Politics Briefing: Prime Minister’s free vacation acceptable as it was gifted by ‘a true friend,’ ethics watchdog says

Politics Briefing: Prime Minister’s free vacation acceptable as it was gifted by ‘a true friend,’ ethics watchdog says

Hello,

The federal ethics watchdog says his office verified that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a legitimate friendship with the person who gifted him a Jamaican vacation, making the free resort stay acceptable.

Interim Ethics Commissioner Konrad von Finckenstein testified today at the House of Commons ethics committee after it invited him to explain the rules governing travel, vacations and gifts in the wake of the Prime Minister’s controversial vacation.

“This was a true friend who has no relations to the Government of Canada,” von Finckenstein told the committee.

The National Post reported that Mr. Trudeau and his family vacationed in a luxury $9,300-a-night villa at the Prospect Estate and Villas resort, owned by Trudeau family friend Peter Green. It said in total it would have cost approximately $84,000 for the nine-day stay had the family paid for it themselves. The Globe and Mail has not independently verified the report.

The Conflict of Interest Act does not set a limit on the size of a gift a public office holder can accept from a friend. However, the commissioner told the committee that had the gift risen to the lavish level of something like a Ferrari he would have launched an investigation.

The controversy over Trudeau’s family vacation, from Dec. 26 to Jan. 4, was sparked after the Prime Minister’s Office repeatedly changed details regarding the trip, including who paid for it, but would not release details of where he stayed.

Full story here by Senior Political Reporter Marieke Walsh.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

Federal Court criticizes CSIS over judicial warrants, failure to keep court informed: The ruling from Federal Court Chief Justice Paul Crampton is the court’s latest expression of displeasure with CSIS over its obligation to keep the court informed of problems in a timely way.

After pausing funding to UN’s Palestinian agency, Canada will send another $40-million in aid for Gaza: The funding will go to groups including the World Food Program, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Some Alberta daycares to start ‘rolling closures’ to protest against $10-a-day program, advocacy group says: The Association of Alberta Childcare Entrepreneurs said in a news release that the closings at daycares across the province are a direct response to challenges with the program’s implementation.

Ontario plans major nuclear refurbishment in bid to meet growing electricity demand: Energy Minister Todd Smith has announced the upgrade of four units at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, which have been operating since the 1980s.

Conservatives formally request foreign-interference inquiry examine Iranian activities in Canada: Party lawyer Nando De Luca wrote to Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue today, requesting the inquiry include the Iranian regime and “its campaign of intimidation, repression and interference” as it scrutinizes the activities of China, Russia and India.

Provinces, territories ask for indefinite pause to MAID for individuals with mental illness: The appeal, in a letter, also says jurisdictions, health authorities, regulators and practitioners of medically assisted death need sufficient time to implement safeguards and to address capacity concerns.

ArriveCan bids regularly listed subcontractors that never did work, procurement watchdog finds: The watchdog report specifically singles out contract work by two-person IT staffing company GCStrategies, saying the company frequently failed to prove that its proposed team of subcontractors had the résumés and work experience required.

Nearly 1,000 Palestinians apply to come to Canada, but can’t exit Gaza: Immigration Minister Marc Miller said Canada has so far been unable to find a solution to extract people from the densely populated enclave, which has been bombarded by Israeli air strikes and artillery.

Coderre discusses possible return to politics: The former federal cabinet minister and Montreal mayor talks in an interview with CJAD 800 Montreal about where he stands on the possibility of seeking the leadership of the Quebec Liberals.

THIS AND THAT

Champagne vs. Poilievre: “No one knows him in Quebec anyway. Mention his name in Quebec and if you find people who know him, please give me their name. What I would say is I don’t really care what he does or what he thinks. What I care is what Canadians think and what Canadians feel,” Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said, heading into this week’s cabinet meeting. He was responding to criticism by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre on the government’s efforts to deal with grocery prices. The minister had further thoughts on the grocery issue.

Julian on CBC bonuses: “I am hoping to hear that she understands now that you shouldn’t be giving executive bonuses if you can’t provide the services at the base level,” NDP House Leader Peter Julian said on what he’s hoping to hear from CBC president Catherine Tait when she appears later today before the Commons Canadian heritage committee. Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge has also called for Tait to reveal and justify the CBC’s bonus decisions.

