Facing criticism, PM Trudeau and Scheer defend family travel decisions
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer are both defending recent decisions involving their families and travel amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Scheer had brought his family on a flight from Regina to Ottawa alongside two other MPs. Adding his wife and five children to the nine-seat government Challenger jet meant foregoing proper physical distancing on the plane, according to Green Party Parliamentary Leader Elizabeth May, who was on the flight.
Scheer said his family was moving to Ottawa until at least June after spending March Break in Regina, so they opted to take a flight with two other people on April 10 rather than navigate through "several different airports."
"We took great steps to ensure that we minimized our interactions with each other, my wife brought wipes along with her, we made sure that we were not speaking moistly on each other, we kept our distance, we kept to ourselves, and we made that decision based on the alternatives," he explained.
May has backed up Scheer's assertion that the family was extremely cautious, though she acknowledged she felt "trepidation" when the Prime Minister’s Office called and asked if she’d be comfortable with the addition of Scheer’s wife and five children to the flight.
Meanwhile, Trudeau was also put in the hot seat after his wife and posted a photo on Instagram of the family's Easter celebrations at Harrington Lake, which is the prime minister's official country residence.
The residence is located a 30-minute drive from downtown Ottawa in the province of Quebec. Quebec police have sought to limit non-essential travel between Ottawa and Gatineau, and some motorists have found themselves turned away when they attempt to cross the provincial border.
When pressed during his Tuesday press conference about his decision to spend Easter at Harrington Lake, Trudeau defended the decision.
"As I mentioned last week in my presentation, after three weeks of my family living up at Harrington and me working here, I went to join them for Easter. We continue to follow all instructions from public health authorities," Trudeau said.
However, Canadians did not receive the news of Trudeau's Easter at the country residence with a warm embrace. Comments on Sophie Grégoire Trudeau's Instagram post were broadly critical, with thousands of likes on comments implying the Trudeau family was following a different set of rules than other Canadians.
"It's nice Justin was able to rejoin his family for the holiday while the rest of us are respecting the social distancing recommendations," wrote one user.
"Interesting how 'stay at home' don't go to the cottage doesn't apply to you. Terrible example," wrote another.
However, the Trudeau family did have one prominent parliamentary defender. May said she felt that the blowback against Trudeau was "unfortunate."
"I don't think anybody's had a day off in a long time, and to take Easter Sunday and Easter Monday to be somewhere to be with family and to have some downtime…I’m surprised there'd be blowback at that. I think that's unfortunate," May told CTVNews.ca in an interview Monday evening.