The military aircraft that brought Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Jamaica for a family vacation had a maintenance issue prior to his planned return to Canada this week, prompting a second plane to be flown to the Caribbean island, the Department of National Defence (DND) said Friday.
A spokesperson for the department told Global News the issue with the CC-144 Challenger aircraft was discovered during an inspection on Tuesday.
A second Challenger carrying a maintenance team was then dispatched to Jamaica on Wednesday and “returned the (original) aircraft to serviceability,” the spokesperson, Andrée-Anne Poulin, said.
“The (second) aircraft remained in the area as a back-up if necessary, and the Prime Minister was able to return on the original aircraft” on Thursday, Poulin said.
The department did not say what the specific mechanical issue was.
The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on the problem with the plane, referring questions to DND.
The CC-144 Challenger planes were brought into service this fall to replace the military’s aging CC-150 Polaris fleet, which had been used since the 1990s. For decades, one of those Polaris aircraft was dedicated to transporting prime ministers and Canadian delegations, but was plagued with problems in recent years.
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In September, Trudeau was forced to spend an extra two days in New Delhi, where he had travelled for the G20 leaders’ summit, after the Polaris was grounded over a technical issue discovered during pre-flight checks. A replacement part needed to be flown to India along with a backup aircraft, delaying the prime minister’s departure until the original plane was fixed.
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Trudeau, like prime ministers before him, is required to travel on military aircraft for security reasons.
The prime minister travelled to Jamaica on Dec. 26 for a vacation with his three children and Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau. The two announced they were legally separating last summer.
The trip has come under scrutiny after the National Post reported the Trudeau family stayed at an oceanfront villa owned by businessman Peter Green. The Green family has known the Trudeaus for decades and has donated money to the Trudeau Foundation.
Rooms at Prospect Estate and Villas go for around $9,300 per night, according to the resort’s website — meaning the vacation would have cost nearly $84,000 out-of-pocket — but the Prime Minister’s Office told Global News on Thursday there was “no cost” to the trip.
“The Prime Minister and his family are staying with family friends at no cost,” the prime minister’s press secretary Mohammad Hussain said in an email, adding the vacation was cleared by the federal ethics commissioner.
“The Prime Minister continues to reimburse the equivalent of a commercial airline ticket for his personal travel and that of his family,” Hussain added.
The vacation details prompted Conservatives and the NDP to question Trudeau’s judgment, accusing him of being far removed from the economic realities of everyday Canadians.
Trudeau’s Jamaica family holiday facing scrutiny
Trudeau’s last Caribbean getaway cost taxpayers around $162,000, with most of it going to security and personnel costs.
At the time, the Prime Minister’s Office said he paid the “equivalent of a commercial airline ticket for himself and his family” which is “standard practice.”
The ethics commissioner also cleared that trip.
Trudeau’s vacations have repeatedly raised questions about possible or perceived conflicts of interest.
— with files from Global’s Touria Izri
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