Bob Mackin (Updated July 30)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would not comment July 29 on the costs of his recent series of trips to West Coast for cash for access party fundraisers and campaign-style spending re-announcements.
Trudeau has traveled five times to British Columbia since late May and is scheduled to make a sixth trip during the B.C. Day long weekend.
He appeared midday on the last Monday of July at the Kitsilano Coast Guard base at Vancouver’s Vanier Park, which his government reopened in 2016 after its closure cost the Conservatives at the polls in 2015. He stopped at a Davie Street gay bar in late afternoon to sip a beer with Pride festival organizers before ending the day at an evening campaign fundraiser on the University of British Columbia campus. Admission for the party fundraiser, in the Robert H. Lee Alumni building, was $750 to $1,500 per-person.
Asked by theBreaker.news why the Liberal Party of Canada is not paying for his politically-charged, jet fuel-consuming travel, Trudeau pivoted to criticism of his Conservative predecessor, Stephen Harper, and today’s opposition leader, Andrew Scheer.
“I will make no apologies for the fact that we have a big country that is important to get out there and spend time and listening to people and working with them,” said Trudeau, who is a Montreal-area MP. “This is an important part of the job of prime minister. I’m very happy to be here as prime minister in B.C. which is a second home to me.”
Trudeau flies domestically with an entourage and RCMP security detail on a CC-144 Challenger military jet that costs taxpayers more than $14,000 per-flying hour to operate.
A Victoria-based independent watchdog said the frequency of trips and the types of events are signs that the Liberals are worried about losing seats to the Conservatives in the Oct. 21 election. Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC said Trudeau is frantically traveling to B.C. like a politician normally does at the end of a campaign. The official election period is not expected to begin until September.
“That particular tactic is something you generally use at the end of the campaign, because it’s a means to try to get extra media coverage,” Travis said. “He was here, he was there, he was at this place, he was in that province, all within 24 hours kind of thing.”
An analysis by theBreaker.news found that Trudeau has logged more than 38,000 kilometres in the air on trips from Ottawa to the West Coast and back in the last two months. Some have been direct round-trips with short turnaround time. Others have featured multiple stops to or from B.C. The five trips represent at least 20 tonnes in carbon emissions for Trudeau, who has imposed a carbon tax on motorists in Ontario, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan.
Trudeau’s July 30 return to Ottawa comes after the latest trip to B.C. included 10 days of what his website called “personal” time. His annual visit to Tofino was sandwiched between two cash for access party fundraisers and two campaign-style spending photo ops.
On May 21, Trudeau flew from Sept-Iles, Que. to Kamloops, B.C. for ex-BC Liberal minister Terry Lake’s nomination meeting. He announced another round of Coast Guard shipbuilding by Seaspan in Vancouver the next morning and stayed in the city to headline lunch and dinner fundraisers attended by movers and shakers of the city’s real estate industry.
The Opus Hotel lunch in Yaletown was $250 to $1,500 a plate, while the dinner at Neptune Palace Chinese Restaurant was $750 to $1,500 a plate. Trudeau and co. made their way back to Ottawa via Meadow Lake, Sask., Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. and Antigonish, N.S.
On June 1, Trudeau arrived from Montreal for glad-handing, baby-kissing and selfie-taking at the Hats Off Day festival in Burnaby, interrupted by a meeting with Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley, who aired his safety concerns about the Kinder Morgan tank farm on Burnaby Mountain. Trudeau returned to Ottawa for just one day and came back to Vancouver on June 3-4 to speak at the Women Deliver Conference.
“He shouldn’t be doing this Ottawa-to-B.C. routine,” Travis said. “It strikes everybody as being far too political, it’s a contributor to emissions at this time, and it doesn’t make sense to his body clock.”
Trudeau came west again, stopping in Edmonton July 12 and Calgary July 13 before he spent the rest of July 13 in Surrey for a photo op to promote the 2015-launched Canada Child Benefit and speak at a rally in Surrey-Newton Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal’s campaign office. He was back in Ottawa on July 14.
Only four days later, on July 18, Trudeau flew from Montreal to Victoria where he joined B.C. Premier John Horgan to re-announce funding for new BC Transit buses before a $100 to $300-per person cash for access fundraiser at the Delta Ocean Pointe Resort.
During his “personal” time on the West Coast, Trudeau took time out for phone calls with French president Emmanuel Macron and new United Kingdom prime minister Boris Johnson.
Trudeau attempted to justify his travel spending by saying he has a responsibility to be prime minister “for all Canadians.”
“It is, in fact, one of the best parts of my job to get out and meet Canadians right across the country, whether it’s town halls where we have an opportunity to take questions from the general public and actually respond to those questions in a way that no other party leader does,” Trudeau said. “Whether it’s coming out for important announcements that demonstrate that the cuts Conservatives consistently put forward end up harming our environment and harming Canadians. These are the kinds of things that make a big difference in people’s lives and that’s why I’m so glad to be back here in B.C.”
Trudeau is scheduled to headline a $500 per-person ($70 for its Laurier Club members) Liberal Party cash for access fundraiser at 5 p.m. Aug. 4 in the Taj Park Convention Centre in Surrey. He is expected to march earlier that day in the annual Vancouver Pride Parade, which received $1 million from taxpayers via the new Trudeau-created “Canadian Experiences Fund.”
Ultimately, Travis said, Trudeau’s travel spending is another reason why there needs to be a debate about how government resources and caucus budgets can be used for partisan activities leading up to elections and between elections.
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