Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will spend at least another night in India waiting for his plane to be fixed after it was grounded Sunday night.
The maintenance problem has left the Canadian delegation stranded and added a new layer of complication to an already rocky trip to New Delhi for the G20 Summit.
Government sources said a technician flying commercial has departed for India with a part needed to fix the 1980s-era plane, while two military aircraft have been deployed as a back-up plan if the issue can’t be resolved.
A spokesperson with the Department of National Defence told Global News in an email Monday that a problem with a component was discovered with the prime minister’s Royal Canadian Air Force CC-150 Polaris.
That part must be replaced before the plane is able to fly again, the spokesperson said.
Trudeau was planning to return home Sunday night, after attending the G20 summit.
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“The Canadian Armed Forces continue their best efforts to get the Canadian delegation home. We will keep you updated regularly as the situation evolves,” said Mohammad Hussain, press secretary to the prime minister, on Monday.
“Their latest update shows an earliest possible departure of Tuesday late afternoon. The situation remains fluid.”
An earlier update had suggested Tuesday morning could be a possible departure time.
This is the latest issue with the four-decade-old aircraft, which has had a host of mechanical problems over the years.
“Right now, you’re seeing that one of the most precious resources our political leaders have is time. They just bluntly don’t have the time to waste waiting for the plane to get sorted out,” said Dave Perry from the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, a Calgary-based think-tank.
The government signed a $3.6-billion contract with Airbus to replace its aging Polaris fleet, including a replacement plane for the prime minister.
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The defence spokesperson said the replacement planes arrived in Ottawa on Aug. 31, but they were not ready in time for the G20 summit. They’re expected to be in service this fall.
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They need to be modified to increase capabilities and crews are still undergoing training. Perry said the fleet should have been ordered a decade ago.
“The governments, plural, waited too long to move,” he said.
The replacement planes are expected to be in service by fall.
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The extended stay in India caps a tense visit by Trudeau to Delhi and another troubled visit to India. His trip to the country in 2018 was widely criticized as a diplomatic disaster.
Trudeau’s current relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is often described as strained, stemming from a Sikh separatist movement in Canada and Trudeau’s support for a farmers protest against the Indian government.
Those tensions were on display during the G20 summit last weekend. Trudeau’s interactions with Modi appeared brief and stilted, including a curt handshake.
Trudeau also did not attend some events at the G20 like a dinner gala hosted by Modi.
The two leaders had a brief sit-down during the last day of the summit.
After their meeting, Trudeau held a news conference. When asked by reporters, Trudeau acknowledged he brought up the issue of foreign interference by India in Canadian affairs.
Meanwhile, a statement by the Indian government said Modi raised “anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada.”
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