Does this pass your smell test?
I did not intend to write my report this week on Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent holiday vacation to Jamaica.
However, given the significant outrage expressed by many citizens in response to media reports about this vacation, it is important to address this subject.
Much of the outrage revolves around Prime Minister Justin Trudeau staying at a villa in the Prospect Estate and Villas resort complex near Ocho Rios in Jamaica. This villa, which costs $9,300 per night, was provided to the Prime Minister at no cost. It is worth noting that the resort is owned by a Canadian businessman who is a long-time friend of the Trudeau family.
One of the challenges in this situation is the conflicting information provided by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Initially, the PMO informed reporters in December that Trudeau and his family would cover the cost of their 10-day stay in Jamaica. However, when the National Post raised additional questions about the trip in early January, the PMO changed its statement, indicating that the family had vacationed “at no cost at a location owned by family friends.”
This clarification, revealing the significant cost of the resort stay — $93,000 — supplied for free, has raised concerns and questions among Canadians.
The primary concern expressed by citizens is that publicly elected officials in Canada should not accept significant gifts or services, as it may create a conflict of interest.
As a result of this situation, the Conservative Official Opposition Shadow Minister for Ethics and Accountable Government, MP Michael Barrett (MP for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes), has written to the interim Ethics Commissioner to seek further clarification on the details of this vacation that had apparently been approved in advance.
It is important to acknowledge that the job of Prime Minister is a stressful one and that it is not unreasonable to take a vacation with family around this time of year. It is also essential to recognize that due to security concerns related to the office of the Prime Minister, there will always be additional expenses for transportation, RCMP protection, and other related costs. These additional expenses are applicable regardless of who holds the position of Prime Minister.
However, I am deeply concerned about the potential perception that it is common for elected officials to take advantage of free accommodations and luxury vacations provided by friends, especially at such an eye-popping price tag.
For the record, I have always paid for my family vacations out of my own pocket and have never taken advantage of any “free” vacation accommodations.
I also believe that given that the Office of the Prime Minister, as the highest political office in our country, there are higher expectations and a deeper level of scrutiny on that office by the press, parliamentarians and the public than any other. It is up to any Prime Minister and their staff to ensure that not only the letter of our conflict of interest laws are followed but also the spirit of those laws.
My question this week is: Do you believe that elected officials should accept free vacation accommodations if they are provided by ‘friends’?
Please feel free to contact me at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.