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Marilou Trayvilla, one of two women employed to take care of the Trudeau children, is seen at left as she joins Justin Trudeau, wife Sophie and their three kids upon their arrival at Rideau Hall for the swearing-in ceremony in Ottawa on Nov. 4.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Prime Minister's Office is defending the wages of two women who help care for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's children, saying the nannies are not paid too little because they receive free meals at work.

Recent cabinet orders revealed the appointment of two "special assistants" at the Prime Minister's residence who have been seen caring for Mr. Trudeau's children, prompting critics to ask why the Prime Minister is billing taxpayers for nanny expenses after claiming his wealthy family did not need public daycare funding.

Cabinet orders state that the two women, both Canadians, will be paid $15 to $20 an hour during the day and $11 to $13 for the night shift.

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The minimum wage in Ontario is $11.25.

Kate Purchase, Mr. Trudeau's director of communications, said in an e-mail that the calculation of their salary takes into account the fact that they are given meals as part of their duties.

"Like all families of prime ministers, a small number of staff provide assistance. Given the nature of the Prime Minister's responsibilities and his young family, the Trudeaus employ two household employees who, in addition to performing other duties around the house, act as secondary caregivers to the three children," she said.

Mr. Trudeau receives a salary of $334,800. He and his family are provided with an official residence in Ottawa and a nearby cottage at Harrington Lake in Quebec's Gatineau Park. The official residence is equipped with a chef and other staff. Prime ministers usually live at 24 Sussex Dr., but the Trudeau family is staying in a house on the grounds of Rideau Hall while the National Capital Commission works on a renovation plan for the official residence.

Mr. Trudeau and his two brothers were raised at 24 Sussex with the help of nannies paid for by the taxpayers. His father, prime minister Pierre Trudeau, was single in the later years of his leadership after he and his wife, Margaret, separated. Former prime minister Brian Mulroney had a nanny on staff at the official residence after vowing not to accept such a benefit.

Critics say the Prime Minister's decision to bill taxpayers for child care goes against his frequent claims over the past year that his family is wealthy and did not need publicly financed child-care support.

Mr. Trudeau has said he would not accept the enhanced Universal Child Care Benefit payments launched earlier this year under the Conservatives, and vowed to give the money to charity.

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In opposition, Mr. Trudeau regularly criticized Conservative Leader Stephen Harper for approving thousands of dollars in benefits "to wealthy families like his and mine" who "do not need the help."

Sheila Malcolmson, the New Democrats' status of women critic, said Mr. Trudeau should be setting an example by paying a fair wage for child care.

"Child-care workers should be paid a living wage," she said. "Especially given Mr. Trudeau's pronouncements through the campaign that he is from a wealthy family that does not need any taxpayer subsidy for his child care, why on earth would he go and let this happen now? It leaves a sour taste in everybody's mouth."

Conservative finance critic Lisa Raitt agrees the situation is at odds with Mr. Trudeau's pledges to return federal child care support to charity. Ms. Raitt also noted that funding for child care was never an option during her years as a cabinet minister.

"It's not an insignificant amount of salary that we pay the Prime Minister of Canada," Ms. Raitt said.

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