Politics

Scheer and Trudeau on the defensive over weekend travel during pandemic lockdown

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are defending long weekend travel decisions that appeared to contradict public health pandemic orders.

Scheer's family packed a government flight to Ottawa, while Trudeau joined his family at Harrington Lake

Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer takes part in a news conference in Ottawa while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage on Tuesday, April 14. (Adrian Wyld & Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are defending long weekend travel decisions that appeared to contradict public health pandemic orders.

Scheer faced questions from reporters at a news conference in Ottawa this morning about his decision to bring his family with him to Ottawa on a small government jet Friday, along with outgoing Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and federal Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough.

May and Qualtrough boarded the flight in B.C. Originally, the flight was supposed to be for parliamentarians headed to Ottawa for a vote on federal emergency economic legislation, which passed on Saturday — but when Scheer joined the flight in Regina, his wife and five children came with him.

As a result, those on board the packed nine-seater Challenger jet could not maintain the two-metre distance prescribed by public health officials to control the spread of COVID-19.

Scheer told reporters he and his family needed to get back to Ottawa for the spring parliamentary sitting, scheduled for April 20, after spending the March break in Regina.

Rather than subjecting themselves to the risk of taking a commercial flight as the pandemic spreads, Scheer said, his family opted to join him on the government flight.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer responds to reporters' questions about his decision to bring his family on a government flight with other MPs back to Ottawa, despite health guidelines on physical distancing. He says his family brought disinfectant wipes, kept to themselves and didn't speak moistly on each other. 4:27

"It's just completely false that we were packed one on top of each other," he said. "We had a choice to make."

Scheer told reporters that he and his wife took steps to ensure everyone on board was safe. 

"We took great steps to ensure that we minimize interactions with each other," Scheer said. "My wife brought wipes along with her."

Trudeau dodges similar questions

Scheer said his family members weren't "speaking moistly" in the aircraft — borrowing a phrase from Trudeau, who himself faced questions from reporters later in the morning about his long weekend travel.

Trudeau recently travelled to join his family, his wife, Sophie, and their three kids at Harrington Lake, the prime minister's lakeside retreat and official summer residence in Quebec, about 30 kilometres northwest of Parliament Hill.

But public health officials in Quebec have been telling residents of neighbouring Ontario to not visit their country residences across the provincial border for the duration of the emergency. Trudeau didn't answer a direct question about why he chose to travel to Harrington Lake.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a reporter's question about travelling to Harrington Lake to see his family for Easter. 0:17

"As I mentioned last week in my presentation, after three weeks of my family living up at Harrington and me working here [at Rideau Cottage], I went to join them for Easter," he said.

"We continue to follow all the instructions from public health authorities."

About the Author

David Thurton is a national reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He's worked for CBC in Fort McMurray, the Maritimes and in Canada's Arctic.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now