The View From Here – Does the Aga Khan use the same pay to play tactics as his friend Trudeau?

Tom Henihan
It is difficult to reconcile the idea of the prime minister returning from a lavish vacation on the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas, tooling around with the super rich on his Highness’ yacht, then embarking on a grassroots tour of Canada, pretending to identify with the concerns of average Canadians.

If perception matters, as Trudeau insisted it did at the beginning of his mandate, then this kind of high living creates the perception of an enormous chasm between the prime minister’s lifestyle and the the circumstances of the people he speaks with in coffee shops and arenas across the country.

That the Prime Minister’s Office made every effort to conceal where Trudeau and his family were vacationing, seems to suggest that the prime minister himself saw this visit to the Aga Khan’s private island as an impropriety.

When finally pressed to divulge where the prime minister and his family were vacationing, the PMO emphasized in its statement that the Aga Khan and Justin Trudeau are longtime family friends.

That the PMO failed to say that Liberal MP, Seamus O’Regan and Liberal Party of Canada President Anna Gainey and their spouses were also vacationing on the Aga Khan’s island is to lie by omission.

Sure, we can’t pick Justin Trudeau’s friends for him, but as prime minister, the company he keeps is a matter of public interest.

It is also of interest that since 2005, Canadian taxpayers have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the Aga Khan Foundation.

The website of Global Affairs Canada cites 16 partnerships with the Aga Khan Foundation of Canada since 2004, most recently a five-year, $55-million project to improve health services in Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan project was announced in December 2015.

Considering that Justin Trudeau is such a close friend of the Aga Khan, it would be interesting to know how many times he received an invitation to the Aga Khan’s island prior to becoming the prime minister.

Established in 1967 with its head office in Geneva, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) is a not-for-profit development agency that provides sustainable solutions in such areas as poverty, hunger, health and literacy in the disadvantaged communities in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. AKF Canada has its headquarters on Sussex Drive in Ottawa.

While the AKF is a reputable organization that does good work, the movement of hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money is always political.

The people to whom that money belongs deserve to be aware of who receives it, how it is used and the favours granted in return.

If the Prime Minister, his family and friends were offered this junket in return for the largesse of the Canadian Taxpayer, then we should have all received an invitation to the Bahamas.

Putting aside the Aga Khan Foundation receiving hundreds of millions of taxpayer’s money, Trudeau’s vacation still leaves the perception of shameless arrogance.

No wonder there is such growing resentment towards political leaders who traverse the globe with the decadently wealthy, breathing the rarified air of exclusive mountain retreats or basking in the sun on private, tropical islands, while at the same time trying to convince ordinary citizens that they understand their situation and feel their pain.

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