HAMILTON — Justin Trudeau took a light-hearted jab at what critics might call his penchant for tropical vacations Wednesday as he prepares for another stop on his cross-country town hall tour.
In Hamilton for the second of a series of cross-country question-and-answer sessions with Canadians, Trudeau made the crack during a radio interview with K-Lite FM hosts Sunni Genesco and Matt Hayes, who were broadcasting from Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
He said he'd consider attending the pair's 25th anniversary party later this year, but stopped himself: "Is it going to be in Mexico? Because I've got to be careful."
Ethics watchdog report already a key topic on tour
That appeared to be a reference to the controversy that continues to swirl around his family's contentious December 2016 visit to a private island in the Bahamas owned by the Aga Khan — a trip that got Trudeau called on the carpet late last year by the federal ethics commissioner.
The Aga Khan saga has been the primary topic of discussion in Ottawa ever since the ethics commissioner's report, and Trudeau got an earful about it on Tuesday as he kicked off this year's tour in Lower Sackville, N.S.
Trudeau said the town halls are an opportunity for citizens to engage with him directly "about what's on their minds, to give people an opportunity to participate in a fundamental democratic process about holding their leaders to account."
"For me it's an opportunity to hear what's on their minds, and also share not just my answers but my thinking around the issues that matter to them," he added, describing it as going back into "teacher mode." Trudeau worked as a drama teacher before launching his political career.
He said the forums give him more time to go into explanations that he'd typically have when answering questions from media or during question period.
Later, in a pre-recorded appearance on the Bill Kelly Show on Hamilton's CHML, Trudeau answered questions about his government's response to a B.C. lawsuit launched by a number of wounded veterans, who allege they were unfairly treated because of a major overhaul in 2006 to the way the government compensates those injured in the line of service.
"We have to get it right for our veterans, we have to fulfil our sacred obligations. Whereas governments of the past tended to just write a cheque to an injured or wounded veteran and say, 'OK, there you go, try and make due, we're washing our hands of you,' it's much more important to provide services," he said.
He told Kelly that's why the Liberals opened nine veterans services offices that had been shuttered by the previous Conservative government.
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