The cost to the Canadian government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s controversial vacation on the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas increased to $271,000 when the RCMP wrote a cheque two weeks ago for $56,000 worth of meals, accommodations and jet ski rental.
The police force, which ensures the safety of the prime minister when he travels, had given up on trying to reimburse the amount for the trip over the 2016/17 Christmas holidays and had considered the matter closed. However, that changed a few weeks ago, said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Caroline Duval.
“In late in late December 2019, RCMP officials made a further effort to explore possible repayment methods, which resulted in a solution and a reimbursement,” Duval wrote.
“On January 17, 2020, the RCMP issued a cheque ‘in trust’ of the legal counsel representing Bell Island. The reimbursement was treated as an operational expenditure.”
Duval has not yet responded to questions from CBC News about what prompted the RCMP to try once again to pay the three year-old costs, and whether RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki was involved in the decision.
CBC News reported in December on the outstanding bill and the fact that the unpaid tab was considered closed. The RCMP’s accounting system requires invoices — but the managers of the Aga Khan’s island said in e-mails obtained by CBC News that while they wanted to be reimbursed for the RCMP’s costs, they did not want any invoices.
Ethics watchdog Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch argued that if the police force failed to pay the bill, it would mean the RCMP had received a gift from the Aga Khan.
The $56,000 payment brings the RCMP’s cost for the trip to $209,504 and the overall cost to Canadian taxpayers for Trudeau’s Bahamas vacation to $271,000.
The RCMP’s cheque to legal counsel for Bell Island is the latest twist in a saga that has dogged Trudeau ever since he decided to spend his Christmas vacation in 2016/17 on the Aga Khan’s exclusive private island in the Bahamas.
Trudeau long defended the trip, arguing that the Aga Khan, leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslims, is a longtime family friend.
However, former ethics commissioner Mary Dawson found in December 2017 that Trudeau violated four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act, which governs public office holders, when he accepted the vacation.
The RCMP have rejected calls for a police investigation into whether the trip broke the Criminal Code prohibition on someone who deals with the government giving a gift to a public office holder.
Last week, Conservative MP Michael Barrett filed a complaint with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, calling on it to probe the RCMP’s refusal to investigate the trip.
In an interview Monday, Barrett said Trudeau should not have accepted a trip from someone who has lobbied the government and he believes there are still unanswered questions.
“We believe that the trip shouldn’t have occurred and the trip should have been reimbursed from the prime minister’s personal funds,” he said.
However, New Democratic Ethics Critic Charlie Angus said the fallout from the trip has gone on long enough and questioned why it took the RCMP so long to pay the bill.
“The whole thing just reeks of some kind of circus.”
Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org