PM, PMO should realize optics of secret vacation
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.