A top Conservative isn't buying that U.S. President Barack Obama just decided to invite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's in-laws to break bread with them in Washington.
But Trudeau suggested in the House of Commons Tuesday that's exactly the kind of thing that happens when a prime minister has a good relationship with his U.S. counterpart.
Trudeau has faced questions this week about the 44-person delegation that accompanied him to the historic state dinner at the White House in March, costing taxpayers at least $25,000. He told reporters that his mother, Margaret Trudeau, and his in-laws were "personally invited" by Obama.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposes a toast to U.S. President Barack Obama during a state dinner Thursday, March 10, 2016 in Washington. (Photo: Paul Chiasson/CP)
Liberal party president Anna Gainey and top fundraiser Stephen Bronfman also attended the event, but the party told The Canadian Press that their expenses weren't covered by Canadian taxpayers.
In question period, Tory House Leader Andrew Scheer wondered what the delegation revealed about Trudeau's priorities. While his in-laws and fundraisers accompanied him, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr — who is tasked, in part, with making the case for building pipelines — stayed home.
Trudeau shot back that, for 10 years, Tories hurt Canada-U.S. relations with a singular focus on the Keystone XL pipeline.
The PM added he was "touched" that Obama invited his mom and in-laws to be part of a "great meeting of two families."
"Mr. Speaker, nobody believes that President Obama, on his own, decided to invite the prime minister's in-laws."
— Andrew Scheer
Scheer rose from his chair with a big grin on his face.
"Mr. Speaker, nobody believes that President Obama, on his own, decided to invite the prime minister's in-laws," he said, sparking some laughter. "Nobody believes that President Obama, on his own, decided to invite Liberal party fundraisers."
"Does the prime minister deny that it was his office that sent the White House the invitation list for this state dinner?" Scheer asked.
Trudeau suggested Obama went out of his way to ensure his extended family was there.
Margaret Trudeau, mother of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is applauded as she is introduced by U.S. President Barack Obama during a state dinner on March 10, 2016 in Washington. (Photo: Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)
"On top of the official delegation seats that we were allocated, the president and his office insisted that we add to it my mother and our in-laws because it emphasizes the relationship," he said. "These were extra seats that the president made available not in the official delegation that we provided."
Scheer then sarcastically asked if Trudeau was sure the White House didn't just drop Carr's place instead.
Ambrose: 'I even got invited'
Tories also poked fun at Carr's expense back in March when he was left to mind the store as nine of his cabinet colleagues were south of the border.
"How important is energy to this government when the energy minister isn't even invited to go to Washington?" interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose asked in the House.
"I even got invited to go to Washington."
Obama toasted Margaret
But if Obama's toast to the prime minister that night is any indication, the president was indeed happy to see Margaret Trudeau. Obama sparked applause when he singled out the advocacy work Trudeau's mother has done on the issue of mental health.
"Justin, we also see Canada's spirit in your mother's brave advocacy for mental health care — and I want to give a special welcome to Margaret Trudeau tonight," Obama said.
In his toast, Trudeau noted that his mother last attended a state dinner in 1977.
"It's incredibly touching to be able to be here not just as a couple, Sophie and I, but to have been able to bring our families down as well," Trudeau said at the time.
With files from The Canadian Press
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