PM’s con­flict rul­ing no jok­ing mat­ter

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - OPINION -

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau seems to think be­ing the first sit­ting PM to vi­o­late a fed­eral statute is some­thing to chuckle about. It’s un­likely many Cana­di­ans share this assess­ment.

On Tues­day morn­ing, Trudeau ap­peared on a Hamil­ton ra­dio show in ad­vance of a town hall ap­pear­ance there on a na­tional tour that in­cluded a town hall Thurs­day night in Lon­don.

As The Cana­dian Press ex­plained the ra­dio show ap­pear­ance: “Trudeau told hosts Sunni Ge­nesco and Matt Hayes, who were in Punta Cana, that he’d con­sider at­tend­ing their 25th an­niver­sary party in May, but that he’d have to think care­fully about it if the event is to be held in Mex­ico, ap­par­ently ref­er­enc­ing his fam­ily’s con­tentious De­cem­ber 2016 visit to the Aga Khan’s Ba­hamian is­land.”

For­mer ethics com­mis­sioner Mary Daw­son found Trudeau’s choices around the trip broke four of the 19 rules in the fed­eral Con­flict of In­ter­est Act. We get hu­mour.

But Trudeau’s vi­o­la­tions don’t seem like some­thing he should make light of.

The night be­fore, in Hal­i­fax, Trudeau was asked by a wo­man at an­other town hall: “I was just cu­ri­ous as to how you feel about be­ing the first prime min­is­ter be­ing found guilty of a fed­eral crime?” Trudeau again joked in re­sponse, say­ing “as you can see, we thor­oughly vet­ted the ques­tions be­fore show­ing up tonight.”

(The PM was, in fact, not found guilty of a fed­eral crime un­der the Crim­i­nal Code of Canada, rather of break­ing a law — the Con­flict of In­ter­est Act.)

We ap­plaud Trudeau for meet­ing with reg­u­lar peo­ple to take ques­tions via this town hall process. To the point of Trudeau’s joke, it’s not like they only brought in card-car­ry­ing Lib­er­als to lob soft­ball ques­tions.

But the PM’s light­hearted de­flec­tions of the very trou­bling find­ings of Daw­son’s Trudeau Report, as it’s called, are in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

The find­ings were in­cred­i­bly se­ri­ous and Trudeau got off easy.

He’s yet to face op­po­si­tion ques­tion­ing in the House of Com­mons. He’s not go­ing to ap­pear be­fore the ethics com­mit­tee, as some MPs re­quested. Nor is he fac­ing se­ri­ous reper­cus­sions. This part is key.

Daw­son pre­vi­ously said there should be more teeth in the Con­flict of In­ter­est Act, to en­able her to level pun­ish­ments be­yond a few hun­dred bucks.

Trudeau should take his own prom­ises about ac­count­abil­ity more se­ri­ously and act with hu­mil­ity, not mis­placed hu­mour.

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