By Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press on January 17, 2024.
OTTAWA – The House of Commons ethics committee is meeting to discuss whether a probe should be launched over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent holiday vacation to Jamaica, as the Opposition pushes to have the ethics commissioner appear before parliamentarians.
Conservative ethics critic Michael Barrett pushed for the Wednesday meeting as part of a volley of recent Opposition attacks, garnering support from the Bloc Québécois.
Barrett says the Tories want the Prime Minister’s Office and the ethics commissioner to hand over communications regarding the trip.
The New Democrats, meanwhile, are calling for a global review of the Conflict of Interest Act, with NDP House leader Peter Julian saying he’s looking for a broader crackdown on the ultra-wealthy influencing their political friends.
Early this month, Trudeau’s office said the prime minister’s family was staying at a location owned by family friends at no cost, after earlier saying the family would cover the cost of their stay.
Trudeau’s office said he consulted with the ethics commissioner and the family would reimburse the public for the cost of travelling on a government plane.
“The question isn’t, ‘Should the prime minister take vacations?’ Everyone is entitled to one, and that’s fine,” Barrett said Wednesday.
The problem is the changing narrative coming from the Prime Minister’s Office, Barrett said.
“This is incredibly problematic.”
Barrett said he wants to know whether or not Trudeau misled the ethics commissioner. To that end, he is asking the committee to invite acting commissioner Konrad von Finckenstein to testify.
“As per standard practice, the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner was consulted prior to the travel to ensure that the rules were followed,” a spokesperson for the prime minister, Mohammad Hussain, said in a statement last week.
“Any allegation that we would mislead the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner is categorically false.”
The Conflict of Interest Act allows politicians to accept gifts and other advantages only from relatives or family friends with whom they have a well-documented close bond – and Trudeau was previously found to have run afoul of that rule when he was a guest of the Aga Khan in late 2016.
The New Democrats argue reforms are needed.
“The Liberals and Conservatives both point fingers at each other when they both get favours from their rich friends but then refuse to change the rules as it benefits both of them and the ultra-rich,” Julian said in a statement.
“New Democrats want to see a review of the Conflict of Interest Act to actually crack down on corporate and lobbyist influence in politics, so it’s everyday Canadians who get ahead, not the ultra-wealthy.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2024.