OTTAWA — While Canadians are being counselled to avoid travelling to their cottages during the COVID-19 pandemic, Justin Trudeau is expected to spend the first long weekend of the summer season travelling between two cottages.
Except that in his case the “cottages” are actually official prime ministerial residences — one of which has become his family’s primary residence during the crisis while the other has been turned into Trudeau’s primary office as he, like millions of other Canadians, works from home as much as possible to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Trudeau’s travel between the two caused something of a furor when he posted an Easter weekend photo of him posing with his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, and their three children at what’s known as the prime minister’s cottage or summer retreat — a 16-room, Colonial Revival heritage house that sits on a 5.4-hectare property, along with three other smaller “cottages,” overlooking Harrington Lake in Quebec’s Gatineau hills.
But the way Trudeau sees it, he’s simply travelling between his work in Ottawa and his family’s home 30 minutes away, across the river in Quebec — just like many other Quebecers.
“Since I work at the residence in Ottawa and I do press conferences every day, it was not ideal for the children to stay there, so they went to the other official residence (at Harrington Lake),” he told popular Quebec television talk show Tout le monde en parle a couple of weeks ago.
“And I spend several nights a week with the family, then I go down to work in the city like many Quebecers who live in the Outaouais.”
He added: “I think people understand that I have to work in Ottawa even if I live a lot with my family in Quebec.”
This weekend will be no different.
Trudeau is to start today with what has become his routine daily briefing on the pandemic outside Rideau Cottage — a 22-room heritage home on the grounds of Rideau Hall, the governor general’s estate.
However, he’ll give no updates Sunday or Monday, when he’s expected to join his family at Harrington Lake.
The Trudeau family has lived primarily in Rideau Cottage since he took office in 2015 because the prime minister’s official residence at 24 Sussex has been deemed virtually uninhabitable without millions in renovations. A succession of prime ministers has balked at the price tag.
As it happens, the National Capital Commission, which is responsible for maintaining official residences, recently disclosed that it is spending $8.6 million on renovations to the Harrington Lake retreat.
Trudeau’s family has been living at Harrington Lake since shortly after Gregoire Trudeau, who was diagnosed with COVID-19, recovered in late March.
At today’s daily briefing, Trudeau is expected to focus on a one-time boost to the Canada Child Benefit, which goes into effect next week, to help families cope with the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic.
Families that were entitled to the benefit in April and still have an eligible child in their care this month will get up to $300 extra per child as part of their regular monthly payment.
Trudeau is also expected to highlight various federal measures aimed at helping charities and women’s shelters weather the crisis.