Less than three days after staying in power with a minority government in the 2021 snap election, planning was underway for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s getaway to Tofino.
Trudeau flew to his favourite Vancouver Island vacation spot Sept. 30, 2021, instead of attending a ceremony on the first national day to remember residential school victims.
But email between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Department of National Defence office that books government jets shows the original plan was to travel before Truth and Reconciliation Day.
Email obtained under the access to information law, after a delay of more than 13 months, shows that a person in the PMO, whose name was censored, emailed the 8 Operations Support Squadron at Canadian Forces Base Trenton at 10:11 a.m. Sept. 23, 2021.
“We are still planning the private trip to Tofino, so the dates are not locked in, but hoping you could provide the [comparable prices] for departure from Ottawa on either 28 or 29 September for Tofino and return on either the 02 or 03 October,” the PMO email said.
Under government policy, when travel aboard the fleet is for personal reasons, DND asks a travel agent for the lowest possible commercial fare on a comparable flight and an invoice is issued to the traveler.
Four days later, on Sept. 27, 2021, the person in PMO emailed the DND contact, with new travel dates: Sept. 30-Oct. 4.
The DND quote for lowest comparable fare was $261.57 per person on Westjet between Vancouver and Ottawa and $560.70 per passenger on Pacific Coastal Airlines between Vancouver and Tofino, for a total $822.27 per person.
DND invoiced the Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau $1,644.53 on Oct. 16, 2021, which was only a fraction of the cost of the flight.
On Oct. 1, 2021, DND estimated the cost of the round trip at $19,869.90, of which $14,198.90 was fuel and $907.36 food and catering.
The itinerary showed Ottawa departure at 8:09 a.m. on Truth and Reconciliation Day and Tofino arrival at 10:28 a.m. local time.
The morning after attending a ceremony in Ottawa, PMO staff originally claimed Trudeau was spending the new federal holiday in the national capital. They were forced to admit where he really was, after images from flight tracking websites hit social media, showing a Canadian Forces Challenger CC-144 jet from the national capital had landed in Tofino.
There were only three passengers on the manifest for the first, fourth and fifth legs of the journey: the Trudeaus and a person whose name was censored. Generally, the Prime Minister travels with an RCMP bodyguard.
The plane did not stay in Tofino. It flew without passengers to Victoria and returned to Tofino Oct. 3. The Trudeaus and the other passenger departed Oct. 4 at 7:24 a.m. and stopped for a half-hour in Vancouver before continuing to Ottawa for a 3:30 p.m. arrival.
The trip to Tofino was Trudeau’s eighth as Prime Minister. This time, he stayed in a secluded Chesterman Beach estate, rather than a resort hotel. By skipping Truth and Reconciliation Day, Trudeau upset First Nations leaders, including the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir, who invited Trudeau to come in person or send a video greeting if he couldn’t make it.
During an Oct. 6, 2021 news conference in Ottawa, Trudeau tearfully apologized.
"Travelling on the 30th was a mistake and I regret it,” he told reporters.
Pressed for details of how it came about, Trudeau said: “the 'how it happened' is far less important than that it happened, which I regret.”
Trudeau is back in Vancouver on Friday to meet Premier David Eby in Vancouver and attend a photo op for a federal and provincial subsidized childcare program. He headlines a $500-per-ticket cash for access Liberal Party fundraiser in Surrey on Friday night.
Four of his eight trips to the West Coast in 2022 have included a party fundraiser. One of those trips was an April vacation to Whistler.
Documents obtained under access to information show that Trudeau charged taxpayers $800,000 for flights aboard government jets to criss-cross the country between May and August of 2019, prior to that year’s scheduled election. The last of Trudeau’s flights during that period cost $54,000 and was built around the production of a Liberal election campaign ad on the Grouse Grind in North Vancouver.
According to the SherpaReport, which follows the private jet industry, the Bombardier Challenger 600 series CC-144 jet uses 340 gallons per hour of fuel. The Prime Minister’s entourage flew for 142 flight hours from May to August in 2019, meaning the jets used 48,280 gallons or almost 182,000 litres of jet fuel.
In June 2019, Liberal MPs led the House of Commons in a motion to declare a climate change emergency.
An unofficial account on Twitter called @RCAF-VIP keeps track of Canadian government VIP flights. It estimated Thursday’s flight carrying Trudeau to Vancouver used 5,130 litres of fuel at a cost of $8,808 and caused 14 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.