OTTAWA Canada’s ethics watchdog is investigating Justin Trudeau for potential breaches related to his recent holiday on an island owned by the Aga Khan, the first time a prime minister has faced such scrutiny, media reported on Monday.
Trudeau has been confronted with repeated questions from the opposition about his vacation in the Bahamas over the New Year’s holiday and said last week that he had flown there by private helicopter.
In a letter to a Conservative lawmaker on Jan. 13, Mary Dawson, the federal conflict of interest and ethics commissioner, said she has begun an examination to determine whether Trudeau has contravened the Conflict of Interest Act, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported.
In the letter, Dawson acknowledged concerns about potential breaches related to the use of the private helicopter and the Aga Khan Foundation’s lobbying of the government, the Globe said.
Official ethics rules introduced by Trudeau himself in 2015 bar government ministers from taking private flights without getting Dawson’s approval.
A Trudeau spokesman declined to comment on whether an examination has been launched and said the prime minister will answer any of Dawson’s questions. A spokeswoman for the ethics commissioner did not immediately comment.
Trudeau is facing a separate probe by Dawson into fundraising by his Liberal party, but an examination into the trip would be the first such investigation of a prime minister, said Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch.
The Aga Khan, the wealthy leader of the Ismaili branch of Shi’ite Islam, is a close Trudeau family friend. The Aga Khan Foundation Canada is a registered lobbyist with the government and its executives met with government officials as recently as December.
In an apparent bid to reconnect with ordinary voters, Trudeau, who came to power in 2015 and has enjoyed high popularity ratings, scrapped a trip to this week’s World Economic Focum in Davos and embarked on a cross-country tour instead.
(Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Paul Simao)