De­signer gifts pose eth­i­cal quandary

Calgary Herald - - CANADA - TERESA WRIGHT

OT­TAWA • A pair of Ray-Ban sun­glasses. A lim­ited edi­tion, painted leather clutch. Beauty prod­ucts, glit­ter­ing jew­elry, shoes, lug­gage, chil­dren’s cloth­ing, sport­ing ac­ces­sories.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and his wife, So­phie Gré­goire Trudeau, are reg­u­larly show­ered with lav­ish gifts from world lead­ers and dig­ni­taries.

But a grow­ing trend among the high-priced of­fer­ings are gifts from pri­vate com­pa­nies — cloth­ing and ac­ces­sories from Cana­dian de­sign­ers hop­ing the fa­mous fam­ily will sport their wares in pub­lic.

Canada’s ethics watch­dog, Mario Dion, says all the gifts listed on the prime min­is­ter’s pub­lic gift registry are com­pli­ant with the rules of the Con­flict of In­ter­est Act.

But NDP ethics critic Char­lie An­gus says he be­lieves these cor­po­rate gifts are “prob­lem­atic.”

“What’s con­cern­ing is fash­ion la­bels send­ing clothes to the fam­ily, be­cause this is a fam­ily that is very much in the spot­light, very much in the world of In­sta­gram and there would be a very real ben­e­fit for a com­pany to have them sport­ing their cloth­ing la­bels as gifts,” he said.

“The con­nec­tion to the pe­cu­niary in­ter­ests of those com­pa­nies is clear and direct.”

If the Trudeaus are pho­tographed sport­ing their gear, the com­pa­nies of­ten use these im­ages to pro­mote their busi­ness brands.

For ex­am­ple, the prime min­is­ter’s most re­cent dis­clo­sure shows he was gifted some cloth­ing for his son, Hadrien, in July from the Van­cou­ver-based com­pany North Kin­der. In late Au­gust, a photo was posted to Gré­goire Trudeau’s In­sta­gram ac­count of her chil­dren and hus­band, fea­tur­ing Hadrien wear­ing a T-shirt made by North Kin­der. The com­pany later posted this photo to its busi­ness Face­book page.

Nu­mer­ous cloth­ing de­sign­ers have of­fered gifts to Gré­goire Trudeau and have later posted pho­tos or ref­er­ences to her sport­ing their wares on their web­sites and so­cial me­dia feeds.

It’s a rel­a­tively new phe­nom­e­non for Canada’s po­lit­i­cal realm.

Canada’s Con­flict of In­ter­est Act has only been in force since 2007, and has there­fore gov­erned only two prime min­is­ters.

Stephen Harper re­ceived paint­ings, sculp­tures and even some per­son­al­ized gifts such as Bea­tles para­pher­na­lia from world lead­ers and dig­ni­taries.

But the gifts from Cana­dian fash­ion de­sign­ers fall within a newer cat­e­gory, An­gus ar­gues.

“We are deal­ing with a new genre of pol­i­tics which is very much fo­cused on the politi­cian as a celebrity, and no­body any­where in the world per­son­i­fies this more than Justin Trudeau and the Trudeau fam­ily,” An­gus said. “So a cloth­ing line tied to them would have huge fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits.”

For that rea­son, An­gus be­lieves these kinds of gifts should not be ac­cepted.

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