PHOTOS: The scene abroad N. Murray Edwards’ yacht imagined. Actual Canadian bitumen billionaires and their onboard guests may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: The real N. Murray Edwards, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau aboard a helicopter, although not the Aga Khan’s, Opposition Leader Rona Ambrose in a yacht harbor, and J.P. Veitch, Ms. Ambrose’s significant other.

Anyone can yacht. It takes a certain boldness, though, to excoriate someone for hanging around an island in the Caribbean with a billionaire while you’re yachting around the Caribbean with another billionaire.

Well, it’s nice to have assistants to send out the press releases and do your Tweeting for you, I guess, when you’re soaking up the sun on deck at an undisclosed location somewhere in the Caribbean Sea.

I know, I know … Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke a rule on his way to hanging around with the Aga Khan, who is also a family friend. Whereas Opposition Leader Rona Ambrose broke no rules on her way to hanging around with N. Murray Edwards, late of Calgary, who is also a family friend.

My guess, though, is that the distinction will be lost on most Canadians, who don’t have friends who happen to be billionaires, or even millionaires – especially when the rule that was broken seems to be a picayune one. This is true even though Ms. Ambrose bothered to check with the Parliamentary ethics officer, whereas Mr. Trudeau obviously didn’t before he slid into the leather seat of the Aga Khan’s chopper.

Indeed, this led me at the time of the original hoo-haw to suspect the angry reaction among the Conservative base had more to do with the Aga Khan’s religion – he is the hereditary spiritual leader of an estimated 20 million Ismaili Muslims – than with his reputed wealth, which is estimated to range from $800 million to $3 billion, or the fact his charity has done some work supported by the Canadian government.

As an oilsands investor, after all, Mr. Edwards has also benefited from a certain degree of Canadian government support.

At any rate, the Aga Khan’s personal fortune sounds as if it may be roughly the same size as the much diminished assets of Mr. Edwards – the bitumen billionaire and Calgary Flames owner, religion unspecified, whom we now know is pals with Ms. Ambrose and her significant other, James Patrick (J.P.) Veitch, former rodeo cowboy and current Calgary oilpatch guy.

As an aside, Mr. Veitch’s principal business address may explain why Ms. Ambrose is so seldom seen in her Sturgeon River Parkland riding, which is almost as close to my back porch here in St. Albert as Russia is to Sarah Palin’s porch in Wasilla, Alaska – that is to say, if you only cut down the trees to the west, you could practically see it.

I’m not defending Mr. Trudeau. I’m just sayin’ it was cheeky of Ms. Ambrose to make one of the key points of her attack on the PM the fact he was hangin’ out with a billionaire when, you know, she was hangin’ out with a billionaire.

The facts, as revealed by media and in particular iPolitics, which broke the story, are as follows: Mr. Trudeau and his family departed for the Aga Khan’s private Caribbean island on Boxing Day. Ms. Ambrose and her partner departed for Mr. Edwards’ yacht on Jan. 3.

On Jan. 6, while Ms. Ambrose was aboard Mr. Edwards’ yacht, the story about Mr. Trudeau’s flight first broke. Conservative leadership candidate Andrew Scheer had complained to Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson, alleging an ethics violation.

On Jan. 11, Ms. Ambrose started Tweeting about the PM’s shortcomings, calling them his “latest ethics mess.” She (or someone working for her) Tweeted on the 12th that “all he had to do was say no, but he couldn’t resist the billionaire lifestyle.” (Emphasis irresistibly added.)

As we now know, Ms. Ambrose obviously understands just how irresistible the billionaire lifestyle is!

Alert readers will recall that back in the spring of 2016, Mr. Edwards’ name came up in another brouhaha promoted by the National Post, when he decamped from Cowtown for London, England, in the midst of what is now understood to have been a change in personal circumstances when he and his wife parted ways.

The Post, however, had a better story – based on statements by “sources” said to be “familiar with the situation” who “preferred not to be identified” – to wit, that Alberta’s New Democratic Party Government had raised taxes to a point they were onerous even to a billionaire.

As was noted in this space at the time, this narrative really didn’t make a lot of sense if you bothered to compare taxes in the United Kingdom with those in Alberta, not to mention the cost of living in London, a city so expensive even the billionaires there complain constantly about it.

Nevertheless, such fearless champions of the billionaire class as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Fraser Institute jumped on the Post’s rickety bandwagon, attacking the “ideological soak-the-rich politicians” in Edmonton responsible for this outrage.

Nine months ago, however, Mr. Edwards seemed to admit in a Globe and Mail interview that the NDP’s tax structure had nothing at all to do with it. “London’s a great city,” he told the Globe’s scribe. “Moving to London was based on my personal circumstances, which I don’t want to go into, based upon a change of scenery.”

Still, the story of billionaires in flight from Alberta persists in Conservative circles.

So it occurs to me that we Canadians and Albertans are fortunate Ms. Ambrose is such a close friend of Mr. Edwards. She is, obviously, now in a position to set the record straight for her constituents, and for the rest of us.


Join the Conversation


  1. Perhaps Ambrose would be more forgiving of Trudeau if he had vacationed with the “right ” kind of billionaire.

    What if Trudeau had vacationed with Sheldon Adelson, or one of the Koch brothers? I wonder if the Cons would display as much faux moral outrage.

    Hypocrisy seems to be a requirement among right-wingers.

  2. Studying the portrait of the ‘significant other’ to see who we are rooming and boarding in Stornoway. Very informative.

