Politics Briefing: Timing of Trudeau’s Vancouver Island vacation continues to be questioned – The Globe and Mail

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Justin Trudeau is in the Vancouver Island community of Tofino today on a vacation that has raised questions for the Prime Minister and his team over the trip’s timing.

Mr. Trudeau and his family flew to the town of about 2,000 people on Thursday, the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, prompting criticism for not appearing at Indigenous events to mark the historic occasion.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada expressed shock and dismay on Friday about Mr. Trudeau’s trip, questioning the sincerity of past comments from Mr. Trudeau, when he said there is no relationship more important to the Liberal government than that with Indigenous people. Story here.

Mr. Trudeau had little to say about the situation when Global News caught up with him on Thursday on one of the beaches for which Tofino is world famous. See here.

The Globe and Mail asked the Prime Minister’s Office for comment on Friday, but had yet to receive a response by mid-afternoon.

On Thursday, spokesperson Ann-Clara Vaillancourt said that Mr. Trudeau is spending time in Tofino with family for a few days. She also said that, after his participation in a Truth and Reconciliation ceremony on Wednesday night, he spoke Thursday to residential-school survivors from across the country.

Asked about the controversy on Friday, Health Minister Patty Hajdu told a news conference on COVID-19 that she could not speak to other people’s scheduling, and, instead, talked about her own experience marking the day.

Visiting Tofino has been a vacation routine for Mr. Trudeau, who lived in the Vancouver region before entering elected politics. See here and here

J.J. Belanger, the operator of a resort in Tofino and vice-chair of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C., said Friday that Mr. Trudeau has been visiting Tofino since about 2014, the year before he became Prime Minister.

“I think he gets peace and quiet when he comes here, in a short time frame” Mr. Belanger said in an interview. “He never comes for long. It’s usually four or five days.”

Mr. Belanger said Mr. Trudeau stays in a private home that a friend owns.

He said the Prime Minister surfs and walks on the beach. “He’s kind of left alone here. Nobody really goes after him and bugs him,” said Mr. Belanger. “Today is a gorgeous day, and there are some pretty decent waves so he might be on a board out there today.”

Mr. Belanger said the vacation was probably “bad timing,” but that trips tend to be set up well in advance for security reasons, and the commitment may indeed have been locked in before the Truth and Reconciliation day was confirmed earlier this year with royal assent for legislation enacting the day.

J.D.M. Stewart, author of the 2018 book Being Prime Minister, which is about the lives of Canada’s prime ministers, said Friday that there has always been a tension between duty and personal time for prime ministers, and Canadians don’t understand just how demanding the job is.

“That said, this decision by the Prime Minister has many people righty scratching their heads,” Mr. Stewart wrote. “No one would begrudge a prime minister a vacation – especially after an election campaign but to take it during the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation leaves me dumbfounded.”

Mr. Stewart, in a statement, said the situation raises a question about the quality of the advice the Prime Minister may be getting.

“He is supposed to have people who prevent him from making mistakes such as this so, in my view, the blame for this can be squarely put on his close advisers as well,” he said. “The only plausible explanation I can think of is that the fatigue from an election campaign had everyone’s brain running on autopilot and this one slipped through.”

Ultimately, however, the blame rests with Mr. Trudeau, he said. “He should apologize for this.”

TODAY’S HEADLINES

CANADA CELEBRATES THE FIRST NATIONAL DAY FOR TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION – Thousands of people blazed a trail of orange across the country on Thursday to mark the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, as they reflected on past and present harms suffered by Indigenous peoples. Story here.

PM URGED TO ACCEPT RULING – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is being urged to accept a court ruling that could cost billions in compensation to Indigenous children and families but would contribute toward reconciliation.

SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS LAW TO CUT TORONTO COUNCIL – Canada’s top court has upheld an Ontario law that slashed the size of Toronto’s city council nearly in half during the last municipal election. Story here.

QUEBEC LANGUAGE LAW UNDER SCRUTINY – Bill 96, Quebec’s proposed overhaul of its French-language charter, is under the microscope at legislative hearings, with participants this week raising concerns about the bill’s effect on English speakers and the independence of the judiciary. Story here.

SASK. MLA QUITS OVER VACCINATION STATUS – A member of caucus of the governing Saskatchewan Party has resigned from caucus after misrepresenting her vaccine status. Premier Scott Moe said the remaining 47 members of the Saskatchewan Party caucus are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Story here.

OPINION

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on the fatal flaw in the Alberta sovereignty fantasy:All of this is meant to provide some factual context for the Free Alberta Strategy, the latest and most extreme in a parade of attempts on the part of the province’s increasingly demented right wing to argue for a Quebec-style “knife at the throat” approach to the rest of the country – if not for outright separation. There would be little justification for this even if Alberta were the hapless victim of Confederation the report pretends. But read in the light of reality, the report appears even more to be a work of fantasy, of the most paranoid kind.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on why any member of Parliament who is not vaccinated against COVID-19 should resign: There may be MPs who believe that refusing to receive the vaccine is an assertion of liberty. Sure, whatever. But your liberty does not entitle you to put the health of others at risk. That’s why so many employers are demanding that workers be vaccinated before they return to the workplace. You want to be unvaccinated and free? Then go sit in your basement. Stay away from Parliament Hill.

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on Kevin Vuong being ready to serve his most important constituent: himself: “Mr. Vuong has since faced calls to resign – from constituents, from fellow politicians, from the Liberal and NDP Spadina-Fort York riding associations – but he has pledged to stick around, telling those who are unhappy with his win that he will “work hard to earn your trust.” Indeed, it is theoretically possible that the people of Spadina-Fort York will come around to the guy who seems to have snuck into office and is now hanging onto the job out of sheer hubris, just as it is theoretically possible that a majority of members will mobilize to expel Mr. Vuong from the House. But since the latter action has only been executed four times in Canada’s past, neither outcome seems particularly likely.”

Kamila Talendibaeva (Contributor to The Globe and Mail) on why there should be no more excuses for Canada to bring her husband Huseyin Celil home from China: “Let me begin by saying that I am grateful for the reunification of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor with their families. It was moving to watch them return safely to Canada after more than 1,000 days of detention in China. And it has given me renewed faith that Canada can and will be able to save my husband, Huseyin Celil, too. Still, explaining to my four boys here in Canada why their father did not walk off the plane with the two Michaels has proven difficult. Our youngest is now 15 years old; he has never met his father. I have not heard my husband’s voice in 16 years. I don’t even know whether he is still alive.”

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