Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 2019 Christmas vacation in Costa Rica cost taxpayers $196,137, according to records obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
“Prime ministers are entitled to take vacations like anyone else, but they’re not entitled to stick taxpayers with a six-figure flight bill so they can sip mai tai’s on the beach,” said Aaron Wudrick, the CTF’s Federal Director.
Records show six Challenger jet flights were linked to the Trudeau family’s 16-day vacation. This made the total flight time about 34 hours. The normal flight time for a round trip between Ottawa and San Jose, Costa Rica, is about 11 hours.
The operating cost of flying a Challenger was $5,543 per hour, which led to a total flight cost of $187,353.
This isn’t the first time Trudeau billed taxpayers for an expensive tropical trip. In 2017, Trudeau’s Bahamas vacation cost taxpayers more than $215,000.
Other world leaders have flown commercially for their vacations. Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson made headlines for the practice in December of 2018.
“Nearly $200,000 is an unacceptable bill for a prime minister’s family vacation,” said Wudrick. “It’s time to review our policy of prohibiting our prime ministers from flying commercial. If it’s safe enough for other world leaders, it should be safe enough for our own.”
The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment when asked about the cost of the vacation flights, the food bill for the family’s flights and how much of the flight bill had been repaid by Trudeau, beyond re-stating the flight policies for the prime minister.
The CTF also followed up with the department of National Defense about the significant flight costs.
The department indicated that the round-trip cost of the Trudeau family’s vacation travel was $57,647. However, that ignored the other four flights that were linked to Trudeau’s family vacation.
The military also indicated those additional flights were needed to accommodate holiday plans for the Challenger flight crews and the need for a Challenger jet that fit American aircraft tracking.
David Perry, a defence procurement expert with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, believes the correct flight costs for the Trudeau family’s Costa Rica trip would still be $187,353, despite what the military said.
“The explanation for why all that other stuff isn't a cost to taxpayers for the trip doesn't make sense to me,” said Perry. “You could make an analogy to the alternative of a commercial flight. Trudeau down and back is equivalent to what you'd pay for the tickets, so to speak. All the other stuff, the extra flights for various reasons, is equivalent to what it cost the airline to get him down there.”
He also questioned the Canadian military’s handling of American regulatory hurdles.
“How did it come to pass that the aircraft weren't compliant, when needed?” said Perry. “The regulatory change didn't just materialize overnight.
“Why were we still working out, right down to the wire, whether our planes could keep flying? They're owned by the government of Canada. If we didn't sort that out in a timely fashion, then it’s on the government that his Christmas vacation required two planes instead of one.”