Why take one government jet when three will do?
Members of the Trudeau government uses their taxpayer-funded fleet of executive Challenger jets as personal taxis to drop off staffers, pick up friends and even take multiple jets to the same event.
These are some of the takeaways from the release of flight manifests for government jets for March through May of last year.
On May 6, 2020, when the bodies of six members of a Canadian Armed Forces helicopter crew were being repatriated, three different Challenger jets took off from Ottawa to deliver dignitaries to the ceremony at CFB Trenton.
The first took off at 11 a.m., flying to Montreal to pick up Julie Payette, then the Governor General.
Two other Challengers took off from Ottawa for Trenton within minutes of each other.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s flight left at 12:02 p.m., carrying the minister and three of his staff. The prime minister’s flight left at 12:23 p.m. with Justin Trudeau and three staffers on board.
Each plane returned to Ottawa the same way, leaving within six minutes of each other shortly after 4 p.m. The government Challengers can typically handle up to 12 people and could easily have carried Trudeau, Sajjan and their staff in the same plane for the 30-minute trip from Ottawa to Trenton.
Asked about the oddity of three flights at once a government source said that at the time, this was the recommendation made to the Royal Canadian Airforce, which runs the planes, by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Strange, that’s not how the public was treated during commercial flights at the time.
Throughout the pandemic, air travel for the general public has continued across Canada, but without full social distancing.
Passengers have flown across Canada without being two metres apart, just with masks on. At times, middle seats have been left open, but passengers have not been kept two metres apart at all times.
If it’s good enough for the public, it should be good enough for the government.
Alternatively, if social distancing had to be maintained, the staffers, which included Trudeau’s photographer and press secretary, could have made the 2½ hour trip by car the way normal people would — the way I have many times to cover such ceremonies as a member of the media.
Instead, they had the private jets for the PM, GG and defence minister pulling up at CFB Trenton looking like it was a holiday weekend in St. Barts. While I fully understand the need for government jets at times, three jets for one ceremony doesn’t make any sense.
Canadians have already expressed outrage over Health Minister Patty Hajdu using other government planes as her personal taxi during the pandemic, taking flights home to Thunder Bay at the same time as she was telling the rest of us not to travel.
It’s doubtful there will be less outrage at how these military aircraft have been used and abused.
Sajjan split a flight home with one other passenger, Green MP Elizabeth May, on May 7. The plane flew them both to Vancouver and dropped off Sajjan before taking May to Victoria. The crew spent the night in Victoria and flew back empty the next day.
Earlier in the year, Sajjan flew home from Ottawa to Vancouver alone.
In Vancouver, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough boarded the plane to be dropped in Victoria where May boarded before stopping in Regina to collect the entire Scheer clan for a return flight to Ottawa.
On another occasion, Qualtrough flew home to B.C. alone and the plane returned to Ottawa empty.
None of this is free and is coming at a time when a great many Canadians are doing without. Watching politicians of all stripes treat government jets like Uber rides simply won’t sit well — nor should it.
The mantra spouted by so many politicians during this pandemic is that we are all in this together. Clearly, we are not.torontosun