Trudeau's lavish vacation broke ethics rules: watchdog

The federal ethics commissioner has found Mr Trudeau's luxury trips to the Aga Khan's island in the Bahamas violated four conflict of interest rules.

Dawson's long-awaited report chides the prime minister for not coming to her office before travelling to the Aga Khan's island past year, and notes that Trudeau also didn't follow his own ethics rules for cabinet ministers. "For these reasons, I determined that the vacations accepted by Mr. Trudeau or his family might reasonably be seen to have been given to influence Mr. Trudeau." - report by federal ethics commissioner Mary Dawson.

The Act allows for some exemptions for gifts from relatives and friends, though in the report Dawson concluded that Trudeau and the Aga Khan can not be characterized as friends.

Dawson says the Aga Khan and his foundation were registered to lobby Trudeau's office in December 2016, meaning the vacation "could reasonably be seen to have been given to influence Mr. Trudeau in his capacity as Prime Minister".

The Aga Khan's foundation has received hundreds of millions of dollars from the Canadian government to promote development and other projects in several countries.

The prime minister describes Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini Aga Khan as a long-time family friend.

Dawson concluded that this did not suggest that "Mr. Trudeau and the Aga Khan were seeking to fulfil [sic.] opportunities to spend private time together as friends".

Trudeau said he accepted her report and would clear future vacations with the watchdog.

The ethics commissioner also found that Trudeau broke the rules when he did not recuse himself from discussions of matters that could "further private interests associated with institutions of the Aga Khan".

Opposition Conservative leader Andrew Scheer blasted the prime minister over the ethics breach, saying: "The Liberals continue to believe that there is one set of rules for Liberals and their friends, and another set of rules for everyone else".

She found that Trudeau contravened sections 5, 11, 12 and 21 of the Conflict of Interest Act but that he did not contravene subsection 14 (1) of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, or subsection 6 (1) or section 7 of the Act.

"There seems to be two worlds", he said.

"The evidence shows that the recent private interactions began after Mr. Trudeau became Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in 2013", says the report.

Speaking to reporters, Trudeau apologized for not going to Dawson before the vacation to get her clearance - something Dawson hinted she may have given. He was an honorary pallbearer at the funeral of Mr Trudeau's father, Pierre. "We have a system in place to protect the integrity of the (prime minister's) office", he said.

  • Joey Payne