Justin Trudeau's trip to Aga Khan's Bahamas island cost more than $127K

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's controversial family vacation to a private island in the Bahamas owned by the Aga Khan cost Canadian taxpayers more than $127,000, including thousands of dollars in per diems for government employees who accompanied him.

Controversial trip to private island now under ethics investigation

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family vacationed on the Aga Khan's private island in the Bahamas. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's controversial family vacation to a private island in the Bahamas owned by the Aga Khan cost Canadian taxpayers more than $127,000, including thousands of dollars in per diems for government employees who also made the trip.

According to documents tabled in the House of Commons, overtime and shift differentials alone for the RCMP officers who accompanied him cost $18,735. The force paid another $53,253 in travel, accommodation and per diem costs.

Trudeau's flight to the Bahamas aboard a CC-144 Challenger cost the Department of National Defence $32,000, plus another $1,720 for food, beverages and associated fees.

Trudeau has come under fire in the House of Commons for taking the trip over the Christmas holidays and for his office's initial refusal to disclose where he was vacationing. Billionaire Aga Khan is the spiritual leader of the world's Ismaili Muslims.

Trudeau was accompanied on the trip by MP Seamus O'Regan and his husband, as well as Liberal Party president Anna Gainey and her husband, Tom Pitfield, a key member of Trudeau's election campaign team.

Trudeau has defended the trip, arguing that the Aga Khan is a longtime family friend. He has reimbursed taxpayers $4,895 for the trip — the cost of commercial plane tickets for him and his family.

Government security rules require that the prime minister not travel on commercial aircraft — even for personal vacations with his or her family.

However, that has not stopped ethics commissioner Mary Dawson from launching an investigation into a complaint filed by Conservative MP Andrew Scheer.

Per diems for staff

The documents tabled in the House of Commons reveal that government employees made the trip to the Bahamas, in addition to Trudeau's usual RCMP protective detail.

The Privy Council provided a "tour technician," who charged the government $6,305 in expenses. Air transportation cost $2,263, other transportation cost $1,349, meals and incidentals racked up $626, and hotel accommodation was $461.

The technician also charged the government $1,604 in per diems for their time on Bell Island — the Aga Khan's private island.

However, that wasn't the only person accompanying the prime minister to charge per diems for the trip.

The Aga Khan's vacation property is located on Bell Island in the Bahamas. (CBC/Google)

Global Affairs picked up the tab for $15,173 for staff who travelled to the Bahamas — $1,267 of which was for per diems. Transportation cost $11,978 and the bill for accommodation was $1,927.

In the documents, Global Affairs indicates the staff were needed to ensure Trudeau had access to a diplomatic courier service.

"Global Affairs Canada, through the diplomatic courier service, arranges the transportation of all Government of Canada assets to international destinations specified by the PCO (Privy Council  Office), which may be required during the prime minister's period outside of Canada."

Global Affairs and the Privy Council Office have not yet responded to requests from CBC News for more information, including why employees would have claimed per diems while staying on a private island.

New Democratic Party Leader Tom Mulcair said the cost to taxpayers of Trudeau's trip to the Bahamas was "completely outrageous."

Mulcair said it was "scandalous" that Trudeau is only reimbursing $4,895 of the $127,000 price tag for the vacation.

"He should start setting an example. His way of comporting himself is inadmissible."

During question period, Conservative MP Blaine Calkins went on the attack, demanding to know why taxpayers were left holding such an expensive tab.

"The prime minister made a conscious decision that it's the responsibility of the taxpayer to pay for his luxury travel. When did the prime minister forget that it's his job to serve Canadians and not the other way around?"

Calkins also questioned how the prime minister and those who flew with him ran up a $1,720 bill for food and beverages on the plane.

"Just what in the world was the prime minister eating on that plane ride?"

Government House Leader Bardish Chagger said all prime ministers have to travel by government plane when on vacation and have to be accompanied by RCMP officers. At least Trudeau's government drafted guidelines to govern the practice, she said.

Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca


Elizabeth Thompson

Senior reporter

Award-winning reporter Elizabeth Thompson covers Parliament Hill. A veteran of the Montreal Gazette, Sun Media and iPolitics, she currently works with the CBC's Ottawa bureau, specializing in investigative reporting and data journalism. She can be reached at: elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca.