foreign Affairs skimping on embassy maintenance

by Lee Berthiaume (feat. Daryl Copeland)

Vancouver Sun
November 7, 2013

OTTAWA — It appears Canada’s military bases aren’t the only government-owned facilities in danger of crumbling apart.

Canada’s auditor general recently found that the Defence Department was not investing enough in maintaining its barracks, armouries and runways, raising serious health and safety concerns.

Now a newly released Foreign Affairs audit shows the same is happening with Canadian embassies, chanceries and other diplomatic property around the world.

While Canadian diplomats don’t appear to be in any danger, the Foreign Affairs auditors warned that failing to properly invest in preventative maintenance increases the rate at which the facilities fall apart — costing much more in the long run.

It also threatens to undermine Canada’s image abroad as this country’s diplomatic buildings, many of them holding historic significance, become worn and dilapidated.

According to the audit report, federal government and industry standards recommend a minimum investment of two per cent of a building’s replacement cost to be invested in annual repairs and maintenance.

The Foreign Affairs department owns property worth more than $3 billion, according to the report written in July 2011 but only recently made public, which means it should be investing $61 million.

Yet the department only spent $19.2 million on such costs in 2009-10, representing 0.6 per cent of the real property value.

In fact, the auditors found maintenance and repair spending had been steadily going down since the Conservative government came to power in 2006.

“Taking into account the complexity and the importance of the real property portfolio abroad, it is crucial that the department ensure that sufficient funding is allocated to the maintenance of its buildings,” the report reads.

“The department must not forgo maintenance expenditures in order to save funds in the short term since there is a risk that it may jeopardize the sustainability of the real property portfolio and may result in increased costs in the long term.”

Another section of the report notes the department has 177 properties that are older than 40 years, including the Canadian embassies in Italy, France, Spain, Greece, and the high commission in London.

“These buildings, some of which have significant architectural features, are meant to represent Canada’s culture and heritage abroad,” the report reads.

“The prominence and potential heritage value of these buildings could be quite significant given their high profile and visibility to the general public.”

However, the auditors found the department has not taken heritage considerations into account when it comes to managing Canadian diplomatic property abroad.

“Without proper evaluations of its heritage properties, there is a risk that the department is not ensuring the proper preservation of the heritage character of its buildings,” the report reads.

Department spokesperson Chrystiane Roy said in an email that Foreign Affairs spent 0.68 per cent on property repair and maintenance last year.

Roy said if funds from another source were included, the total would be closer to 1.1 per cent — which is still half the two per cent target.

“Given today’s fiscal realities, we have maintained our level of investment at a reasonable level,” Roy said.

Foreign Affairs, like all federal departments, is facing a budget crunch as the Conservative government works to slay the deficit.

It is facing $169.8 million in cuts by 2014-15, which represents nearly seven per cent of its planned $2.6-billion budget for this fiscal year.

A great deal of its funding is inflexible, meaning the actual areas that can be cut are limited.

As a result, finding more money for repairs and maintenance will be difficult.

Former Canadian diplomat Daryl Copeland, now a senior fellow with the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, said postponing capital spending might appear to make sense in times of fiscal austerity.

“But it’s very much a case of long-term pain for short-term gain,” he said.

“What kind of experience is a visitor going to have when they come to your premises? If you want to attract the right kind of clientele, and I’m thinking people with real influence to make decisions, you want good places for them to come to.”

The audit report also noted that the department does not have an overarching plan for managing its property.

It also found that efforts to sell four properties to raise $10.5 million in revenue had met with failure “due to poor market conditions.”

The Conservative government’s most recent federal budget from March included a plan to sell a number of Canadian diplomatic residences in the hopes of raising $80 million.

Auditor General Michael Ferguson reported last month that a lack of funding for repairs and maintenance had left Defence Department officials struggling to keep bases and infrastructure from crumbling and turning into health hazards.

The funding shortfall had led to fire hazards and other health and safety risks that represent a significant danger to equipment and personnel in the short term, while threatening the military’s long-term ability to do its job, Ferguson’s report concluded.

Postmedia News reported in May that Foreign Affairs had identified asbestos in the official residences of Canadian diplomats in the Vatican, Beijing, Tokyo, Washington and Los Angeles.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

No events are scheduled at this time.


Global Times: BRICS summit displays the potential of a new future

by Editorial Staff (feat. Swaran Singh), WSFA 12, June 24, 2022

Oil's Dive Won't Bring Any Immediate Relief on Inflation

by Alex Longley, Elizabeth low, and Barbara Powell (feat. Amrita Sen), BNNBloomberg, June 24, 2022

China To Tout Its Governance Model At BRICS Summit

by Liam Gibson (feat. Stephen Nagy), The Asean Post, June 23, 2022

Soutien aux victimes d’inconduites sexuelles dans l’armée

by Rude Dejardins (feat. Charlotte Duval-Lantoine), ICI Radio Canada, June 23, 2022

Defence: $4.9 billion for radars against Russian bombs

by Editorial Staff (feat. Rob Huebert), Archynews, June 23, 2022

The Hans Island “Peace” Agreement between Canada, Denmark, and Greenland

by Elin Hofverberg (feat. Natalie Loukavecha), Library of Congress, June 22, 2022

What the future holds for western Canadian oil producers

by Gabriel Friedman (feat. Kevin Birn), Beaumont News, June 22, 2022

At BRICS summit, China sets stage to tout its governance model

by Liam Gibson (feat. Stephen Nagy), Aljazeera, June 22, 2022

Crude oil price: there are no changes to the fundamentals

by Faith Maina (feat. Amrita Sen), Invezz, June 22, 2022

Few details as Liberals promise billions to upgrade North American defences

by Lee Berthiaume (feat. Andrea Charron), National Newswatch, June 20, 2022

Defence Minister Anita Anand to make announcement on continental defence

by Steven Chase (feat. Rob Huebert), The Globe and Mail, June 19, 2022

Table pancanadienne des politiques

by Alain Gravel (feat. Jean-Christophe Boucher), ICI Radio Canada, June 18, 2022

Russia Ukraine conflict

by Gloria Macarenko (feat. Colin Robertson), CBC Radio One, June 17, 2022

New privacy Bill to introduce rules for personal data, AI use

by Shaye Ganam (feat. Tom Keenan), 680 CHED, June 17, 2022


Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Suite 1800, 150–9th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2P 3H9


Canadian Global Affairs Institute
8 York Street, 2nd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1N 5S6


Phone: (613) 288-2529
Email: [email protected]


Making sense of our complex world.
Déchiffrer la complexité de notre monde.


© 2002-2022 Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Charitable Registration No. 87982 7913 RR0001


Sign in with Facebook | Sign in with Twitter | Sign in with Email