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HomeBusinessAnalysis: On travel and recreation instead of truth and reconciliation, is eight enough for Trudeau in Tofino?

Analysis: On travel and recreation instead of truth and reconciliation, is eight enough for Trudeau in Tofino?

Bob Mackin

Outside the “Surfer’s Paradise” estate on Chesterman Beach in Tofino, B.C. (Sotheby’s)

Justin Trudeau’s controversial post-election trip to Tofino, B.C. is the eighth as Prime Minister. 

Will it be his last? 

He made annual August visits to Canada’s top surfing destination during each of his first three years in office, 2016 to 2018. 

He returned four times in 2019 alone: Easter weekend in April, July 19-28, Aug. 2-3 and Nov. 2-4. The latter was after that year’s federal election.

Trudeau took-off for Tofino on Sept. 30 for recreation and relaxation, instead of participating in any ceremonies on the first Truth and Reconciliation Day. (He did appear at one on Parliament Hill the night before.)

On Oct. 2, according to the Tofino-Ucluelet Westerly News, members of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation gathered on the beach outside Trudeau’s Chesterman Beach hideaway. They demanded Trudeau apologize for snubbing their brothers and sisters, specifically the official invitation from T’kemlups te Sewcwepemc in Kamloops. 

Prime Minister’s Office staff originally claimed he was spending the new federal holiday in Ottawa. They were forced to admit he was in Tofino, after images from flight radar websites hit social media, showing a Canadian Forces Challenger CC-144 jet from the national capital had landed.

Trudeau and his entourage stayed at the Cox Bay Beach Resort in 2019.

This time, he is in a secluded, private estate on Chesterman Beach. 

But not secluded enough.

A reporter from the Tofino Ucluelet Westerly News photographed him on the spacious sun deck with wife Sophie and a mug of beer. 

Global TV also featured a clip of Trudeau walking on the beach. His back to the camera, ignoring a reporter’s questions about why he did not attend that day’s ceremony by the former Kamloops Indian Residential School and the unmarked graves of the children who never made it home.

The trip has become a public relations nightmare for Liberals, so soon after the Sept. 20 election, which ended in a minority government whimper for Trudeau. Despite mid-August’s wildfires in B.C.’s interior and the fourth wave of the pandemic, Trudeau believed it would be a cakewalk to achieve majority power in the House of Commons by going to the polls more than two years sooner than the law required. 

The west coast remembers some of the poor decisions made by B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson in their third terms, which turned out to be their last.

Instead of doing things the right way, the late-career versions of Campbell and Robertson often did things their own way. Optics be damned. Trudeau is exhibiting the same kind of third-term hubris, as the likelihood of a fourth is foggy, at best.

Father Pierre Trudeau famously walked in the snow before announcing his 1984 retirement. Will Trudeau the Second to take a walk in the sand of Tofino and ponder his exit from politics?

Inside the “Surfer’s Paradise” estate on Chesterman Beach in Tofino, B.C. (Sotheby’s)

Could that be why he is in the lap of luxury this time, instead of staying at a public resort?

The Tofino property is actually two parcels, assessed last year at a combined $4.812 million. But the asking price is $18.75 million for what Sotheby’s International Realty described as “Surfer’s Paradise.”

“Affixed on the vast Pacific as the tides and peacefulness roll in,” reads the sales brochure.

The property includes three residences and a playhouse.

“A Chesterman Beach waterfront estate on 1.21-acres with a majestic 4-bed 4-bath home, a luxurious guest house and caretaker lodging. Walk out onto a popular beach, soak in the tranquil setting of your forested hideaway or gaze upon magical sunsets. Just a short drive to world class dining, cultural experiences and unparalleled natural beauty. Everything else you need is at your fingertips on this unique parcel.”

The long list of amenities includes: air conditioning, billiards room, media room/theatre, library, spa/hot tub, and steam room. There is even a Coast Salish orca design on the main door.

The properties have been registered since July 2013 to one person: Merrin McRoberts, a businesswoman with a home address in Calgary’s posh Upper Mount Royal neighbourhood. 

Inside the “Surfer’s Paradise” estate on Chesterman Beach in Tofino, B.C. (Sotheby’s)

Listing agents Shane and Logan Wilson have not responded to questions about the cost of renting the property.

Taxpayers are on the hook for the cost of flying Trudeau and family from Ottawa to Tofino. Based on figures released in 2019 via Access to Information, the Challenger jet costs $5,637 per flight hour to operate. The round trip bill to taxpayers will be more than $50,000. The jet burns 340 gallons of jet fuel per hour.

Trudeau, however, will only be invoiced for seats on the plane, as per the government’s pleasure travel discount policy. The cost recovered will not be enough to compensate for a single hour of flight.

A September 2019 invoice for 12 seats on that summer’s trips to Tofino totalled just $2,450.73. That is because the cost-recovery policy is based on the lowest-cost equivalent economy fare.

Meanwhile, Trudeau has already cheapened the value of the federal holiday that he created. The second edition falls on a Friday in 2022. Many Canadians will be tempted to follow Trudeau’s footsteps and seize the opportunity for a long weekend of tourism and recreation, instead of the intended day to contemplate truth and reconciliation.

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