Conservative finance critic Lisa Raitt says it is "hypocritical" for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to bill taxpayers for nannies after he spent the last campaign telling voters he didn't need the Tory child tax benefit because he had more than enough money to support his children.
CBC News reported Monday that taxpayers are paying the wages of two nannies who care for the children of Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau. The hirings were approved late last week, with cabinet authorizing the appointment of the two women under the Official Residences Act as "special assistants" at the prime minister's residence.
Kate Purchase, director of communications in the prime minister's office, told CBC News the Trudeaus employ "two household employees who, in addition to performing other duties around the house, act as secondary caregivers" to the couple's three children.
In an interview with CBC News Tuesday, Raitt said during the campaign Trudeau said "he is one of the one per cent and he was speaking on behalf of them when he said 'we think we can pay a little bit more, I'm going to reject personally the Universal Child Care Benefit.'"
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"But then in another guise [he] does accept taxpayer dollars … so that he can care for his kids by the use of two nannies funded by the state. I think that's hypocritical and I think he should take it out of his own salary," Raitt said.
Trudeau said on the campaign trail that he opposed the Conservative child benefit plan because it sends "cheques to millionaires," adding that any government plan should help families who need a leg up, "not families like mine or Mr. Harper's."
Raitt said Trudeau's latest move is a betrayal of those principles.
"The only man in Canada who makes $325,000 a year who is going to get taxpayer dollars for his child care is the prime minister of Canada and I think that's wrong," she said.
The women will earn between $15 and $20 an hour for work during the day and a lower amount when working at night.
'We still made it work without taxpayer dollars'
Raitt said that the Trudeau family should follow the lead of ministers in the previous Conservative government who juggled young families and busy careers by making alternate arrangements and paying out-of-pocket for their child care.
"My kids were 7 and 4 when I started … I never used taxpayer dollars in order to look after the needs of my children, that was something that I have to do in order to have a household. We still made it work without taxpayer dollars," Raitt, a former minister in the Harper government, said.
Conservative Interim Leader Rona Ambrose said Trudeau's nannies have become a "political issue" because he made a point of rejecting the child benefit because of his family's wealth.
Facebook posts raise security concerns
The two nannies in question have posted a number of pictures of the Trudeau children on their Facebook pages, including some shots from their recent trip to Paris with the prime minister.
While travelling in Europe, one of the nannies also posted the location of the hotels the prime minister and his family were staying at while attending summits in Malta and Paris.
After CBC News reported on the posts, the woman either removed them or tightened her security settings to obscure the content from public viewing.
"In terms of security, both women went through security clearances and we're very open with what the family is doing when they are with the prime minister," Purchase said when asked about the posts as a potential security risk.
"Beyond that, we don't comment on security considerations."
Prime ministers face 'special situation,' former nanny says
Trudeau is not the first prime minister to have nannies on staff at his official residence.
His father, Pierre Trudeau, employed a nanny to care for his three young boys after he and their mother divorced.
Isabelle LeCointee, who was the Trudeau family nanny from 1981 to 1984, said she doesn't have a problem with the current arrangement.
"I don't think we can compare the situation of the prime minister and everyone's family," LeCointee said in an interview with Alan Neal on CBC Radio's All in a Day. "I can understand people thinking that it's our money, like it's my money too. But at the same time, I think it's a special situation. We have to take that into consideration, too."
Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney also had a nanny on staff.
Mulroney faced controversy after he pledged to personally pay for the nanny, but later reneged on that promise and had the government foot the bill.
His then-chief of staff, Fred Doucet, defended the move, saying that the woman was actually a maid who "interfaces with the children in a habitual way."
Laureen Harper, the wife of the former prime minister, left her career behind to become a stay-at-home mom after her husband was elected.
In a 2007 interview, Harper said she didn't hire a nanny, she makes her kids' lunches and that they are just an "average Canadian family."