The total cost of the trip for taxpayers was at least $162,000
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family rang in the New Year in Jamaica at an estate belonging to a family that made a large donation to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation two years ago.
The estate, home to five luxury villas, is owned by Peter Green’s family, whose relationship to the Trudeaus dates back to the ’70s, reports CBC.
Though the trip was approved by the ethics commissioner, it’s not clear whether the Prime Minister’s Office and the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner were aware of the donor relationship at the time.
Speaking in the House of Commons last month, Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus noted that the prime minister billed Canadian taxpayers $160,000 for the trip, which ran from Dec. 26 to Jan. 4.
According to CBC, Trudeau reimbursed the equivalent value of a commercial flight for the personal trip for himself and his family, but the PMO did not reveal whether Trudeau paid for his accommodations or other expenses out of pocket.
Several unnamed sources told the CBC they were concerned about the optics of such a trip at a time when many Canadians are struggling to stay atop of growing expenses as inflation remains high, and that support for the trip within the PMO was not unanimous.
The total cost of the trip for taxpayers was at least $162,000, including more than $115,000 related to RCMP security. Sources told CBC that some government employees who made the trip stayed at all-inclusive hotels near the Prospect estate, which was purchased by mining tycoon Harold Mitchell in the 1930s.
Mitchell is the late father-in-law of Peter Green. Green took over the mining business when his wife and Mitchell’s lone child, Mary-Jean Mitchell, died in 1985. Most of the operation was sold in 1996 for £300M (about C$500 million), reports The Times.
Stays at the estate can reach upwards of $7,000 a night during peak season, and each villa offers a personal concierge and private beach or swimming, according to the Prospect Estate website.
Pierre Trudeau, who was godfather to Peter Green’s son, Alexander, stayed at the estate for the first time during an official visit to Jamaica in 1975, during his first term as prime minister.
In 2021, The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation announced the introduction of the “Mary-Jean Mitchell Green | Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar.”
“Thanks to the generosity of Alexander and Andrew Green, this year’s cohort of Scholars will include one additional member, chosen based upon the Foundation’s selection criteria and to be announced as part of the 2021 cohort this spring,” the foundation said in a news release.
The foundation’s leadership scholarships reach a maximum of $180,000 and cover such expenses as tuition fees, research and travel for individual scholars.
Though the prime minister’s younger brother, Alexandre, remains active in the foundation, Trudeau has said he withdrew from the organization once he became Liberal party leader in 2013.
Earlier this week, the foundation announced it was launching an independent review of its decision to accept a $200,000 donation in 2016 that appears to have come from the Chinese government.
The announcement was followed by the resignation of the entire board, including the CEO, save for three members, who are staying on until a new board is in place.
“Following a unanimous consensus reached by the board before its dissolution, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation is launching an independent review of its acceptance of the donation with a potential connection to the Chinese government,” said Edward Johnson, one of the remaining board members. “This review will be conducted by an accounting firm instructed by a law firm, neither of which were previously involved with the foundation.”
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