Trudeau oblivious to ethical concerns

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Could it be that he just doesn’t get it?

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/12/2017 (1690 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Could it be that he just doesn’t get it?

Just in time for Christmas, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau landed on the naughty list of the federal ethics commissioner, who ruled this week he violated ethics laws by accepting two expense-paid trips last year to the Bahamian island retreat of the Aga Khan.

Ethics commissioner Mary Dawson issued a report Wednesday stating Mr. Trudeau broke the law when his family spent part of last Christmas season on the private island of Bells Cay. The PM’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, and their children also took a separate trip to the island in March 2016.

Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

It goes without saying that politicians aren’t supposed to take freebies, but Mr. Trudeau’s ethical lapse took place on a level of lavishness that few Canadians can imagine. His explanation for accepting the Aga Khan’s largesse is that the hereditary leader of the Ismaili Muslims is a lifelong family friend — and, according to ethics guidelines, it’s OK to take favours from friends.

Ms. Dawson pointed out, however, that the Aga Khan can’t really be considered a close friend of Mr. Trudeau’s, since they had not been in contact for 30 years, other than when the Aga Khan attended the funeral of Mr. Trudeau’s father in 2000. They only rekindled their relationship after Mr. Trudeau became leader of the Liberal party; whether the PM considers him a friend or not, he is unquestionably an individual who does business with the government of Canada.

Among his philanthropic efforts are the Aga Khan Foundation Canada and the Ottawa-based Global Centre for Pluralism, both of which actively lobby the federal government for support. Of that, Mr. Trudeau would have been fully aware.

Still, he chose not to report the trips to the ethics commissioner, and also failed to recuse himself from two business-related meetings involving the Aga Khan. Ms. Dawson declared the prime minister violated four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act. Mr. Trudeau apologized Wednesday for breaking the law, but remains mostly unrepentant about the nature of his interactions with the Aga Khan.

What’s apparent from the PM’s response is that this is not a case of a politician having his corrupt agenda exposed. Rather, this is a person born and raised in great privilege, who continues to enjoy a high station in life and seems completely oblivious to what passes for acceptable public servant behaviour down here among the common folk.

Mr. Trudeau, more likely than not, accepted the trip(s), and the elite manners of conveyance to and from Bells Cay (a private seaplane on his wife’s March trip, a helicopter for the jolly Christmas jaunt) because that’s what people in his socioeconomic circles do. You dine at my estate, I’ll play polo at your club — that sort of thing.

So while there’s no lurking political scandal to be further investigated, there is a creeping concern about the grasp of practical reality that this prime minister and his government possess. His highest-profile lieutenant, Finance Minister Bill Morneau, has also spent most of the fourth quarter of 2017 in the ethical bad books, which only serves to exacerbate Mr. Trudeau’s rather elite set of current problems.

Most maddening of all, of course, is the fact there is no penalty to be imposed for Mr. Trudeau’s lawbreaking. He’s simply expected to be ashamed and contrite, which is likely also something folks in his sphere don’t readily get.

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