A backup plane and spare parts are en route to India for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is stranded along with his country’s delegation after the plane they arrived on broke down.
Trudeau will either fly home on the backup plane or wait for the original plane to be repaired, said a government official, speaking to Bloomberg on condition they weren’t named. The official declined to give details about what exactly needs replacing.
“The Canadian Armed Forces continue their best efforts to get the Canadian delegation home,” said a statement from Trudeau’s office. “Their latest update shows an earliest possible departure of Tuesday late afternoon. The situation remains fluid.”
The plane drama only adds to Trudeau’s woes in his travels to India. His first trip in 2018 became a diplomatic disaster after it emerged that a man who had been convicted of attempting to assassinate an Indian politician on Canadian soil somehow ended up on Canada’s guest list for an event.
On this trip, even before the plane breakdown, Trudeau had been publicly criticized by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for allegedly allowing the “anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada,” a reference to Sikh groups that advocate for an independent homeland known as Khalistan.
Trudeau’s national security adviser, meanwhile, has said that India is a major source of foreign meddling in Canada’s affairs. The two prime ministers did not hold a formal bilateral meeting at the summit, but in a brief conversation on the sidelines, Trudeau said the pair discussed foreign interference and “respect for the rule of law.”
Back home, Trudeau’s travel delays also stirred debate about the crumbling nature of Canada’s state infrastructure.
The Airbus A310s that carry Trudeau and other top officials abroad date back to the 1980s and are badly showing their age. They are so old they require refueling stops for Trudeau’s trips to Asia, often with stopovers in Alaska and Japan before reaching their final destination.
Even so, the planes touched off a controversy in the early 1990s when the government of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney bought and retrofitted them. Mulroney’s successor, Jean Chretien, famously derided one them as a “flying Taj Mahal” and refused to use it for official trips for fear of looking out of touch with ordinary Canadians.
The government is in the midst of replacing its fleet of government transports with Airbus 330s, but they are still being retrofitted for use.
Meanwhile, Trudeau’s official residence is also in such terrible shape that he and his family have never lived there since he was elected in 2015. The house, at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa, was filled with asbestos, faulty wiring, drafty windows and also has substandard security measures. The home has deteriorated to such a state because successive prime ministers have refused to spend the public money needed to restore it.
While a government agency has stripped out much of the problematic interior of the house, it’s an open question whether the residence will be restored and upgraded, at a cost that could top C$37 million ($27.2 million), or a new one is built instead. For now, Trudeau has been living in another government building on the grounds of Canada’s governor general.