Opposition MPs attack Trudeau, Liberals on Aga Khan vacation again

Justin Trudeau's Christmas vacation with a family friend and religious leader has drawn criticism for its cost and the secrecy surrounding it

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in an armchair discussion with Tina Brown (not shown) at the Women in the World Summit at the David H. Koch Theater of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York on Thursday, April 6, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s controversial New Year’s family vacation at the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas has opposition MPs riled up once again.

Trudeau weathered a barrage of questions from interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose and Opposition House leader Candice Bergen about the latest cost estimates for the trip, which included a pricey ride on the Aga Khan’s private helicopter.

The Opposition seized on a CBC report that found a Privy Council Office technician was able to travel to the island by way of a commercially chartered seaplane, undermining Trudeau’s own argument that the helicopter was his only option.

CBC says the government’s initial $127,187 cost estimate for the trip did not include another $6,695 for the seaplane voyage.

Trudeau responded only with his standard reply: that it was a private family vacation that he’s happy to discuss with the federal ethics commissioner.

Government House leader Bardish Chagger, who absorbed a number of the opposition missives with Trudeau sitting right next to her, cited security rules that made it impossible for the prime minister to get to the island any other way.

Security rules mean the prime minister isn’t allowed to travel without a security detail, nor are the prime minister and his family allowed to take commercial flights.

That means they must fly on government aircraft.

Ever since early January, the vacation has embroiled Trudeau in an ethics probe and exposed his government to attacks about overspending on government entitlements — long a Liberal Achilles’ heel.

The federal ethics watchdog is looking into the trip to see if Trudeau violated guidelines for ministers when he vacationed on a private island owned by the Aga Khan and took the spiritual leader’s private helicopter as part of the visit.

More than half the cost — about $72,000 — was for an RCMP security detail to accompany Trudeau and his family on the winter getaway, a cost the government has said would have been incurred regardless of where the prime minister vacationed.