Ethics watchdog investigates PM’s trip to spiritual leader’s private island

Ethics watchdog looks at PM's trip to island

OTTAWA — Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson has opened a second investigation related to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s vacation on the Aga Khan’s private Caribbean island.

The inquiry under the Conflict of Interest Code for MPs comes after Dawson conducted an initial review following a request by Conservative MP and leadership hopeful Andrew Scheer about Trudeau’s acceptance of the trip as a gift.

Accepting the trip showed a clear lack of judgment on the prime minister’s part, Scheer said, noting Monday’s meeting with U.S. president Donald Trump provided an opportunity to promote Canadian interests.

Trudeau is now under a cloud of doubt regarding his own ethical standards, Scheer added.

The commissioner also started an examination in January under the Conflict of Interest Act regarding the same trip following a request from Tory MP Blaine Calkins.

“We cannot tell you anything else at this time, as our office is required to conduct all investigations in confidence,” Dawson’s office said in a statement Monday.

Trudeau has come under fire from opposition parties for using the Aga Khan’s personal helicopter to get to the island and for accepting such a gift from a longtime family friend.

The prime minister has compounded the issue by his reaction, said NDP ethics critic Nathan Cullen.

“I just think the whole thing stinks,” he said. “I think this puts him in a very bad light.”

The Prime Minister’s Office did not offer an updated response to Dawson’s second investigation on Monday, noting in a statement Trudeau is happy to answer any questions the commissioner may have.

Both the Conflict of Interest Act and Trudeau’s own ethics guidelines bar the use of sponsored travel in private aircraft, allowing only for exceptional circumstances related to the job of prime minister and only with the prior approval of the ethics commissioner.

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose took a Caribbean vacation on a billionaire’s yacht around the time members of her caucus were criticizing Trudeau for vacationing with the Aga Khan but she did not breach ethical guidelines.

“I followed all the rules,” she said outside the Commons Monday. “I don’t have anything to add to that.”

Ambrose, who contacted the commissioner’s office about her travel on Jan. 12, is not under examination by Dawson.

—Follow @kkirkup on Twitter

 

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press

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