MONTREAL - Rented downtown digs for Quebec's duplicate diplomats in Tokyo cost taxpayers more than $700,000 a year, not counting staffing costs, government documents show.
The 490 square-metre office on the 32nd floor of the Shiroyama Trust Tower houses 12 people, bringing the total annual cost of the office to $3.43 million.
The new leasing deal with the Japanese, which runs until next May, will cost $708,280 for the current fiscal year, up from $704,666 the previous year.
Quebec has had an office in the Japanese metropolis since 1973, part of a network of foreign delegations that now stands at 29, plus offices at UNESCO and the Francophonie.
A Quebec official defends the price tag, compiled from a government website and an external public tendering database.
Solene Lemay, a spokeswoman for Quebec's International Relations department, tells QMI Agency that the listed rental costs are typical for Tokyo.
"It's a fully justified expense," she said. "Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Our offices are not located in an upscale neighbourhood."
Lemay said the office delivers a return on investment, citing the $3.6 billion in annual trade between Quebec and Japan in 2010.
"Japan is Quebec's sixth largest economic partner and the second in Asia after China," she said.
Quebec maintains a full network of general delegations and other offices despite the fact that federal departments, including Foreign Affairs, already offer many of the same services.
The largest of Quebec's foreign delegations is the $10.7 million office in central Paris, with 53 staffers.
Quebec has people on the ground in most major U.S., European and Asian cities, all of which are already served by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Meanwhile, other provinces maintain kiosks inside existing Canadian missions.
- With files from Taieb Moalla