When I lived in Ottawa I tried to avoid going to Gatineau at the best of times so I wouldn’t feel too put out by the fact that crossing the Ottawa River without an “essential” reason is now illegal.
Nevertheless, one Ottawa man was able to make it through the checkpoint on Easter – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Trudeau spent Easter with his wife, Sophie, and their three children. This wouldn’t be controversial under normal circumstances, though in the coronavirus climate it violates the spirit and letter of the government guidelines Trudeau himself has been promoting in recent weeks.
“Stay home,” skip the cottage, and “Skype that big family dinner,” Trudeau said before hopping in his car to leave home for a big family dinner at his cottage.
When asked by a lone reporter the following Tuesday, Trudeau denied doing anything wrong.
“After three weeks of my family living up at Harrington and me working here, I went to join them for Easter weekend. We continue to follow all the instructions from public health authorities,” he said.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think Trudeau was in the wrong to see his family as it sounds like he and they have been social distancing, but it raises two questions.
Firstly, why split the family up to living at two addresses in the first place after Sophie Gregoire Trudeau was cleared of COVID-19?
Secondly, why impose a rule on the rest of Canadians if Trudeau’s actions prove it to be unnecessary.
As always, hypocrisy about an action tends to overshadow any inherent sin in the action itself.
Compounding matters was that Conservative leader Andrew Scheer hitched a ride, at the government’s invitation, from Regina to Ottawa on a Government of Canada Challenger jet alongside Green Party leader Elizabeth May and a Liberal cabinet minister. The plane had room for Scheer’s family, and neither the other passengers on the plane nor the Prime Minister’s Office took issue with them coming given the Scheers are relocating to their Ottawa home to avoid back and forth travel from Regina during the pandemic.
Despite May’s endorsement of the plan, she later said to CBC she had “misgivings” about the whole thing.
As Canadians deal with changing definitions of which workers are essential and which are non-essential, I don’t think anyone has been lobbying for May to be recognized as “essential,” but I digress.
Does Scheer’s family need to be in Ottawa right now? No, but if it prevents Scheer, who does need to be in Ottawa at times, from traveling back and forth at great expense and at a marginal risk, it seems to be a net positive. Trudeau’s Easter getaway was unnecessary because it’s unnecessary for his family to be split into two domiciles and two provinces in the first place.
Even if both Scheer and Trudeau erred, the media response was wildly inconsistent. Scheer fielded eight questions about his plane trip at a Tuesday press conference. An hour later, just the one reporter asked Trudeau about his jaunt to Harrington Lake.
I don’t think either should be anyone’s hill to die on, but I’d be remiss to not point out the caveats and inconsistencies in Trudeau’s behaviour. He remained in self-isolation for nearly double the required 14 days, justifying it only by saying he was following medical advice. When he decided to leave, he said he was following health guidelines. It’s not clear what guidelines or whose, exactly – just that no matter what he does, it’s apparently okay.
I don’t want the trivial to distract from the grave, especially as people are being fined for rollerblading in empty parking lots and told not to even talk to their neighbours from driveway to driveway. I mention it because people will stop listening to their leaders when the leaders’ recommendations stop making sense, or when it looks like the leaders themselves don’t care to follow what others must.
Scotland’s chief medical officer, for example, resigned last week after she was caught spending her weekends at her country home while telling her countrymen to stay put.
Trudeau has a more prominent and powerful role, and ultimately did the same thing. But, as always, he gets a pass.
Photo Credit: Fresh Daily
Andrew Lawton is a fellow at the True North Initiative and a Loonie Politics columnist.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.