Tories want PM to testify on ethics breach
Published Friday, January 5, 2018 11:03AM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 5, 2018 3:41PM EST
OTTAWA – In the middle of a parliamentary break, the House of Commons Ethics Committee is set to hold an "extraordinary" meeting to discuss calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to testify on him being found in contravention of federal ethics rules.
The televised meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 9, will see the 11 MPs on the committee convene in Ottawa.
The meeting was requested by Conservative ethics critic Peter Kent. He wrote to chair of the committee Conservative MP Bob Zimmer asking for the "extraordinary" meeting to consider inviting the prime minister to discuss commissioner’s findings.
On Dec. 20 outgoing Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson tabled her findings into an investigation into the prime minister’s family vacation to the Aga Khan's private island in the Bahamas over the 2016 holiday season.
In ‘The Trudeau Report’, Dawson found that the prime minister broke the Conflict of Interest Act in four ways:
- Failing to arrange his private affairs to avoid being in conflict of interest;
- Accepting the gift of accommodations on the private island, by someone who is registered to lobby his office;
- Travelling on non-commercial aircraft charted by the Aga Khan; and
- Not recusing himself from discussions that provided an opportunity to further the Aga Khan's interests.
Kent’s motion reads: "That, the Committee invite the Prime Minister to discuss Commissioner Dawson's findings in The Trudeau Report released by the Commissioner’s office on December 20, 2017, and that this meeting take place either on January 17 or January 18, 2018."
The Conservatives argue that the commissioner’s findings "clearly warrant" further questioning, including on who else he met with while there. They also want to see Trudeau repay the $200,000 they say he billed taxpayers for the trip.
Trudeau and his family were joined on the Dec. 2016 trip by Liberal MP and now Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan and his husband; as well as Liberal Party president Anna Gainey and her husband.
It was later unveiled that former U.S. secretary of state John Kerry was on the Aga Khan's private Bahamian island while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family were vacationing there.
The committee is one of a small handful of House of Commons committees chaired by the opposition. The Liberals still hold a majority of the seats, so it is unclear whether the motion will be successful. It is not common for a sitting prime minister to testify at committee.
When asked for comment on whether he’d offer to appear or if the motion to have him testify would be a free vote for the Liberal members on the committee, Trudeau’s office cited the independence of parliamentary committees.
"We respect their independence and will not prejudge the outcome of committee members' discussions," PM spokesperson Eleanore Catenaro told CTV News.
Dawson also appearing
Dawson is scheduled to appear before the committee the following day, on Wednesday, Jan. 10. She will speak with the committee about her findings in “The Trudeau Report.”
The meeting is set to be televised.
Her appearance will be made “as an individual” considering that she will have left her commissioner post on Jan. 8. Dawson was ethics commissioner for a decade.
The Liberals have appointed Mario Dion to replace her. Dion is a retired lawyer from Montreal, and has chaired the Immigration Refugee Board since 2015. Prior to that, he was the public sector integrity commissioner. The position comes with a seven-year term.
The ethics office currently still has an outstanding investigation into Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s sponsorship of pension bill, C-27. With a new incoming commissioner, it’s unclear whether that investigation will carry on.