Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with the Aga Khan on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 17, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Trudeau takes heat for costly vacation

Trip down south was north of $127,000

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau’s family vacation over New Year’s is back in the spotlight after documents tabled in Parliament revealed the cost of the trip down south was north of $127,000.

The dollar figure gives the opposition Conservatives a chance to bring up the trip that has embroiled Trudeau in an ethics probe and also attack the prime minister for overspending on government entitlements.

The federal ethics watchdog is looking into the trip to see if Trudeau violated guidelines for ministers when he vacationed on a private island owned by the Aga Khan and took the spiritual leader’s private helicopter as part of the visit.

The costs presented in response to a written question from the Conservatives don’t appear to include the helicopter flight, but do include the cost for travel, accommodations and per diems for public servants who accompanied Trudeau.

More than half the cost — about $72,000 — was for an RCMP security detail to accompany Trudeau and his family on the winter getaway, a cost the government said would have been incurred regardless of where the prime minister vacationed.

Security rules mean the prime minister isn’t allowed to travel without a security detail, nor are the prime minister and his family allowed to take commercial flights.

That means they must fly on government aircraft.

The Liberals said Tuesday the costs weren’t unreasonable and that Trudeau, like his predecessors, reimburses the cost of an equivalent commercial flight. For the holiday trip, that reimbursement came to $4,895.94.

“One of the first things we did after taking office was to ask the clerk of the privy council office to develop guidelines surrounding the reimbursement of travel by sitting prime minister, their families and guests. Prior to our government taking office, no such policy existed,” Liberal House leader Bardish Chagger said.

The round-trip between Canada and the Bahamas cost about $32,000, a figure that includes the cost for the crew, fuel and maintenance, some of which would be incurred regardless of whether Trudeau was in the air.

On the plane, the cost for food, beverages and associated fees like catering, delivery, storage, airport taxes and security fees, totalled $1,720.37.

The figure led to an exasperated response from Conservative MP Blaine Calkins, who asked in the House of Commons, just what in the world was Trudeau eating?

“Lots of Canadian families travel by plane on a special getaway once a year. On these flights you can buy a sandwich, maybe a Diet Coke and a bag of chips for a snack. It’s not great, but it certainly is reasonable,” Calkins said.

“What’s not reasonable, Mr. Speaker, is over $1,700 worth of food and drinks for a three-hour flight between Canada and the Bahamas, which is how much the taxpayer was billed by the prime minister getting to his private island vacation.”

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