PM Pays $100 Ethics Penalty

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been fined $100 for another breach of Parliament’s ethics code, this time involving a gift from the Premier of Prince Edward Island. Neither the breach nor fine were disclosed until Parliament prepared to adjourn for summer recess.

“The Prime Minister has great respect for the work of the Commissioner’s office and will continue to follow his advice and guidance,” said Eleanore Catenaro, press secretary to the Prime Minister. The Commissioner did not comment.

Trudeau was censured for failing to disclose a 2017 gift from P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan, two pairs of leather-covered aviator sunglasses valued at some $700. The glasses were donated by an Island manufacturer, Fellow Earthlings Co. of Guernsey Cove, P.E.I.

Under the Conflict Of Interest Act all public office holders must disclose within 30 days any gifts valued at $200 or more. The Prime Minister paid his fine on June 18, nearly a year after skipping the deadline.

Trudeau was photographed wearing the handout eyewear on a subsequent 2017 visit to Vietnam. Staff blamed a clerical mistake for the breach of the Act.

“This was a gift from the Premier of Prince Edward Island,” said Secretary Catenaro. “As a result of administrative error, the proper forms were not completed and the gift was not declared within 30 days.”

Catenaro declined further comment. Premier MacLauchlan’s office did not elaborate. “The Premier is always pleased to showcase locally-made products,” said Mary Moszynski, spokesperson.

The Act permits modest fines up to $500. Penalties are typically nominal. Finance Minister Bill Morneau in 2017 was fined $200 for failing to disclose all his corporate directorships.

James Fitz-Morris, a former CBC reporter now director of communications for the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Affairs, was fined $200 for failing to sell penny stock in a Peruvian potash company. Dan Brien, communications director for the Minister of Public Safety, was fined $100 for ignoring repeated requests from the Ethics Commissioner to sell investments in a U.S. real estate fund. “I told them, ‘Oh, gosh, I’m sorry,'” Brien said in an earlier interview.

Commissioner Mario Dion in a March 7 letter to the Commons ethics committee sought amendments to the Act that would allow for stiffer penalties. “This would help to build trust with the Canadian public,” wrote Dion.

Trudeau’s sunglasses fine came six months after he was cited for accepting a $215,000 vacation on a private Bahamian island owned by the Aga Khan. The Prime Minister apologized for the holiday with family, staff and friends over Christmas 2016.

The Conflict Of Interest Code For MPs prohibits legislators from accepting gifts that “might reasonably be seen to have given to influence them in the exercise of an official power, duty or function.” The Aga Khan Foundation has received $330 million in federal grants since 1981.

“Neither Mr. Trudeau nor his family should have vacationed on the Aga Khan’s private island,” said the December 20 Trudeau Report by the ethics office; “Mr. Trudeau has a number of official dealings relating to the Aga Khan and his institutions where he was exercising an official power, duty or function.”

By Tom Korski

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