Trudeau’s vacation dilemma is a headache of his own making

He’s given three different explanations for a single vacation since questions started being asked.

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The prime minister’s personal vacation shouldn’t matter so much but he and his office have made it an issue. No one was talking about his trip to Jamaica until his office started putting out contradictory stories about who paid for his accommodations at a luxury villa.

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And this is why it matters: It’s important to know who is buying access to our leaders, who is buying influence and a stay at a private villa, on a private beach in Jamaica, worth $84,000. It’s enough to potentially buy access.

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The real problem with Justin Trudeau’s Christmas vacation was best summed up in the headline of a recent Globe and Mail editorial, “One Trudeau family vacation, three explanations, many doubts.”

There have been three different stories provided by Trudeau’s office to explain away the vacation. Since those competing stories became an issue, his office has refused to clarify further.

It's believed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vacationed at this luxurious beachfront villa dubbed the Frankfort at Prospect Estate in Jamaica, a former slave plantation, from Dec. 26, 2023, to Jan. 4, 2024.
It’s believed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vacationed at this luxurious beachfront villa dubbed the Frankfort at Prospect Estate in Jamaica, a former slave plantation, from Dec. 26, 2023, to Jan. 4, 2024. Prospect Estate Jamaica

At first, Trudeau’s office issued a statement before he left saying that he would pay for his accommodations in Jamaica. Then days before he returned to Canada, his office issued a second proactive statement saying the family stayed, “at no cost at a location owned by family friends.”

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That’s when this became a story. Trudeau’s office has put out two contradictory statements about his vacation, that made it an issue to be questioned. Yet, when questions were put to his office looking for clarification, a third statement was issued that muddied things further.

In the third version of events, Trudeau wasn’t paying for his accommodations, and he wasn’t staying at no cost at a place owned by friends, he was staying with friends.

“Like a lot of Canadian families, we spent the Christmas holidays with friends. All the rules were followed,” Trudeau said when questioned about the trip on Wednesday.

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That sounds like what most of us do when we visit friends or family and stay in a basement bedroom at the back of the house. Trudeau was staying in “perhaps the most desirable north coast villa in Jamaica” located on “a spectacular three hundred foot, powdery white sand beach, widely hailed as the best stretch of private beach in Jamaica.”

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As for all the rules being followed, we don’t know if that is the case.

Trudeau, his office and his House Leader Steve McKinnon, have all floated the idea that this trip was cleared by the Ethics Commissioner ahead of time. To most Canadians, such a statement would make it sound like this was cleared and totally above board and any complaints about it were just partisan bickering.

It's believed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vacationed at this luxurious beachfront villa dubbed the Frankfort at Prospect Estate in Jamaica, a former slave plantation, from Dec. 26, 2023, to Jan. 4, 2024.
It’s believed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vacationed at this luxurious beachfront villa dubbed the Frankfort at Prospect Estate in Jamaica, a former slave plantation, from Dec. 26, 2023, to Jan. 4, 2024. Prospect Estate Jamaica

The problem is, as the Ethics Commissioner’s office has told the Toronto Sun and any media outlet willing to listen, they don’t preapprove vacations.

“To clarify, the Office does not approve or ‘clear’ regulatees’ vacations. The Office has a role only in ensuring that the gift provisions of the Act and Code are observed,” spokesperson Jocelyne Brisebois wrote via e-mail on Jan. 11.

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I wasn’t the first person to report this fact, but it still seems lost on many in the media who continue to report that the trip was “pre-cleared.” That is simply not the case which means the PM, his staff and one of his ministers are trying to get out of an ethical pickle based on a lie, which is never a good look.

The Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics has called interim Ethics Commissioner Konrad von Finckenstein to testify. It’s something Liberal MPs reluctantly agreed to as long as they could ask about other travel, meaning they will try to equate MPs having a fancy dinner with the PM taking an $84,000 vacation from his friend Peter Green.

Green inherited his fortune, and Prospect Estate where Trudeau stayed, from his late father-in-law Harold Mitchell, a British politician and industrialist. When Mitchell was elevated to the British House of Lords, his title included mention of Luscar, Alberta, based on his mining interests there.

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It's believed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vacationed at this luxurious beachfront villa dubbed the Frankfort at Prospect Estate in Jamaica, a former slave plantation, from Dec. 26, 2023, to Jan. 4, 2024.
It’s believed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vacationed at this luxurious beachfront villa dubbed the Frankfort at Prospect Estate in Jamaica, a former slave plantation, from Dec. 26, 2023, to Jan. 4, 2024. Prospect Estate Jamaica

Is that still a family business that Green may want to talk to Trudeau about?

We know that the villa stayed in rents for $7,000 USD per night over Christmas, thus the $84,000 stay over nine days. We don’t know if that was paid for by the Green family or the company that rents the villa out.

Either way, it’s an expensive gift that creates a lot of questions and Trudeau would be smart to answer those questions rather than make it sound like he slept in the basement guest room of his family friends as so many of us did over Christmas.

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