rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Ballistic steal: Armoured Harper in India

Sean Kilpatrick, the Canadian Press

Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, his wife Laureen, International Trade Minister Ed Fast, a coterie of aides, and upwards of 70 security officials touched down in New Delhi for a five day trade mission. The federal government's agenda is to promote some 14 trade and investment deals between Canadian and Indian companies, reportedly representing $2.5 billion (current Canadian-Indian bilateral trade is on the order of $5.2 billion).

The economic flag-waving has been overshadowed by the discovery that the Prime Minister arranged the shipment of two armored vehicles from Canada to ferry him and members of his entourage around. CBC News confirmed that a C-17 military transport plane was used to fly the vehicles (an SUV and a black Cadillac sedan) to India. This is a highly unusual move, given that on international visits the Prime Minister normally employs armored vehicles that provided by the host country or rented locally. This is standard procedure for virtually all international leaders. Indeed, the only head of state who consistently travels with his own security vehicles is the United States president.

Stephen and Lorraine Harper in IndiaOnly twice previously, during state visits to Afghanistan and Haiti, has the Canadian Prime Minister brought his own security fleet. The Prime Minister's security extravagance is particularly perplexing given that officials with the Indian Ministry of External Affairs confirmed to the Canadian Press "on condition of anonymity that Harper had been offered an armored Mercedes for his entire visit -- with the exception of a stop in Bangalore where it was the state government taking care of his car."

So, in these times of austerity, how many "hard-earned Canadian tax dollars" did the Prime Minister spend on this security indulgence?

It costs $21,239 per flying hour for a C-17 military transport plane, and the flying time between Ottawa and New Delhi is approximately 14 hours and 40 minutes (depending on stops and the route taken). Thus, one-way expenses are $311,364, or for return trip $622,728.

ean Kilpatrick, the Canadian PressEven if the Prime Minister had qualms about the free armored vehicles that were available to him from the Indian government and the state of Karnataka (where Bangalore is situated), he could have availed himself (like all other leaders) of rented armored vehicles available commercially. A quick survey shows that, depending on the vehicle, its features (hardened ballistic steel, armour-reinforced body panels, explosive protection, 40 mm polycarbonate bulletproof glass, built in smoke-screen system, dual ram bumpers, etc.) and the level of protection required (ranging from Level 3 to Level 7) armored vehicles rentals range between $3,500 and $1,280 per day. Therefore, using the upper end cost of $3,500 (a great deal, since it includes a security high risk driver and two professional protective agents …), for a five day visit it would have cost the Prime Minister $35,000 for two top-notch armored vehicles. This would be $587,728 less compared to the $622,728 that Canadian taxpayers will shell-out for the Prime Minister's security extravagance -- in addition to saving all the jet fuel to travel 22,600 kilometers, which burned at high altitude has a climate change multiplier effect of between 2.0-4.0 (average 2.7) compared to fuel burned at ground level (see Calculating carbon dioxide emissions of flights).

What therefore, is the point of this $622 thousand dollars indulgence on the part of Stephen Harper? It makes former Minister of International Cooperation Bev Oda's $16 glass of orange juice sound like a fantastic bargain for Canadian taxpayers.  Perhaps to appear more "presidential" on the eve of an American election? Whatever the motivation, what is certain is that Canadian taxpayers are on the hook to pay for Stephen Harper's armored extravagances.

Christopher Majka is an ecologist, environmentalist, policy analyst, and writer. He is the director of Natural History Resources and Democracy: Vox Populi.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.