Since coming to power in 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken 680 “personal” days – the equivalent of 22 months or nearly two years – an analysis of his public itineraries shows.
The Prime Minister’s Office has marked as personal his daily schedules 24 per cent of the calendar days since he first formed government, excluding election campaigns.
The PMO maintains that the demands of the job means Trudeau still works on days it listed as personal. It calls suggestions to the contrary “false and absurd.”
Trudeau’s total includes vacations he took with his family during the holiday seasons, summer breaks, many weekends and brief out-of-town get-aways.
Among them are 31 days over two trips to Costa Rica, another nine days in Jamaica, and eight days in Bahamas, where he made a visit to the Aga Khan’s private island that the federal ethics commissioner found breached conflict-of-interest rules.
Since becoming prime minister, Trudeau has used a total of 88 personal days holidaying in Tofino, Whistler, Revelstoke and other locations in British Columbia. That’s more time than his itineraries list him travelling to Alberta on official business, not including the six personals he booked in Lake Louise at the end of 2017.
He also took time while in New York, Florida, Montana and Vermont, the itineraries show.
The bulk of the days – 68 per cent – were taken on weekends, and spent mostly in the National Capital Region. His longest continuous stretch of personal days, 17, came over the holiday season in 2016.
The prime minister’s personal day rate of 24 per cent is still well below the 34 per cent of days in a year most Canadian workers are off, including statutory holidays and two weeks of paid vacation.
Although his office may have declared a personal day with no government business scheduled, the 24/7 job leading a G7 country can intrude on private time.
“The Prime Minister routinely and regularly works on days listed ‘personal’ in the itinerary,” his office said in an emailed statement.
“This can include calls with staff, calls with stakeholders, or briefings with officials.”
The PMO says he has been engaged every single day during the current crisis in the Middle East, the COVID-19 pandemic, and Russia’s war on Ukraine, among other issues.
Trudeau has often spoken about the need to balance work and personal lives. At the start of his first mandate in 2015, in a television interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, he hoped to spend as much time with three children as his new position allowed.
“I need to be really ruthless to ensure I have time with family, time with Sophie and time to decompress,” he said, referring to Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, from whom he legally separated in August.
During a 2016 trip to Japan for a G7 leaders summit, Trudeau took a day to celebrate his 11th wedding anniversary with Grégoire Trudeau, time not noted in his official itinerary.
“This is the kind of work-life balance that I’ve often talked about as being essential in order to be able to be in service of the country with all one’s very best,” he said at the time. He also took personal time on his anniversary in 2022 and 2023
Vacation time has been a political issue for U.S. presidents, too. Donald Trump was reported to have taken off 26 per cent of his term, much of it spent at golf clubs and other properties he owned. In September, Republicans accused President Joe Biden of taking 382 days off – about 40 per cent of his time in office – although their calculation included working days he spent away from the White House at his home in Delaware. An analysis by the Washington Post put the figure at 256 days as of May.
The National Post’s analysis of Trudeau’s time is based on more than 2,900 itineraries published on the prime minister’s website since November 2015. It doesn’t include days campaigning for re-election in 2019 and 2021.
The PMO says it publishes the itineraries “in the spirit of openness and transparency” and contrasts its approach with the government of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“Canada is one of the few countries in the world to provide this level of daily transparency with the leader’s schedule,” the statement said.
Comparable data for Harper’s nine years as prime minister are not available on the PM website.