The admission of an earlier trip in 2014 means Trudeau may have breached the conflict of interest code for MPs while in opposition.
OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau admitted Tuesday that he took an earlier private helicopter trip to the Aga Khan’s Bahamian island in 2014, when he was an opposition MP, following weeks of questions about his more recent vacation to the tropical destination that has prompted an investigation by the federal ethics commissioner.
Trudeau did not publicly disclose the 2014 trip, according to the commissioner’s online registry — meaning he may have breached the conflict of interest code as an MP, before potentially violating the rules again during his more recent vacation as prime minister, which is under investigation.
Trudeau revealed his earlier sojourn to Bell Island during a press conference in Calgary, after refusing to detail any prior trips with the Aga Khan during his public tour in New Brunswick last week.
“In Christmas of 2014, I spent some time with (the Aga Khan) on Bell Island as well,” Trudeau said, after also describing his first vacation with the billionaire philanthropist and spiritual leader, which was in Greece when he was 12.
“As you know, the Aga Khan is a longtime friend,” he added in French.
Cameron Ahmad, press secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, refused to say whether Trudeau had disclosed his 2014 trip to the ethics commissioner.
“I can only refer you to the prime minister’s answers at his press conference today, and reiterate that we are happy to answer any questions from the commissioner,” Ahmad said in an email.
The Aga Khan is the chair of a foundation that has landed more than $300 million in federal aid contracts since 2004. Trudeau’s recent family vacation to the 80-year-old Ismaili Muslim leader’s island was kept secret from reporters for several days over the holidays.
Trudeau sees no ‘issue’ with flight on Aga Khan’s chopper
Justin Trudeau is defending flying on the Aga Khan’s private helicopter to the spiritual leader’s Bahamian island on a recent family vacation. The prime minster says he’s “happy” to answer any questions of the ethics commissioner.(The Canadian Press )
Since admitting where he was vacationing, the prime minister and his staff have slowly revealed more information about the trip, including that he was accompanied to Bell Island by Newfoundland Liberal MP Seamus O’Regan and Liberal party president Anna Gainey.
After he admitted that he had taken the Aga Khan’s private helicopter to get to the island, opposition parties asked ethics commissioner Mary Dawson to investigate the trip. They argued the helicopter ride broke the Conflict of Interest Act, which bars cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries from accepting travel on privately owned aircraft unless it’s necessary to carry out their duties, they have permission in advance from the ethics commissioner or they are facing “exceptional circumstances.”
Dawson is currently investigating whether Trudeau’s recent trip to Bell Island breached the act.
While the Conflict of Interest Act didn’t apply to Trudeau in 2014 — because he was then just an MP, not a minister — he was still bound by the conflict of interest code for members of Parliament.
The code allows MPs to accept sponsored travel when it “arises from or relates to his or her position.” If an MP accepts sponsored travel, they must declare the travel to the ethics commissioner within 60 days, the code says.
The online registry that shows MPs’ declarations of sponsored travel doesn’t include anything for Trudeau’s 2014 trip to Bell Island.
Trudeau’s record shows a single instance when he declared sponsored travel: when an Italian political party paid for his trip to Rome for a parliamentary leaders’ conference in 2011.
The Star by Alex Ballingall
Jan 24th 2017