Remember last spring, when our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was widely criticized for spending $30,000 to buy 600 concert tickets for Come From Away, a musical in New York City?
Well, guess what? Come from Away opened in Toronto Sunday and drew enormous praise. But Trudeau wasn’t there. He was jaunting around India with his wife, three kids and a delegation of cabinet ministers on the taxpayer’s seemingly endless bankroll.
Back last May, Trudeau went to New York and bought Come from Away tickets (with our money, of course) to impress U.S. dignitaries and to try to woo more support for Canada’s efforts to get a seat on the UN Security Council. U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump was one of the high-profile guests who saw the musical in New York shortly after it opened.
In a statement, the prime minister’s press secretary Cameron Ahmad told CBC News at the time that United Nations Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed and ambassadors “from almost every country represented at the UN” received tickets.
The Trudeau government tried to downplay the concert ticket purchase by saying the government paid about $50 a ticket, well below the going price for the show. Ahmad noted the tickets were bought at “a significant discount.” In mid-April, CBC reported that the average price of a ticket was $127 US.
Those figures were released in response to a written question from Conservative MP Alex Nuttall.
“Expenses related to international outreach are an important part of advancing and protecting Canadian interests,” said Ahmad.
Ahmad said tickets were also set aside for American media outlets “generating unprecedented coverage of the production and of our strong Canada-U.S. relationship.”
The costs released didn’t include the price of flights, hotel stays or other travel costs incurred by the prime minister and other officials.
But now the show is in Canada and tickets are considerably more expensive. A ticket for a performance of Come from Away at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto costs anywhere $481 to $558 but since when does Prime Minister Trudeau really worry about money anymore?
Canada is currently vying for one of the rotating seats on the United Nations Security Council. But back in May, the CBC reported $500,000 had already been spent on the efforts and the venture could prove costly. The costs CBC cited included everything from postage stamps to travel to hospitality. It didn’t include the salaries of the 10 government employees appointed to work full-time on Canada’s bid.
“I think the way they have to campaign to get the votes has become unacceptable,” said William Pace of the World Federalist Movement.
Unacceptable? That’s putting it mildly.
It’s so unacceptable that Trudeau had said he doesn’t want to play the game anymore.
The headline on a Global News website a little over a month ago read: “Justin Trudeau won’t compromise Canadian values for seat on UN Security Council”
Pace estimates almost one-third of the 193 UN member states are “undemocratic”, which forces some Security Council hopefuls “to buy votes from countries that they ought to be insisting stop causing wars and denying human rights and committing religious and racial discrimination.”
He doesn’t suggest that Canada is following that path. In an interview with The Canadian Press, Trudeau insisted that landing the seat was not so much a “goal” but rather a way to “continue having a positive impact in the world.”
“If we have to compromise our values and principles to get the seat, it loses its usefulness,” he told Global News.
Trudeau also said Canada’s abstention from a UN vote on U.S. President Donald Trump‘s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was about staying above “political games” aimed at isolating Israel.
But what game is he playing now? The government of India hasn’t been paying much attention to our prime minister. The BBC went has far as to say Trudeau was receiving the “cold shoulder” from officials in India.
“When he arrived in the capital, Delhi, he was met at the airport by a junior minister in what many interpreted to be a snub,” BBC reporter Ayeshea Perera wrote.
“Despite plenty of photo opportunities, including at the Taj Mahal, Mr Trudeau and his family’s tour has been largely ignored by senior members of the Indian government so far.”
So is Trudeau in India when he should be in Canada? You might be tempted to think so. But then when it comes to the actions and movements of our prime minister, nothing can come as a surprise anymore. Did he even know Come From Away was going to show up in Toronto? Now that’s the burning question.
Jeff Wilkinson is a Senior Politics Reporter at Debate Report covering provincial and national politics, . Before joining Debate Report, Jeff worked on several provincial campaigns including Jack Layton. Jeff has worked as a freelance journalist in Toronto, having been published by over 20 outlets including CBC, the Center for Media and VICE.com.