PM, PMO should re­al­ize op­tics of se­cret va­ca­tion

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - OPINION -

There he goes again — lit­er­ally. Justin Trudeau was back in the Caribbean for an­other Christ­mas va­ca­tion. and, once again, his of­fice spent the bet­ter part of that week be­ing cagey about his lo­ca­tion.

The Ba­hamas, in case you’re in­ter­ested. in 2015, it was st. Kitts & ne­vis.

This re­peat of an avoid­able er­ror should be wor­ri­some for the govern­ment and its sup­port­ers.

let me head off the ob­vi­ous ob­jec­tion: i’m OK with Canadian prime min­is­ters hav­ing a hol­i­day. The prime min­is­ter can, and should, take time off.

and i know the prime min­is­ter can’t fly com­mer­cial, and re­im­burs­ing for the equiv­a­lent of a com­mer­cial fare is now stan­dard prac­tice, thanks to stephen harper. i also know the RCMP sends its pro­tec­tive de­tail wher­ever our leader goes.

The Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice also knows this. That’s why it will de­fend the prin­ci­ple of a va­ca­tion, as op­posed to the costs of that va­ca­tion, which last year added up to more than $100,000 for the RCMP and de­part­ment of na­tional de­fence. They’ll try to de­flect from the fact the prime min­is­ter chose the more ex­pen­sive op­tion.

True, we can be hor­ri­bly small with this stuff, but Trudeau has him­self to blame. The prob­lem with as­cend­ing to power promis­ing to be more Catholic than the Pope is that it doesn’t leave room for sin. here, Trudeau is fall­ing down on two fronts.

The prime min­is­ter cam­paigned on a pledge to sup­port the mid­dle class. stick­ing tax­pay­ers for the ad­di­tional costs of a for­eign va­ca­tion is, to put it in lan­guage the PMO will care about, at odds with the govern­ment’s brand.

sec­ond, the Canadian peo­ple took Trudeau’s pledge of to­tal trans­parency se­ri­ously; he can’t be opaque when it suits.

Contrast his lofty cam­paign rhetoric on trans­parency with the 2015 Christ­mas de­ba­cle when the Trudeau govern­ment (a) re­fused to dis­close st. Kitts & ne­vis as the va­ca­tion spot un­til TMZ outed them, ( b) re­fused to dis­close who joined him on govern­ment trans­port, (c) redacted the names of Trudeau fam­ily mem­bers and their nanny from the Challenger jet man­i­fest when the Con­ser­va­tives ob­tained it un­der an ac­cess-to-in­for­ma­tion ap­pli­ca­tion and (d) re­fused to re­lease the full — and sig­nif­i­cant — cost of the va­ca­tion un­til a few short weeks ago. i can think of many de­scrip­tors for this year-long run of events, but “trans­par­ent” isn’t one of them.

a Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice of words and deeds would (a) of­fer the gen­eral desti­na­tion with­out the press hav­ing to use their pli­ers, ( b) proac­tively dis­close the tax­payer-sub­si­dized mem­bers of the ret­inue and (c) own the prin­ci­ple of prime min­is­te­rial va­ca­tions and the re­spon­si­bil­ity for costs as­so­ci­ated with their choices.

The ob­sti­nate re­fusal to re­lease the va­ca­tion in­for­ma­tion is most eas­ily read as worry that the peo­ple won’t like it. Own­ing up to it, and de­fend­ing the ex­tra cost whole­heart­edly, would help to quell a pro­tracted up­roar. if it’s jus­ti­fi­able to stick tax­pay­ers with the cost, then get out and de­fend it. it will still be a “bad” story, but it won’t roll out in mul­ti­ple acts.

largesse re­mains a blind spot 15 months into this govern­ment. The last thing the lib­er­als should want is to lose their grip on the mid­dle class. ren­o­vat­ing 24 sus­sex, putting nan­nies on the pub­lic pay­roll, fancy features in glossy mag­a­zines and lav­ish va­ca­tions, even at your own par­tial ex­pense, might each be sur­viv­able, but bun­dled to­gether they threaten to blow an en­ti­tled hole in the side of the Good ship lib­eral.

The Trudeaus ought to know a boat that’s tak­ing on wa­ter isn’t any use on va­ca­tion — or in govern­ment. Andrew Macdougall is a Lon­don­based com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant and was com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor to former prime min­is­ter Stephen Harper.

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