For more than a week now, Canada's vociferous media has been hounding the Prime Minister's Office for information about where Justin Trudeau spent his New Year's holiday, and with whom. Can't they give it a rest?
The prime minister works hard. He's a nice guy. He deserves a private life. Certainly that justifies a complete blackout on the prime minister's whereabouts, as the PMO issued earlier this month.
Canadians don't need to know where Trudeau is, so why should they have the right to know where he is? Yes, the Liberals were elected on a platform of "openness," but — as mentioned earlier — Trudeau is a nice guy. For that reason, we probably should have cut him the slack we would have never afforded his less popular predecessor.
Yet thanks to the incessant hounding by the alt-right rag National Post, the story didn't die. Instead, we learned Trudeau spent his vacation on the private Bahamian island of billionaire philanthropist the Aga Khan.
OK, it looks bad. The Aga Khan is the head of a foundation that has received millions of dollars in federal foreign aid. The organization is also registered to lobby the federal government. But hear me out.
First of all, the Aga Khan Foundation does good, important charity work. This would all be much more nefarious if Trudeau spent his holiday sipping cocktails on the private yacht of the head of a foundation I didn't like — someone who deals in oil, or banking or small-c conservative politics. But the Aga Khan is a good egg, therefore any obvious ethical or conflict of interest breaches — including the appearance thereof — should be forgiven.
Secondly, the Trudeau family and the Aga Khan are friends; they go way back. Should we really expect Trudeau to cut off contact with all of his friends just because he's now the prime minister? Of course not.
Sure, there's a distinction to be made between "remaining friends" and "secretly jetting off to a friend's private island and concealing details when pressed by the media," but really, what should the PMO have done? Been forthright about the information and risked igniting a controversy before he stepped on the plane? Bah! I'm pretty sure tickets on a government jet are non-refundable, anyway.
- Trudeau spent vacation on Aga Khan's island
- Ethics watchdog 'considering' investigation of Trudeau's vacation
As with other events where the prime minister has met with billionaires, Canadians should rest assured the only political discussions on the Aga Khan's private island concerned the plight of the middle class. There have been reports of holiday discussions of how diversity is our strength and better is always possible, but as of yet, those reports are unconfirmed.
A family vacation
Above all, let's remember that this was just a Trudeau family vacation; there was nothing political about it. OK, so the president of the Liberal Party of Canada and Liberal MP Seamus O'Regan and his husband went too — a detail revealed only after further media pressure — but those guys are kind of like family also, no? They likewise care deeply about Canada's middle class and surely saw this as another opportunity to join in the conversation.
So give it a rest, Canadian media. Certainly there are more important things to cover. I can provide you with a list of topics I subjectively rank as more worthy if you'd indulge me the opportunity to change the conversation. Can't the prime minister just enjoy a secret vacation with his family and select Liberals on the private island of a man whose organization is registered to lobby the federal government?