It does not look good, but it’s not a public relations disaster either.
This week, Canadians discovered their new prime minister and his family brought two nannies with them to the official residence and plopped them on the government payroll.
The two women were originally hired for child care, and their new duties as “special assistants” are largely the same. The Trudeaus have three young children.
To be fair, having a nanny is not necessarily a sign of privilege. While it’s not something everyone could afford, or even want, it’s not entirely foreign to middle-class families, especially when both spouses — or single spouses — are working.
The stereotypical impression one gets of a nanny is that of a deferent woman with few options serving some sort of dysfunctional aristocracy. In the 2012 documentary “The Queen of Versailles,” one such nanny is seen going about her duties while lamenting to the filmmaker that she hasn’t seen her family in years.
The film is a portrait of the wealthy Siegel family and their troubles following the 2008 financial collapse, trying to keep construction of their new $75-million Florida mansion on track. They have to pinch pennies: no more pleasure trips on private jets.
This is the sort of image that gives nanny hiring a bad name.
That said, having two nannies for three kids is a little rich for the average citizen to swallow. And putting them on the public dime seems especially entitled.
Prime ministers are expected to have some domestic help, such as drivers and kitchen staff. By law, they may hire “a steward or housekeeper and such other employees” needed to manage the household.
While duties may vary, however, these nannies are clearly there to look after the youngsters. And that is something other Canadian families have to primarily cover themselves — with a little help from child benefits.
The Ottawa Citizen’s Glen McGregor explains why it smacks of hypocrisy in Justin Trudeau’s case.
“The hiring of nannies on the public dime is at odds with Trudeau’s claim, made repeatedly during the election campaign, that wealthy families like his don’t need the Enhanced Universal Child Care Benefit introduced by the previous Conservative government. It pays all families $160 per month for children under six and $60 monthly for each child aged six to 16.”
It’s simply a matter of practising what you preach.