Slovakia President visiting: Zuzana Čaputová is on a state visit to Canada today that includes a stop on Parliament Hill for a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a dinner this evening at Rideau Hall. Canada and Slovakia have deep ties. Governor-General Mary Simon had to bow out of her role in the visit today. She and her husband, Whit Fraser, have COVID-19, her office announced. Supreme Court Justice Andromache Karakatsanis stood in for Simon in greeting the President at Rideau Hall.

New parliamentary secretaries: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed three new parliamentary secretaries, whose role is to assist ministers. Parliamentary secretaries earn an extra $18,800 atop their MP salaries of $194, 600. One of the newly announced parliamentary secretaries is a failed candidate to lead the Ontario Liberals – Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi, the former Ontario attorney-general, now parliamentary secretary to the health minister. Sherbrooke MP Élisabeth Brière is now parliamentary secretary to the mental health and addictions minister and associate health minister in addition to her role as parliamentary secretary to the families minister. And Montreal-area MP Anthony Housefather is the new parliamentary secretary to the Treasury Board president. In addition to the new parliamentary secretaries, Ottawa-Vanier MP Mona Fortier, dropped last year from her cabinet post as Treasury Board president, has been named deputy government whip. That position adds $13,300 to an MP’s salary.

Today in the Commons: Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, accessible here. The Senate sits again on Feb. 6.

Deputy Prime Minister’s day: Chrystia Freeland attended the weekly cabinet meeting and Question Period. She was also scheduled to join Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a meeting with Slovakia President Zuzana Čaputová.

Ministers on the Road: Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly is on a trip to Moldova and Poland through to Thursday. Today she is in Moldova.

Commons committee highlights: Interim Commissioner Konrad von Finckenstein appeared before the access-to-information committee on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent family trip to Jamaica. CBC president Catherine Tait was scheduled to appear before the Canadian heritage committee on job cuts announced at the broadcaster. Chief trade commissioner Sara Wilshaw appears before the international trade committee on Canadian businesses in supply chains and global markets.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Justin Trudeau chaired the weekly cabinet meeting, and, in the afternoon, was scheduled to welcome visiting Slovakia President Zuzana Čaputová. In the evening, Trudeau was scheduled to attend a state dinner at Rideau Hall for the President.

LEADERS

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, in Ottawa, attended to House of Commons commitments, later attended a Scotch and Canadian whiskey tasting held by Commons Speaker Greg Fergus, and also attended the Robbie Burns Dinner on the Hill, with Fergus also serving as host. (Asked about the Speaker having a Scotch and whiskey tasting, the spokesperson for the office cited this National Post report.)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in Ottawa, met with Cindy Woodhouse, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and, later, attended Question Period.

No schedule provided for Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-François Blanchet or Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre.

THE DECIBEL

On today’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Siegfried Modola talks about the civil war in Myanmar that has been under way for nearly three years. Modola is a photojournalist and documentary photographer who has reported on the conflict during several trips into Myanmar for The Globe. The Decibel is here.

PUBLIC OPINION

PQ popularity surging: As the Quebec legislature resumes sitting today, a new poll says voter support for the governing Coalition Avenir Québec government is collapsing and the Parti Québécois would win an election held today, the Montreal Gazette reports.

OPINION

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on food for thought: Canada’s plan to better inform people what they’re buying at the grocery store: “Ozempic, the diabetes drug turned weight loss phenomenon, landed in the middle of a North American culture that had for decades been gaining weight. A lot of weight. Ozempic has benefited many people who struggle with the challenge of losing a few, or many, pounds. But while the drug appears to be widely successful, it doesn’t take on some of the root causes of a society that has put on too much weight, from inadequate physical activity to the many unhealthy foods on the shelves at the grocery store. The drug’s success is dizzying.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on how all Parliament wants to talk about is each other: “The Conservatives gave every sign they would return to Parliament pressing the government on affordability. But when they got to Question Period, what they really wanted to do was accuse Justin Trudeau of being a spoiled fat cat.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on how personal support workers are the undervalued heart of the long-term care system: “The care of Canada’s frail elderly rests on the shoulders of personal support workers. To the extent they are under stress, the entire long-term care system is under stress. And they are under a lot of stress.”

Jessica Scott-Reid (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how federal funds are needed to end toxicity testing on animals: “In 2016, when Canadian scientist Charu Chandrasekera was attending international meetings on developing alternatives to animal testing, she was often met with shock when she revealed that Canada lacked its own centre for alternative methods.”

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at [email protected]. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop.

Leave a Reply