OTTAWA – Canada’s federal opposition parties are calling out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for using taxpayer dollars to pay for two nannies helping to care for his three young children.
During the election campaign, Trudeau attacked the Conservative government for handing out tax cuts and benefits, including a new universal child care benefit, to Canada’s wealthiest families – including his own.
As a result, said interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, he ought to be footing his own child care bills.
“I just think he should pay for it himself,” Ambrose said in an interview.
“It’s not a reflection of their child care choice – every family has a different makeup, every family has to make decisions about their child care – but I think … Canadians would expect them to just pay for their own nanny out of their own pocket.”
New Democrat MP Sheila Malcolmson, the party’s status of women critic, called out the prime minister for paying his nannies so little.
The pair, who are considered special assistants under the Official Residences Act, have been hired for $15 to $20 per hour during the day and $11 to $13 at night.
“Surely the people looking after his children should be paid more than $11 an hour,” Malcolmson said. “I’m stunned to hear that figure and I am saddened.”
Malcolmson, too, acknowledged the fact the employees are being paid out of the public purse seems to contradict Trudeau’s stated position on his own ability to cover his family’s child care costs.
“It does not jive with the very strong pronouncements he made in the election campaign that taxpayers should not be subsidizing wealthy families like his,” she said.
Manuela Gruber Hersch, president of the Association of Caregiver and Nanny Agencies Canada, said Trudeau’s caregivers are “absolutely” receiving the average rate.
She believes there is a much bigger issue at play – a shortage of Canadian nannies that only got worse when the previous Conservative government tightened the rules governing temporary foreign workers.
“The real story is there are very few Canadian nannies available and the Conservatives … basically shut down the foreign nanny program,” Gruber Hersch said.
“Canadian nannies are almost non-existent … Canadians don’t want to be nannies.”
It’s also “very common” for caregivers to receive a reduced wage for the night shift, she added.
Kate Purchase, Trudeau’s director of communications, said in a statement the prime minister employs two household employees as “secondary caregivers” who also perform “other duties around the house.”
Purchase would not specify what those other duties entail, but said similar arrangements have existed for Trudeau’s predecessors.
“Like all families of prime ministers, a small number of staff provide assistance,” she said in an e-mail.
Purchase said the caregivers are both Canadian citizens who were born outside of the country but have been here for some time. She could not provide dates.
The Canadian Press first contacted the Liberals about Trudeau’s caregiver arrangements after one of the nannies was seen at Rideau Hall helping to manage the children prior to Trudeau’s swearing-in last month.
No information was provided, despite multiple requests made to the party.
One of the caregivers also accompanied Trudeau, his wife and two of the children on the prime minister’s recent trip to Paris for the climate change summit.
© 2015 The Canadian Press