Justin’s fancy pants vacation on the private island of a billionaire complete with a massive yacht and private helicopter trips, may be biting him in the butt as he’s now the first Canadian Prime Minister in history to face an investigation by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
Liberals will be quick to say that the office only came into being in 2007, which is true. But, Stephen Harper was never investigated or found to be in violation of the law, and the current office is just a redesign of the previous office first set up in 1974 by Pierre Trudeau.
Can you name me a PM that has been under investigation since Pierre?
Congrats Justin, you did in a year what others couldn’t do in their whole careers.
The commissioner, Mary Dawson, replied to a formal complaint letter written by Conservative MP Blaine Calkins indicating she sees two potential conflicts — accepting the trip and flying on private aircraft, which federal law explicitly forbids cabinet ministers from doing.
It should be a pretty easy case to examine since Trudeau admits taking the vacation and taking a helicopter ride, all for free.
His attempt at an out is to claim that the Aga Khan, the billionaire philanthropist and owner of the island, is a friend but this shouldn’t hold any water given the amount of business his foundation does with the Canadian government - $310M in grants to the foundation since 2004 and $55M just last year when Trudeau was in charge of the giant federal cookie jar.
This should be an open and shut case but of course, Dawson has a history of going easy on the politicians she’s in charge of monitoring.
Just before Christmas, she excused Health Minister Jane Philpott for using a limo service that was owned by a Liberal donor and campaign volunteer and according to media reports and Philpott’s own words, taxpayers had paid too much for the service.
Despite all of that, Dawson found no issue with the cozy relationship.
So while Trudeau is the first PM to be investigated, it’s a long way from him being the first found in violation of the act and fined a whopping $500 per offence.
But, just last week as Trudeau was dismissing the idea that he had done anything wrong by accepting a free vacation on a tropical island, the little people were being reminded not to take free muffins at conferences. I’m not making this up.
A memo went out to staff at the Canada Revenue Agency from Roch Huppe, the Values and Ethics Champion, reminding them that when they attend conferences there might be hospitality that is sponsored by a stakeholder group - like a tax law firm for example - and not covered by the conference fees that the agency had paid.
Huppe reminds agency staff, “As CRA employees, we have a duty to maintain the CRA’s strong reputation for integrity. We must always look beyond our intentions and motives and consider how the public might see our actions.”
Well that is the opposite of what Justin Trudeau did.
Most people outside of Ottawa wouldn’t know this but rules for federal employees are so strict that you can’t accept any kind of gift from an organization you do business with.
The Ottawa Senators, the capital’s NHL team, regularly put together a solid team that play some amazing hockey but they have to work harder than most organizations to sell tickets. Why?
Employees of the biggest business in town aren’t allowed to accept tickets as gifts. In every arena and stadium across North America the seats are filled with people doing business with each other but federal employees in Ottawa can’t accept a ticket to a hockey game, yet, the PM can accept a tropical vacation on a private island?
Trudeau really does think he is above the rules doesn’t he.
Rules are for the little people, those who get memos from the Values and Ethics Champion. They aren’t for Justin, who is above it all and apparently has no one to tell him no.
Stephen LeDrew, a Toronto lawyer and broadcaster is also a former president of the Liberal Party of Canada. In a column for the Toronto Sun, LeDrew said Trudeau’s PMO shows a lack of common sense, noting the Party president could have warned him, but she was on the trip too!
“Is there no one who has the good sense to tell the PM what works, what is defensible, what flies (or more importantly, what shouldn’t be flying?), or is the arrogance of Trudeau’s Ottawa so pervasive that it is above the law, the rules, and above what most Canadians call “common sense”?
I’d say the arrogance is so pervasive they really do think they’re above the law.
But there is a chance to bring Trudeau and his Liberals back down to earth.
If the Ethics Commissioner holds Trudeau to the same standard the little people are held to — those that get memos from Roch Huppe, the Values and Ethics Champion at CRA — if Trudeau is held to that standard, then he’ll be the first PM found in violation of the law and it might be enough to make them see how out of touch and arrogant they really have become.