OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau famously came from away to see a Broadway musical about Newfoundland hospitality — but not all those he invited were as eager to attend.
According to an access-to-information response obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the Canadian government bought 502 tickets to a performance of Come From Away in New York City last summer.
But even though more than 700 VIPs were invited, only 276 said yes. A larger contingent either sent their regrets (197 people) or didn’t bother to respond (227).
“You bought twice as many tickets as you needed. So what did you do with those tickets?” said Aaron Wudrick, the CTF’s federal director.
As released through access-to-information, the guest list is redacted to strike names and titles. The names of some organizations are visible, so it’s clear that a variety of business people, lawyers, consultants and government officials attended. At least one New York firefighter took Trudeau up on the invitation. Someone from Lululemon Athletica couldn’t make it. Canada invited 125 United Nations ambassadors, but the documents do not identify which ones. More than 50 of those did not respond to the invitation.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chats with his wife, Sophie Gregoire after watching the Broadway musical Come From Away in New York City on Wednesday, March 15, 2017.
It was well-reported that U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, went to the performance. Even so, her name doesn’t appear in the list.
According to the documents, the tickets cost just under US$18,000, or about $23,000 Canadian.
“The story highlights how Canada is a committed global citizen, and highlights priorities of diversity and inclusion. The story also strongly underlines the Canada-U.S. friendship and cooperation and advances Canada’s interest,” says a hospitality form justifying the purchase. The form, filled out by Michael Grant, Canada’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York, says the outcome of the event was to create “positive perception of Canada and stronger UN relationships.” Another outcome is listed, but was redeacted.
Even if the money for tickets was well-spent in pursuit of diplomacy, Wudrick said Canadians should be allowed to know who was invited. “Shouldn’t we be able to know who was invited to go, and who showed up?” he said. “If taxpayers are on the hook, surely we have a right to know who’s going. … I see no reason to redact names of UN diplomats. Doesn’t make sense.”
Come From Away returns to Toronto after a very successful debut last year, a warm respite from dark daysThe other side of Come From Away: How a Canadian city utterly flipped out on 9/11
Set in the week following 9/11, the award-winning musical is focused on the town of Gander, Nfld., which hosted thousands of travellers stranded in the wake of the attack.
It’s not the first time questions have been raised about Trudeau’s social circles. Party fundraisers attended by high-profile Chinese business people have come under scrutiny; security concerns were raised around guest lists at events in India, where an attempted murderer ended …read more