OTTAWA — Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer fended off criticism Tuesday that they’re asking Canadians to do more to stop the spread of COVID-19 than they’re willing to do themselves.
Both men defended family trips that appeared to flout the physical distancing measures they’ve spent weeks imploring people to uphold.
Trudeau travelled from Ottawa into Quebec over the weekend to meet up with his family at their official country residence of Harrington Lake.
Non-essential travel in Canada has been restricted for weeks, and Quebec authorities began earlier this month to implement provincial border checks in a bid to stop recreational travellers into the province. They also asked people to stay away from their cottages.
Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, and their three children had gone to Harrington Lake in late March, once she recovered from COVID-19 and their isolation period ended. Trudeau stayed behind in Ottawa.
Trudeau dodged questions on how his trip could be considered in keeping with those measures.
“After three weeks of my family living up at Harrington, and me living here, I went to join them for Easter,” he said Tuesday outside his Ottawa residence at Rideau Cottage.
“We continue to follow all the instructions of public health authorities.”
Scheer travelled with his five kids and spouse onto a government jet from their home in Regina to Ottawa.
The plane had been dispatched to ferry Scheer, the Green party’s Elizabeth May and Liberal cabinet minister Carla Qualtrough back to Ottawa for an extraordinary sitting of Parliament on Saturday to pass the latest iteration of the government’s financial aid package.
But with extra seats available, the decision to have the rest of the Scheer family join made sense, he said.
Parliament is scheduled to resume as a whole on Monday, though whether or not that will actually happen is up for debate.
Still, Scheer said the plan is for his family to be in Ottawa for the balance of the spring session. Otherwise, he’d have to commute back and forth. If they turned down the invite for the government flight, they’d have to transit through multiple airports to reach Ottawa.
“We took disinfectant wipes, we didn’t interact with each other,” he said.
“We kept to ourselves.”
May said she thought it would just be the three politicians onboard, but received a call from the Prime Minister’s Office saying Scheer wanted to bring his wife and children.
May said they told her she could say no, as physical distancing would be impossible.
But May said she couldn’t imagine Jill Scheer having to cart five kids through airports when they couldn’t touch anything.
“I can’t be the person who says no,” she said.
May said she felt pretty safe during the flight and was sitting at the front with Qualtrough while the Scheer family sat together in the back.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2020.
— with files from Mia Rabson.
Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press