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PMO looking at ways to ease Sophie Grégoire Trudeau’s workload

Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau told the newspaper Le Soleil earlier this week that she and her assistant can’t manage the number of requests that come her way.

Cliff Owen/AP

The Prime Minister's Office is exploring various options – including hiring a second staffer – after Sophie Grégoire Trudeau publicly complained she is struggling to deal with the workload that comes with her duties, federal officials told The Globe and Mail.

Speaking in Quebec City earlier this week, Ms. Grégoire Trudeau bluntly said she and her current assistant can't manage the number of demands that come from being a high-profile, bilingual and much sought-after speaker. Various groups and charitable organizations regularly invite Ms. Grégoire Trudeau to promote their causes, but the constant requests are proving impossible to address under current circumstances, she said.

"I'd like to be everywhere, but I can't," Ms. Grégoire Trudeau said in an interview with daily newspaper Le Soleil. "I have three children at home and a husband who is Prime Minister. I need help. I need a team to help me serve people."

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She added that with one staffer, she cannot respond to everyone who contacts her. "We want to modernize the system that allows us to serve the people, because people want us to modernize it."

The PMO told The Globe and Mail that it is aware of the growing needs of Ms. Grégoire Trudeau and is looking at ways to assist her and her sole staffer, Natalie St-Denis.

To this point, PMO officials informally provide additional assistance, such as accompanying Ms. Grégoire Trudeau to events when Ms. St-Denis can't attend.

However, there is a growing sense the current system cannot be sustained, given the personal popularity of Ms. Grégoire Trudeau, who has garnered international attention alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"Madame Grégoire Trudeau continues to receive an extraordinarily high volume of correspondence and invitations. We are continuing to look at new ways to make sure she is supported at official events she is attending and to make sure correspondence from Canadians across the country and invitations are triaged and answered in a timely manner," said PMO spokesman Olivier Duchesneau.

Still, the Liberals are not looking at replicating the American model, where the White House includes a formal Office of the First Lady, Mr. Duchesneau said.

Mr. Trudeau's office is treading carefully, given questions about the cost of the services offered to the Trudeau household, including two nannies who sometimes travel with the couple's children.

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The PMO has said Mr. Trudeau is using the same budget for household help as his Conservative predecessor, Stephen Harper. However, Liberal officials said Ms. Grégoire Trudeau receives much more correspondence than Laureen Harper, which explains the potential need for additional administrative help.

A precedent was set by Mila Mulroney, who had an office at the Langevin Block, in front of the Parliament Buildings, and at least three staff working with her at one point.

Ms. Grégoire Trudeau has promoted Canadian designers with her fashion choices at public events, but she is also the voice for a number of causes, including promoting the health and self-esteem of young women.

"It's hard to choose, because it's touching when people ask for your help. People really lay out their suffering in some of the letters that I receive. I tell myself: 'I'll try to send a message that will reach as many people as possible,'" Ms. Grégoire Trudeau told Le Soleil.

She said she is also fighting against the fact that people often tend to see her solely as Mr. Trudeau's wife, arguing society needs to evolve and respect the decisions that professional women make for their families. Ms. Grégoire Trudeau is a former television journalist.

Ms. Grégoire Trudeau said her mother, who stopped working as a nurse after she was born, didn't become less intelligent or interesting because she decided to stay at home.

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"There is always a price to pay, but the price shouldn't be as high," Ms. Grégoire Trudeau said of finding a balance between work and family.

Ms. Grégoire Trudeau was not available to comment on staffing issues to The Globe on Wednesday.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

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