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Trudeau’s Montana holiday cost taxpayers much more than reported

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Easter weekend vacation in Montana cost taxpayers nearly a quarter of a million dollars, CBC News has learned — far more than the sum reported to Parliament.

Price tag for the trip came to $228,839 — far higher than the sum disclosed to Parliament

A hotel stands on a snow-covered ridge in bright sunlight.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Easter weekend vacation in Montana cost taxpayers nearly a quarter of a million dollars, CBC News has learned — far more than the sum reported to Parliament.

The price tag for the April 6-10 trip comes to more than $228,839 once the costs carried by the Canadian Armed Forces, the Privy Council Office and the RCMP are included.

That sum does not include the regular salaries of the RCMP officers tasked with protecting the prime minister, the Royal Canadian Air Force aircrew or the Privy Council official who normally accompanies the prime minister with the equipment needed to communicate securely.

And that price tag is far higher than the figure the government reported to Parliament two weeks ago. In answer to a question placed on the order paper by Conservative MP Luc Berthold, the government disclosed $23,846 in spending on the trip by the Canadian Armed Forces and the Privy Council.

That lower figure did not include the $204,993 the RCMP spent on overtime and costs such as accommodations, meals, incidentals and travel associated with Trudeau's holiday. That spending was revealed only this week, in response to a question to the police force from CBC News.

The government's answers reveal little about where exactly Trudeau went and what he did during his long weekend in Montana.

Flight trackers showed that the prime minister's plane landed in Bozeman, Montana the evening of April 6 and returned to Ottawa the evening of April 10.

In his filings with the ethics commissioner's office, Trudeau declared a "ground security motorcade" during a "private visit in Big Sky, Montana" as a gift from the U.S. Secret Service.

Driving from Bozeman to Big Sky takes about an hour.

Big Sky's skiing and snowboarding trails draw the rich and famous from around the world.

Trudeau's office refused to answer further questions regarding the trip, such as where he stayed in Montana, whether he paid for his accommodations, whether he visited anyone and who accompanied him there. It also refused to explain why the RCMP costs weren't disclosed when the government answered Berthold's question.

"As per long-standing government policy and for security reasons, the prime minister must travel on government aircraft, whether he is on official or personal business," Alison Murphy, spokesperson for the Prime Minister's Office, wrote in an e-mail response.

"As was the case with previous prime ministers, when travelling for personal reasons, the prime minister and any guests travelling with him reimburse an equivalent commercial airfare."

Trudeau has run into controversy in the past over vacations with his family outside Canada. A trip to visit the Aga Khan on an island in the Bahamas during the 2016/17 Christmas break resulted in a bill to taxpayers of $271,000 and a finding from Canada's ethics commissioner that he had breached government ethics rules.

A trip from Dec. 26 to Jan. 4 this year to an exclusive estate in Jamaica cost taxpayers at least $162,000. The wealthy owner of the Prospect estate, Peter Green, is a long-time friend of the Trudeau family who has also donated to the Trudeau Foundation.

Melanie Rushworth, director of communications for the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner's office, said the office doesn't approve vacations of elected officials and "would be involved only when the travel or stay could be considered a gift under the Conflict of Interest Act or the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons."

As is often the case with prime ministerial travel, the RCMP recorded the biggest tab for the Montana trip. In addition to the regular salaries of officers charged with protecting the prime minister and his family, the trip cost the police force $58,681 in overtime and $146,312 in miscellaneous travel costs.

The expenses listed in the answer to the order paper question for the Canadian Armed Forces include $2,752 for aircrew accommodations, $1,756 for per diems and $13,396 for other expenses, including aviation fuel, catering, handling and ground transportation.

The Privy Council incurred the lowest costs — $1,581 for accommodations, $1,226 for per diems, $1,667 for airfare, $26.72 for other expenses and $1,438 for other transportation.

Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at Elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Thompson

Senior reporter

Award-winning reporter Elizabeth Thompson covers Parliament Hill. A veteran of the Montreal Gazette, Sun Media and iPolitics, she currently works with the CBC's Ottawa bureau, specializing in investigative reporting and data journalism. She can be reached at: elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca.

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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