Tough ques­tions dog PM on tour

Aga Khan va­ca­tion, cost of liv­ing ques­tions put to PM dur­ing Day 2 of out­reach tour

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - NATIONAL NEWS - Kristy Kirkup

PETER BOR­OUGH, Ont. — Justin Trudeau’s cam­paign-style out­reach tour of­fered no respite Fri­day from ques­tions about his fam­ily va­ca­tion with the Aga Khan — nor the pri­or­i­ties of or­di­nary Cana­di­ans, from soar­ing hy­dro bills to car­bon taxes to Don­ald Trump.

Trudeau con­tin­ued to de­fend him­self from crit­ics as­sail­ing his use of a pri­vate he­li­copter be­long­ing to the wealthy spir­i­tual leader, even though the fed­eral Con­flict of In­ter­est Act ex­pressly for­bids such perks.

“Prime min­is­ter is not a nineto-five job,” Trudeau told a news con­fer­ence in Peter­bor­ough, Ont., pre­sum­ably a ref­er­ence to the fact that his be­hav­iour re­mains sub­ject to pub­lic scru­tiny even dur­ing what he calls a “pri­vate fam­ily va­ca­tion.”

“I’m prime min­is­ter ev­ery minute of ev­ery day ... that’s part of the job and I fully ac­cept and em­brace it.”

Cana­di­ans ex­pect to have con­fi­dence in their gov­ern­ment, he added, re­peat­ing his com­mit­ment to co-op­er­ate with the fed­eral ethics com­mis­sioner re­gard­ing the trip.

But his con­tro­ver­sial fam­ily hol­i­day at the Aga Khan’s ul­tra-pri­vate Ba­hamian is­land ap­peared far from the minds of the or­di­nary Cana­di­ans who packed a town hall in Peter­bor­ough to give the prime min­is­ter a win­dow into their world.

Kathy Kat­ula, 54, from Buck­horn, Ont., gave Trudeau a piece of her mind about her soar­ing hy­dro bill — a phe­nom­e­non that’s largely an On­tario gov­ern­ment prob­lem — and the prime min­is­ter’s plan to force the prov­inces to im­pose a car­bon tax.

“I feel like you have failed me and I am ask­ing you here to­day to fix that,” an emo­tional Kat­ula, a sin­gle mother, told Trudeau.

“My heat and hy­dro cost me more than my mort­gage.”

Not ev­ery­one agrees with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to im­pose car­bon pric­ing in Canada, Trudeau ac­knowl­edged, say­ing it will be up to the prov­inces to en­sure the mea­sures are not oner­ous to those strug­gling to make ends meet.

“It will be up to the gov­ern­ment of On­tario to en­sure that you are not pe­nal­ized, folks like you,” he said. “I am trust­ing they will do that re­spon­si­bly and not pe­nal­ize you fur­ther.”

Later, Kat­ula ap­peared will­ing to give the prime min­is­ter a pass on the Aga Khan con­tro­versy.

“Yes, I’m an­gry about it, but my fo­cus to­day is, why am I suf­fer­ing?” she said in an in­ter­view.

“He proved to­day that he is not just hang­ing out with rich mil­lion­aires. I’m not a rich mil­lion­aire and he came out and spoke to me to­day.”

The prime min­is­ter be­gan his day with a jog with troops at CFB Tren­ton, fol­lowed by break­fast and small talk with sol­diers in the mess hall.

Later, he stopped by a res­tau­rant brim­ming with lo­cals in Bewd­ley, Ont., and vis­ited a Toronto Rap­tors train­ing fa­cil­ity to meet youth from La Loche, a Saskatchewan com­mu­nity still reel­ing from a school shoot­ing last year that killed four and in­jured seven oth­ers.

But loom­ing over the tour has been the rich-and-fa­mous flavour of the hos­pi­tal­ity Trudeau and his fam­ily en­joyed at the hands of the Aga Khan, a long­time fam­ily friend who also hap­pens to be the spir­i­tual leader of the world’s 15 mil­lion Is­maili Mus­lims.

Af­ter tak­ing a gov­ern­ment jet to Nas­sau, the Trudeau en­tourage, which in­cluded a Lib­eral MP and the party’s pres­i­dent, trav­elled on a pri­vate he­li­copter in or­der to get to their ul­ti­mate des­ti­na­tion, a pri­vate Ba­hamian is­land.

Both the Con­flict of In­ter­est Act and Trudeau’s own ethics guide­lines bar the use of spon­sored travel in pri­vate air­craft, al­low­ing only for ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances re­lated to the job of prime min­is­ter and only with the prior ap­proval of the ethics com­mis­sioner.

Trudeau has said he will dis­cuss the mat­ter with con­flict of in­ter­est and ethics com­mis­sioner Mary Daw­son “and an­swer any ques­tions she may have.”

On Wed­nes­day, Con­ser­va­tive MP Blaine Calkins asked Daw­son to in­ves­ti­gate Trudeau’s trip, a re­quest that came a day af­ter Tory lead­er­ship con­tender An­drew Scheer made a sim­i­lar re­quest.

Both com­plaints ques­tion whether it is OK for the prime min­is­ter to ac­cept the hos­pi­tal­ity of some­one whose foun­da­tion re­ceives funds from the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment.

The Aga Khan Foun­da­tion has been the ben­e­fi­ciary of tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in gov­ern­ment con­tri­bu­tions to in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment projects.

The Aga Khan him­self, while not a reg­is­tered lob­by­ist, is a noted phi­lan­thropist and the hered­i­tary spir­i­tual leader of the world’s ap­prox­i­mately 15 mil­lion Is­maili Mus­lims.

In 2009, then-prime min­is­ter Stephen Harper made him an hon­orary cit­i­zen of Canada.

Adrian Wyld/ THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau speaks dur­ing a town hall meet­ing in Peter­bor­ough, Ont. Fri­day.

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