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HomeBusinessTrudeau’s April flights cost taxpayers more than $200K 

Trudeau’s April flights cost taxpayers more than $200K 

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Bob Mackin

Taxpayers were charged almost $207,000 to fly Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his staff and family on trips aboard a Royal Canadian Air Force jet last April. 

That included the $52,000 cost for the Bombardier CC-144D Challenger that took Trudeau, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau and their three children to Montana for an Easter weekend vacation at the Big Sky ski and snowboard resort.

Inside a Bombardier Challenger jet.

Based on the total costs and length of corresponding flight times listed in the documents, which were released under the access to information law, the cost-per-hour for the Challenger jet is $6,340. 

Before the pandemic, records about Trudeau’s trips in July and August 2019 showed that the average hourly cost was $5,636. He flies aboard military jets for security reasons.

The request about the Montana trip specifically sought details of any cost recovery, but no records were provided. Government policy states that, when the travel is for personal reasons, staff ask a travel agent to quote the lowest commercial fare on a comparable flight and then issue an invoice for that amount. In September 2019, Trudeau was invoiced $2,450.73 after a family vacation to Tofino. However, that did not cover a half-hour of jet use. 

The documents from the Department of National Defence (DND) show there were five “missions” on which Trudeau traveled during 15 days in April. 

The trip to Montana came after a series of April 2-6 photo ops in Quebec with Premier Francois Legault and Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante after an ice storm, a speaking engagement at the the Eurasia Group consultancy’s summit in Toronto and a tour of a Honda factory in Alliston, Ont.

Fifteen hours after returning to Ottawa from Bozeman, Montana, Trudeau left aboard the Challenger for another campaign-style trip, from April 11-16 to Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina and Richmond. It included a meeting in Toronto with Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, a grocery rebate program photo op in Regina and Indigenous health funding announcement and town hall meeting with the Squamish Nation in North Vancouver. 

On April 21, Trudeau made a one-day trip to London, Ont., to announce a subsidized Volkswagen electric vehicle battery plant. From April 26 to 28, it was New York City for the Global Citizen Now summit. On April 30, a one-day Toronto trip for the Vaisakhi Parade. 

Justin Trudeau, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and Xi Jinping (PMO)

The busy month was prior to the Liberal Party’s May policy convention in Ottawa and sparked speculation that Trudeau might call another snap election by fall, two years before the next scheduled election. But that was scuttled by a  perfect storm of foreign interference by China and India, economic headwinds, the rise of the opposition Conservatives in opinion polls, and the collapse of Trudeau’s marriage. 

The Trudeaus announced Aug. 2 on social media that they had legally separated. Last month, the National Post reported on a divorce petition filed April 26 by the ex-wife of an Ottawa surgeon, Dr. Marcos Bettolli, alleging he had “re-partnered with a high-profile individual who attracts significant media attention, and presents significant security considerations.” The newspaper reported that the individual was Gregoire Trudeau. The court filing was less than three weeks after the Montana vacation. 

Meanwhile, the documents also show that Anita Anand, who was Minister of National Defence at the time, charged $121,728 for an April 20-22 round trip to Germany with three staff members, chief of defence staff Gen. Wayne Eyre and four senior Canadian Armed Forces officers to the headquarters of the U.S. Army Europe and Africa in Wiesbaden and a meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group at the Ramstein Air Base. 

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon’s only trip of the month was April 25-27 to Yellowknife, which cost $50,720 for the Challenger jet. 

The access to information application was originally filed May 2. Federal government offices are legally required to respond within 30 days or invoke an extension beyond 30 days, but DND did not. 

Leslie Mayo, acting deputy director for the DND information and privacy office, said in an Aug. 15 email that the file had been “just assigned” to her team. Senior analyst Alain Pouliot said Oct. 6 that consultation was ongoing, but refused to say with whom. On Oct. 26, Mayo blamed a backlog.

“We do not give out information about internal processes and the employees involved as our employees have been targeted in social media and in the news for delays that are not their fault,” said chief of operations Leslie Larabie.

The records were finally disclosed Nov. 2. 

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