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Justin Trudeau can stay with a friend, says ethics commissioner

Photo: Sean Kilpatrick The Canadian Press Justin Trudeau traveled to Jamaica with his children and his ex-spouse, Sophie Grégoire, from December 26, 2023 to Thursday January 4, 2024. A wealthy family friend, Peter Green, covered the costs of his accommodation.

Without revealing the exact advice his office provided, the federal ethics commissioner indicated Tuesday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's holiday trip to Jamaica is not in violation of the rules, since it is a “friend” who footed the bill for accommodation.

“The Prime Minister received a gift, a gift of hospitality, more than once, from his friend,” ruled the acting commissioner, Konrad W. von Finckenstein, before the elected members of the parliamentary ethics committee.

The opposition demanded his appearance in the hope of learning damning details about the family trip of the Prime Minister of Canada. Instead, they encountered the commissioner's refusal to reveal the exact content of the advice provided by his office, and were able to hear that the law allows elected officials to stay with their friends.

Justin Trudeau traveled to Jamaica with his children and his ex-spouse, Sophie Grégoire, from December 26, 2023 to January 4, 2024. A wealthy family friend, Peter Green, covered the costs of his accommodation, the Prime Minister's Office clarified, after initially stating that the family would cover the costs of this trip.

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“$84,000 [in accommodation costs] for a vacation with friends is more than the majority, 99% of Canadians will ever receive in their lifetime [as a gift]”, protested the conservative deputy Luc Berthold, at the entrance to the committee, taking up an estimate published by the daily National Post which did not could not be independently verified by Le Devoir.

Acceptable from a friend

Acting Commissioner von Finckenstein recalled that elected officials are not allowed to receive gifts, but that an exception exists for gifts from friends or family members. This type of gift must remain of a “reasonable” value, which excludes the gift of a Ferrari car, he specified by way of example. These gifts cannot be such as to place the elected official in a conflict of interest.

Konrad W. von Finckenstein confirms that his employees provided advice to the Prime Minister's Office on this matter, before the departure of the Grégoire-Trudeau family for this Caribbean country.

“The public and this committee can draw their own conclusions from the trip to Jamaica. “I am subject to the confidentiality provisions of the law and cannot discuss further details of this matter,” he declared at the outset, before his appearance.

The interim commissioner raised his voice at times during his appearance on Tuesday in response to pressing questions from opposition elected officials who wanted to learn more. A liberal elected official, Iqra Khalid, also burst out laughing when she listened to a question from a conservative elected official who imagined the price of the food eaten during the trip, causing a moment of bickering around the table.

Upon his return from a trip in January, Justin Trudeau simply told journalists: “like a lot of Canadian families, we went to stay with friends for the Christmas vacation [and] all the rules were been followed.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by agreeing to stay on the Aga Khan's private island in 2016, since the latter could not really be considered a “friend.” He once again broke this law by trying to influence the decision of his Minister of Justice in a case of accusations against the company SNC-Lavalin, concluded the former commissioner in 2019.

Konrad Winrich von Finckenstein takes over as interim Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, an interim position that sparked controversy for being briefly held by Martine Richard, an employee of long-time member of the Commissioner's Office who is also the sister-in-law of Liberal Minister Dominic LeBlanc. The government has yet to appoint a new permanent commissioner.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116