PMO insists it did not mislead ethics commissioner about Trudeau’s recent vacation

The Prime Minister’s Office denies allegations that it misled the ethics commissioner, after the federal Conservatives called for an investigation into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s vacation in Jamaica.

The Conservatives want the ethics and conflicts of interest commissioner to investigate how PMO staff handled the detail of Trudeau staying for free.

Press secretary Mohammad Hussain said in a statement late Wednesday that “as per standard practice, the Office of the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Commissioner was consulted prior to the trip to ensure that regulations were followed.”

“Any accusation that we would mislead the Office of the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Commissioner is categorically false.”

Conservative MP and ethics critic Michael Barrett on Tuesday sent a letter to Commissioner Konrad von Finckenstein asking if he knew Trudeau was staying at a luxury estate owned by a family friend.

Barrett says a vacation is “not the equivalent of staying at a friend’s house,” calling it more of a gift with commercial value.

The Canadian press has not independently verified a National Post report that Trudeau vacationed at a luxury estate owned by longtime family friend Peter Green. Green’s Prospect Estate rents villas for between $1,100 and $7,000 a night during the holiday season.

“I recognize that those of us in public office have pre-existing friendships, and it is not at all unusual to stay at a friend’s house during the holidays,” Barrett said in her letter.

“And I also recognize that Justin Trudeau, as a son of wealth and privilege, will probably have friends of wealth and privilege.”

#PMO denies misleading #Ethics Commissioner as Tories call for investigation. #CDNPoli #Jamaica

However, Barrett said the fact that Trudeau was given such an expensive vacation “could reasonably be viewed” as an attempt to influence a head of government.

Earlier on Wednesday, the PMO said in a statement that “the Prime Minister and his family were staying with family friends free of charge.”

This is slightly different from last week, when the PMO said the family was staying at a place owned by family friends, not that they were staying with family.

But that was also different from what the Prime Minister’s Office said before the trip took place, when it said the family was paying the cost of the holiday. He clarified last week, shortly before the National Post article was published, that Trudeau had actually reimbursed the government the equivalent of the cost of commercial flights, but accommodation in Jamaica was free.

Barrett also expressed concerns to the ethics commissioner about the changing narrative from Trudeau’s staff about who was paying the vacation bills.

A spokeswoman for von Finckenstein did not say last week what details the Prime Minister’s Office provided about the trip, but she did say that the Conflict of Interest Law allows a public office holder to accept gifts or other benefits if they come from a friend. or family member, without having to reveal them.

In a statement Wednesday, another spokeswoman for the office stressed that it “does not condone or ‘clarify'” the vacation, but that it “only has the role of ensuring that the gift provisions are followed” in both the conflict of interest code and in the code of ethics.

Regarding Barrett’s letter, spokeswoman Melanie Rushworth said the office is limited in what it can say because of confidentiality provisions.

This Canadian Press story was first published Jan. 10, 2024.

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