OTTAWA – Conservative Ethics and Accountability critic Blaine Calkins today wrote to the Ethics Commissioner due to serious concerns about Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent vacation on a private island in the Bahamas. He issued the following statement:
“The lack of transparency surrounding the Prime Minister’s vacation on a private island in the Bahamas is deeply concerning, as is the revelation that he was joined by MP Seamus O’Regan and the President of the Liberal Party.
“Section 12 of the Conflict of Interest Act clearly states that ministers, their families and their staff are prohibited from accepting travel by private aircraft, unless it’s approved by the Ethics Commissioner. Given that the Prime Minister did not contact the Ethics Commissioner prior to traveling, continues to dodge questions from the media, and has a history of questionable ethical decisions, Canadians are rightly concerned.
“As such, I have written to the Ethics Commissioner, Ms. Mary Dawson, asking her to open a full investigation.”
A copy of MP Calkins’ letter to the Ethics Commissioner is attached.
For more information:
Scott Gorry, Legislative Assistant
Office of Blaine Calkins, M.P. for Red Deer - Lacombe
Ms. Mary Dawson Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner 22nd Floor, 61 Slater Street Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Dear Commissioner Dawson,
I am writing in regards to the concerns about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent vacation to a private island in the Bahamas. It has been reported that you have been considering a recent complaint by another Member of Parliament about the trip. In light of recent reporting, some additional issues have arisen that I would ask you to take into account when considering the matter.
A story in the National Post entitled “Liberal MP, party president joined Trudeau for his controversial Bahamas vacation with the Aga Khan” (January 11, 2017) reports that Mr. Trudeau was joined on the trip by another Member of Parliament, Mr. Seamus O’Regan. Mr. O’Regan acknowledged that he travelled from Nassau to the Aga Khan’s private island on the helicopter owned by the Aga Khan. Mr. Trudeau’s office has said that he travelled to Nassau on a Government of Canada Challenger jet but has refused to answer questions as to whether Mr. Trudeau and his family also travelled from Nassau to the island on a helicopter.
This lack of clarity is concerning because the Conflict of Interest Act has a very clear requirement that public office holders not accept travel from private aircraft:
12 No minister of the Crown, minister of state or parliamentary secretary, no member of his or her family and no ministerial adviser or ministerial staff shall accept travel on non-commercial chartered or private aircraft for any purpose unless required in his or her capacity as a public office holder or in exceptional circumstances or with the prior approval of the Commissioner.
Given that, according to yourself, (CTV News, January 6, 2017), the Prime Minister did not contact your office in regards to any elements of this trip, had he travelled on the helicopter, he would appear to be in violation of the Act.
An additional concern I would raise is Mr. Trudeau’s defence that he was accepting hospitality from a friend. There is an exception in Section 2(b) of the Conflict of Interest Act which permits public office holders to accept gifts if they come from friends. However as you have noted in previous reports “friend” has a specific meaning for the purposes of the Act. (For instance on page 33 of the Finley Report, and page 10 of the Paradis Report, you noted that the relationships at question in the complaint were not a friendship in the sense of the Act.) Mr. Trudeau has a long-standing relationship with the Aga Khan but he himself is not the right person to make a determination as to whether that relationship reaches the level described by the Act. (These questions also apply to Mr. O’Regan’s relationship with the Aga Khan and section 14 of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons.)
If the Aga Khan is a friend of Mr. Trudeau in this sense then Mr. Trudeau faces an obligation under Section 21 of the Act to recuse himself from any official government dealings with the Aga Khan and his organization which have extensive interactions with the Government of Canada. His official filings do not include an ethics screen regarding the Aga Khan or his Foundation. I would ask that you consider whether such a screen should be implemented and whether in the past year Mr. Trudeau has been involved in any business that would be in violation of Section 6 of the Act.
In light of the many unanswered questions and the serious concerns they raise I think that it is important that you open a full investigation.
Thank you for your consideration.
Original signed by Blaine Calkins, MP