    1. Now, now … There’s nothing wrong with dressing well. I’m saving up for a nice James Bond tuxedo myself.

  3. Surprising more wasn’t made of Trudeau’s recent brush with another, more colourful, billionaire in Davos.

  4. I generally make it a policy when referring to conservative billionaires to prefix their wealth designation with “evil.” So the phrase “Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate” becomes “Sheldon Adelson, evil billionaire and casino magnate”, and “the billionaire Koch brothers” becomes “the Koch brothers, evil billionaires who actively deny climate change.”

    While it seems somewhat cartoonish to think of a cabal of evil billionaires, that’s only because the media they own tries to make them into regular folks. But is there really much difference between the evil billionaires played by Will Ferrell and Mike Meyers and the Adelson/Koch variety?

  5. I wonder if a clever but disgruntled assistant wrote the tweet. Ambrose is not known for her intelligence but surely she has more common sense than to draw attention to the “billionaire lifestyle” that she was currently enjoying. Hilarious.

  6. Hate to say it, but this is a standard right wing ploy. If you are doing something sketchy, be the first one to hit the media with accusations that the other team is doing what you yourself intend to get away with.

    We could make it easier on all taxpayers, if every time a conservative cried foul, journalists of David’s ilk got busy checking in to what the outraged conservative is up to.

    Sometimes, it backfires however. Like when Joe Oliver started whining about ‘foreign environmental activists’ just after Chinese millions poured into the Northern Gateway scheme. If I remember correctly, Dogwood Initiative’s membership, and donations sky rocketed after that accusation hit the airwaves. Big money hates little money I know….but we should help them to remember that 99% is a hell of a majority.

    The conservatives are pretty complacent however. They essentially own the media.

  7. This reminds me of the old joke about the young grain trader who was taken into the top floor office of a grain oligarch. The oligarch pointed out various yachts in the harbour below which belonged to him and his fellow grain trade oligarchs. He told the young fellow if he worked hard “servicing the farmers” he could have one too.

    Wide-eyed the novice trader said: “That’s wonderful, but where are all the farmers’ yachts?”

  8. sure, everyone like to have roof over head, at least something in fridge and ability to look into tomorrow without fear but i never been able to grasp one thing – how many billions one’s need, to eventually get happiness and consider own life target fully accomplished?
    even worst, when some people, and quite plenty of such, who wasn’t been able to acheive too many of materialistic values, willing to jump out off their skin, in pretending of success and association with fortunate ones.

    1. OMG!

      Val, your comment is so incoherent I can’t figure out what your point is. Perhaps, in writing it in the way you did, you’ve inadvertently succeeded in pointing out the need for all of us to support public education.

  9. To paraphrase Animal Farm – “private yachts good, private planes bad.” I suppose this is the latest example of muddled conservative thinking in Ottawa – ethical problems exist not because of a violation of the rules, but because of the potential for a conflict of interest. The rules are written, however imperfectly to try and highlight potential problems, but they certainly can’t catch them all.

    I would argue that Ms. Ambrose’s potential for conflict in this case are greater as a business operating mainly in Canada is likely to have more cause to ask for favours from the Canadian government than an international charitable/religious organization. While not insignificant, the Aga Khan certainly does not rely on the ongoing support of the Government of Canada to continue to carry out his charity’s international work. Most of his donors and supporters are from other countries.

    While it is not clear Mr. Edwards left Alberta due to increased tax rates, Mr. Edwards would likely benefit from the lower corporate taxes that the Federal Conservatives and Ms. Ambrose advocate. Also, it couldn’t hurt Ms. Ambrose spouse’s career in the energy industry to spend a bit of quality time with a big player in that industry such as Mr. Edwards.

    In case any constituents of Ms. Ambrose were wondering why they didn’t see her in Edmonton or Spruce Grove during the holidays, now we know why.

    Perhaps according to the Conservatives, billionaire oilmen (formerly) from Calgary good, billionaire international charitable/religious leaders bad.

    1. Be it noted, the “private plane”, actually a helicopter, was simply used to get to the Island and back. I suppose the Conservatives would have rather he’d taken a boat. Or walked, perhaps. Yes, apparently there’s a rule against accepting free air trips, but I can’t see how said rule was designed for these particular circumstances: it’s not like it was a free first class flight to Vegas. But the Conservative Noise Machine excels at spinning straw into fool’s gold.

  10. I seem to recall reading, in a story about this in some MSM outlet or other, that Ms Ambrose didn’t notify the ethics commissioner of her little jaunt until well after she had gotten on board and the boat had cast off. If this is true, what would she have done had the ethics commish advised the trip was out of bounds… hopped into a lifeboat & rowed to shore? Swum ashore?

    As for the PM, it is my understanding that the Aga Khan’s private helicopter is the only legal way to or from his island. Any other form of access would be trespass, which given the Cons’ dedication to protecting private property would have been even more objectionable in their eyes. Of course, logical consistency is hardly a Conservative strong suit …

    All in all, this is just a minor scandal, hardly even worthy of the word, especially in light of the fecal exhibition going on south of the Medicine Line. I think we all need to put these things into some sort of reasonable perspective.

  11. After the fact Ambrose.

    Ambrose gets on the yacht on the 3rd.
    Writes to/checks it out with the Ethics Commissioner on the 12th.
    Hmmm. Funny that timing.

    excerpt: ‘ Ambrose was on a yacht owned by oilsands financier and Calgary Flames co-owner Murray Edwards from Jan. 3-14 as it sailed in the Caribbean.

    Back in Ottawa, her Conservative colleagues blasted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for vacationing on the Aga Khan’s private island.

    Ambrose wrote to the ethics commissioner on Jan. 12, the day Trudeau admitted to using the Aga Khan’s private helicopter to reach the island.’

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