President Obama is in Ottawa today for a one-day North American Summit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. After the Summit he is scheduled to address a joint session of the Canadian Parliament. This marks his third visit to our northern neighbor. In 2009 he traveled to Ottawa for a meeting with former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and in June of 2010 Obama was in Toronto and Muskoka for global summits. Canada was originally scheduled to host this conference last year, but the event was post-posted by Harper due to tensions “over the Keystone XL pipeline, food labelling and a range of other issues.”
Since Obama is trying to build support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it is expected trade will be a main point of conversation on the agenda. In addition, the advance joint press releases point to energy cooperation. In particular, the three nations will commit to cutting methane emissions and boost the production of renewable energy across the continent. Pursuant to that, the President’s FY 2017 budget proposes $289 million for the Department of Energy’s “Building Technologies” programs that would include an unspecified amount of funding for “support of the President’s Climate Action Plan and the recently proposed amendment to the Montreal Protocol by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.” The budget proposes another $1.8 million over three years to fund a Pan-North American Renewable Integration Study.
Beyond the proposed budget increases in support of this trip’s agenda, there are also additional costs for taxpayers whenever the President travels abroad. The FY 2016 cost per flight hour to operate Air Force One is $180,118. Total costs to fly to Ottawa and back to Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington, DC will amount to $510,334. This figure is based on an average cruising speed of 500 miles per hour and flight hours as estimated by TravelMath.com. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the total costs incurred when the President travels because he is usually accompanied by a substantial retinue of support, diplomats, officials, bureaucrats, and security personnel. However, a full accounting of the associated costs is not readily available.
This is Obama’s 47th international trip. He is currently the third most-traveled President after Clinton and George W. Bush, though with just two more trips he will tie Bush’s total. Upcoming on his schedule are trips to Spain and Poland in July, China and Laos in September, and Peru in November.
More information is available in NTUF’s 2015 issue brief Still Up in the Air: The Uncertain Costs of Presidential Travel Abroad and in our research archive.