Trudeau May Have Broken Conflict Of Interest Law

REUTERS/Chris Wattie

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
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Nobody’s calling it “Khangate” yet — but wait for it.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, already in a political storm over “cash for access” fundraising, may have broken federal Canadian law during a clandestine Christmas family vacation on the private island of billionaire and Muslim spiritual leader the Aga Khan.

He admitted on Thursday that he had used Khan’s private helicopter during a Bahamas Christmas vacation that has ignited a fire under Trudeau’s political opposition. The latest controversy hit Trudeau at the beginning of a cross-country, “meet the people” tour — that itself has been the focus of criticism by the Conservative opposition who see it as nothing less than another campaign-style fundraising event.

At a Friday afternoon news conference in Peterborough, Ontario, Trudeau was asked if his holiday trip was a mistake — but he refused to say it was. When asked if Canadians cared about his Aga Khan visit, Trudeau refused to answer but said, “I’ve been engaging with Canadians for the past few days and the issues that interest them are the issues that affect them and their families.”

The Conservatives were quick to respond to this latest development. Opposition leader Rona Ambrose tweeted: “Justin Trudeau acts like the laws don’t apply to people like him… Trudeau knew what he did was against the law. All he had to do was say no, but he couldn’t resist the billionaire lifestyle.”

The revelation emerged during a tour stop in Kingston, Ontario when Trudeau  was asked how he made the trip from Nassau (the Bahamian capitol) to Bell Island, owned by the Khan (about 65 miles away). That’s when Trudeau mentioned the helicopter.

Trudeau is subject to the provisions of the federal Conflict of Interest Act from flying in a private or chartered aircraft without first receiving permission from the Conflict of Interest Commission or unless exceptional circumstances or official duties as prime minster necessitate such an action.

Trudeau again described his Christmas trip as a “family vacation” at Friday’s news conference.

Meanwhile, a highly-placed lawyer who advised former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper on conflict of interest matters says Trudeau has little wiggle room to justify his trip because the Conflict of Interest Act is very specific.

Howard Anglin told the National Post on Wednesday, “Those are black-and-white rules.”

The trip has been such a toxic political soup for Trudeau because the Aga Khan is the chairman of foundation that has received more than $300 million in contracts from the Canadian government since 2004.  Representatives from the Aga Khan Foundation Canada are registered as lobbyists and meet on a regular basis with the federal ministry of global affairs.

While confronted with this latest political storm, the Parliamentary ethics commissioner’s has confirmed that it has initiated a “preliminary investigation” into the Bahamas trip.

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