Nova Scotia·Q & A

Trudeau says ethics concerns over Bahamas vacation will be 'ironed out'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to CBC Mainstreet host Bob Murphy on Monday afternoon, shortly before hosting an event at the Dartmouth Sportsplex. He spoke about that family vacation on a private island, soldiers, prescription medication and income inequality. Here are his answers, edited for length and clarity.

Trudeau speaks about soldiers and PTSD, prescription medication and income inequality

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a town hall in Dartmouth on Monday. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to CBC Nova Scotia Mainstreet host Bob Murphy on Monday afternoon, shortly before heading to an event at the Dartmouth Sportsplex. 

He spoke about his family vacation on a private island, soldiers, prescription medication and income inequality.

Here is that conversation, edited for length and clarity. 

CBC: Would you take that same trip to the Aga Khan's private island again?

TRUDEAU: This was our family vacation and it was with someone who has known me since I was a toddler and been a long-time friend of the family. But of course I'm happy to take all of the questions that the conflict of interest commissioner might have.

I think it's important to be able to demonstrate openness and transparency, and that's what people expect from the government.

CBC: Why didn't you call the ethics commissioner beforehand?

TRUDEAU: We're going to have all sorts of conversations with her, I'm sure, in the coming days and all this will be ironed out.

It was a family vacation and we were focused on that. I was glad to have a little time with my family and a long-time friend.

CBC: Have you read the Conflict of Interest Act?

TRUDEAU: Of course.

CBC: The section of the act about travel has just one sentence and it specifically forbids travel on private aircraft.

[Here's the relevant section: "No minister of the Crown, minister of state or parliamentary secretary, no member of his or her family and no ministerial adviser or ministerial staff shall accept travel on non-commercial chartered or private aircraft for any purpose unless required in his or her capacity as a public office holder or in exceptional circumstances or with the prior approval of the commissioner."]

TRUDEAU: Yeah. And these are exactly the kinds of questions that the conflict of interest commissioner is going to be getting into and that's exactly why we have an important accountability level in government that I'm glad to be participating with.

CBC: As of last month, 73 jobs were vacant in the joint personnel support unit that helps members of the Canadian Forces with injuries. We've also heard it's hard for veterans to get help for PTSD. What did you think when you heard that a veteran, Lionel Desmond, had killed himself and his family in Nova Scotia?

TRUDEAU: Obviously it was a terrible tragedy, not just for his family, but the entire community and for the Forces. One of the things we've been working very hard on is improving the care and support we give to veterans. They have put their health, their lives, their families at risk to serve their country and we owe them a sacred obligation.

That's why one of the commitments we made was to reopen the nine veterans affairs centres and I was just in Sydney a couple of months ago to open the first one there.

But there's an awful lot more to do in making investments in mental health, supporting PTSD treatment and a culture that is actually going to help people who go through these situations to deal with this.

I'm the first to admit that there is more to do, and that's what we're working on.

CBC: What can be done to reduce the price of prescription drugs? Some Canadians can't afford the medications that help them get well.

TRUDEAU: We're working very hard. [Health Minister Jane] Philpott has reached out to her counterparts in the provinces. Nova Scotia has been a great partner on this. We are going to be driving down the costs of prescription drugs right across the country.

CBC: Oxfam is raising alarms about "obscene" economic inequality worldwide. Do we need a new economic model worldwide to reverse that trend?

TRUDEAU: I think one of the things we got elected on a year ago was saying that the middle class and those working hard to join it just were not succeeding well enough. That's why one of the first things we did was lower taxes for the middle class and raise them for the wealthiest one per cent. 

This summer, we brought in the Canada Child Benefit that benefits nine out of 10 families by doing more for those who need it by doing less for those who don't. 

We increased the guaranteed income supplement for our most vulnerable — single seniors — and that means here in Nova Scotia, almost 70,000 seniors will be benefiting from that increase. 

We have significant challenges across the country, but we are well on our way to reversing or at least slowing down the anxiety that so many people have been feeling. 

CBC: You and some of some ministers have been involved in fundraisers that critics are calling cash-for-access. With so much concern about the gap between the rich and the rest of us, why even engage in fundraising that only the well-to-do can afford to attend?

TRUDEAU: What people need to be reassured with is that at the federal level, we have some of the toughest rules on fundraising anywhere in the country, indeed in the world. We have very strict limits on personal donations, there are no corporate, no union donations, and we have total transparency as well. We're following all the rules and principles.