Tories file sec­ond com­plaint

Con­ser­va­tives still push­ing for in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Trudeau’s va­ca­tion

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - NATIONAL NEWS - David Akin

OTTAWA — A Con­ser­va­tive MP has filed a sec­ond com­plaint this week with a par­lia­men­tary watch­dog about Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s New Year’s get­away to an is­land in the Ba­hamas owned by bil­lion­aire phi­lan­thropist and spiritual leader the Aga Khan.

On Mon­day, it was Con­ser­va­tive MP An­drew Scheer, ask­ing Mary Daw­son, Par­lia­ment’s Con­flict of In­ter­est and Ethics Com­mis­sioner, to de­ter­mine if Trudeau was vi­o­lat­ing fed­eral laws when he ac­cepted the hos­pi­tal­ity of the Aga Khan at Bell Is­land, the Ba­hamas. The Aga Khan is the di­rec­tor and chair­man of an or­ga­ni­za­tion in Canada that is reg­is­tered un­der fed­eral law to lobby the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for for­eign aid money.

Fed­eral laws set out strict rules for the in­ter­ac­tion of pub­lic of­fice hold­ers, like the prime min­is­ter, and lob­by­ists.

On Wed­nes­day, though, Con­ser­va­tive MP Blaine Calkins filed a sec­ond com­plaint with Daw­son’s of­fice, based on re­port­ing done by the Na­tional Post.

Calkins wants Daw­son to in­ves­ti­gate Trudeau’s travel ar­range­ments from Nas­sau — the Ba­ha­ma­nian cap­i­tal, where Trudeau and his fam­ily landed in an RCAF Chal­lenger ex­ec­u­tive jet on Box­ing Day — to Bell Is­land, about 115 kilo­me­tres south over open ocean.

As prime min­is­ter, Trudeau is for­bid­den un­der the fed­eral Con­flict of In­ter­est Act from fly­ing in any pri­vate or char­tered air­craft — un­less he has per­mis- sion in ad­vance from the Con­flict of In­ter­est Com­mis­sioner, un­less there are ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances, or he is re­quired to do so in his ca­pac­ity as prime min­is­ter.

Trudeau him­self, in his only com­ments on his hol­i­day, de­scribed the trip on Tues­day as “a fam­ily va­ca­tion.”

Howard Anglin, a lawyer who played a se­nior role ad­vis­ing for­mer prime min­is­ter Stephen Harper on con­flict of in­ter­est com­pli­ance, said Wed­nes­day there is no in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Con­flict of In­ter­est Act that would per­mit the Trudeaus to ac­cept flights on the Aga Khan’s pri­vate he­li­copter.

“Ab­so­lutely ver­boten,” Anglin said in an in­ter­view Wed­nes­day. “Those are black and white rules.”

The Na­tional Post has asked the PMO sev­eral times to ex­plain how the Trudeaus trav­elled from Nas­sau to Bell Is­land but, so far, there has been no re­sponse.

The ar­chi­pel­ago where the Aga Khan’s is­land ex­ists has been de­scribed as the “Hamp­tons of the Ba­hamas.” Is­lands or parts of is­lands are owned by the likes of Pink Floyd’s Roger Wa­ters, tech gi­ant Larry El­li­son, pop star Shakira, movie stars Ed­die Mur­phy, Mel Gib­son and Ni­cholas Cage.

While it is pos­si­ble to to take a four- or five-hour char­tered boat ride to the Aga Khan’s is­land, sources in the Ba­hamas said Wed­nes­day that ev­ery­one who owns prop­er­ties in the area uses pri­vate he­li­copters or small planes.

There is no land­ing strip on the Aga Khan’s is­land for a plane, though there is one at smaller is­land a few kilo­me­tres to the south of Bell Is­land.

On Wed­nes­day, the Post re­ported that Trudeau was joined on his fam­ily va­ca­tion by Lib­eral MP Sea­mus O’re­gan and his hus­band and by Lib­eral Party pres­i­dent Anna Gainey and her hus­band.

O’re­gan, in an in­ter­view Tues­day night, said he and his hus­band, Ste­lios (Steve) Dous­sis made the jour­ney from Nas­sau to Bell Is­land us­ing the Aga Khan’s pri­vate he­li­copter, which took about 40 min­utes. O’re­gan re­ferred ques­tions about Trudeau’s mode of trans­port to the PMO.

O’re­gan was there for a week and dis­closed the cir­cum­stances of his travel to the Con­flict of In­ter­est Com­mis­sioner when he re­turned to Canada.

The PMO has not said if Trudeau has had any com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the com­mis­sioner’s of­fice about this va­ca­tion.

Oth­ers — par­lia­men­tar­i­ans and ex­perts in the field of par­lia­men­tary ethics and con­flicts of in­ter­est — are sur­prised at the sloppy way Trudeau’s of­fice han­dled the trip.

“Be­ing of­fered a pri­vate va­ca­tion on some­one’s pri­vate is­land is not some­thing that hap­pens all the time,” Scheer said Wed­nes­day in a tele­phone in­ter­view from Regina. “It just seems like eth­i­cal guide­lines are not top of mind in the PMO right now.”

Those ex­perts — Anglin is among them but oth­ers speak­ing on back­ground echoed his view — say the trip should have raised red flags within Trudeau’s of­fice in the plan­ning stages and that his le­gal ad­vis­ers should have sought ad­vice and pre-clear­ance from Daw­son’s of­fice be­fore he and his fam­ily headed south.

“I am very sur­prised,” Anglin said.

“There are red flags all over it. Whether those red flags can be ex­plained away or dealt with is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter. But there’s enough red flags there that he’d want to have the ethics com­mis­sioner’s bless­ing ( be­fore trav­el­ling).”

cana­dian press files

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, in his only com­ments on his hol­i­day, de­scribed it as a “fam­ily va­ca­tion.”

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