MPs deny disclosure of PMO correspondence concerning Trudeau's vacation to Jamaica

Government MPs did not oppose calls for testimony by the ethics commissioner — they just did not agree on disclosing correspondence surrounding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Jamaica junket. All parties agreed to have the commissioner testify later this month on the rules around gifts, vacation and travel in the Conflict of Interest Act.

MPs deny disclosure of PMO correspondence concerning Trudeau's vacation to Jamaica
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is defending his gifted vacation to Jamaica amid calls for an ethics inquiry.

From December 26 to January 4, the prime minister received an all-exclusive stay at a luxury resort free of charge.

Prospect Estate and Villa, owned by family friend and Trudeau Foundation donor Peter Green, gifted the Trudeaus roughly $84,000 in accommodations.

Canada’s head of state appeared unbothered by criticism of the trip, amid a House of Commons vote Wednesday to compel the ethics commissioner to testify on the rules around gifts, vacation and travel in the Conflict of Interest Act.

The Commons ethics committee voted 7-3 against disclosing internal emails or correspondence regarding the Jamaica trip, reported Blacklock’s Reporter. Liberal, Bloc Québécois and New Democrat MPs rejected the motion for documents. 

"All the rules were followed," Trudeau clarified when asked about the ethics of his extravagant vacations.

In 2017, the prime minister breached the Conflict Of Interest Act for accepting a $215,000 vacation from a federal contractor, the Agha Khan. 

Trudeau billed taxpayers $162,792 for another week-long Christmas family holiday in Jamaica at the same Jamaican resort. "We recognize the holiday will be difficult for many Canadians with the cost of living tied to global inflation," he told the Commons prior to his departure. "Times are tough."

While the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said the ethics commissioner had cleared his most recent trip in advance, Conservative MPs remain unconvinced.

"There has been a change in the story three times," said Conservative MP Michael Barrett. "Find out if there had been a deception," he asked of the committee but to no avail.

The PMO initially told reporters that Trudeau paid all expenses, then retracted and said the holiday was "at no cost at a location owned by family friends." It later claimed Trudeau stayed at the Green’s home and not a resort. 

Trudeau corrected the record Wednesday and said he stayed with friends "like many Canadian families" during Christmas.

"This isn’t a question about a prime minister being deserving of a vacation or anyone being deserving of a vacation," said Barrett. "The question is, was the ethics commissioner deceived or misled in any way?"

"The Prime Minister’s Office said the ethics commissioner cleared the vacation," he continued. "The ethics commissioner has since said that is not a function they provide."

"They don’t pre-clear vacations," added Barrett. 

MPs did not oppose calls for testimony by the ethics commissioner, reported the National Post — they just did not agree on disclosing correspondence surrounding the trip.

NDP MP Daniel Blaikie said the commissioner can investigate the matter if necessary. "If, down the road, it really felt like there was a need for further investigation and to get to the bottom of that communication, we can consider that at that time," he said.

Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, said he does not think it will. "There’s nothing in the act that [Trudeau] violated," he said. "There’s no requirement to be honest, even when seeking advice. So that’s just another flaw in the act."

All parties agreed to have the commissioner testify later this month.

But Liberal MP Iqra Khalid said the document request would set a "very bad precedent" and may even discourage MPs from consulting with the office on ethics, for fear their confidential information became public.

The commissioner’s office clarified it cannot disclose information that public officeholders divulge to the commissioner.

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