Protest groups to attend PM's Hamilton town hall

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday Dec. 13 2017

Protest groups to attend PM's Hamilton town hall

Ethics commissioner Mary Dawson, whose tenure ended Monday, says Trudeau violated four different provisions of the Conflict of Interest Act when he and members of his family accepted the trip, which Dawson said could be seen as a gift created to influence the prime minister.

CBC News has previously reported that John Kerry, who was the US secretary of state at the time, was also a guest on the Aga Khan's island during Trudeau's vacation.

If they were friends, Trudeau should not have been involved in discussions about federal funding for the Aga Khan's charitable endeavours.

Trudeau was asked about the trip during two radio appearances Tuesday, and again during the evening town hall meeting, the first in a cross-country tour.

She concluded Trudeau violated four provisions of the Conflict of Interest Act when he and members of his family accepted the trip to the private island, since it could be seen as a gift created to influence the prime minister.

She also found Trudeau contravened part of the act when he didn't recuse himself from private meetings with the spiritual leader in May 2016 about a $15-million grant to the endowment fund of the Aga Khan's Global Centre for Pluralism. "Neither Mr. Trudeau nor his family should have vacationed on the Aga Khan's private island", she said. In the opposite scenario, he would have been in trouble over the trip.

After the report's release late previous year - an investigation she dubbed the "Trudeau Report" - the prime minister apologized.

Mary Dawson told the House of Commons ethics committee that it didn't matter whether or not Trudeau and the Aga Khan were personal friends - there would be ethical problems either way.

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Dawson cut in, saying "Then you better be careful".

In fact, during her testimony, she says she wants that provision taken out of the Conflict of Interest Act.

Asked by the NDP's Nathan Cullen if Trudeau's violations of the act were "a big deal", she replied simply that "they're contraventions, yeah".

Liberal MPs who spoke at the committee portrayed the events as an "honest mistake", noting that the Prime Minister apologized, said he accepted Ms. Dawson's findings and committed to clearing all future vacations with the ethics office.

Predictably, however, their efforts landed short of the mark as the vote fell along party lines, with Liberals voting unanimously to reject the Conservative motion hours after Trudeau dismissed the idea of him testifying as little more than an opposition effort to score political points.

Conservative ethics critic Peter Kent, the architect of Tuesday's ill-fated motion, said Trudeau has the same obligation to be accountable to Parliament as any other federal politician.

"We will be handing out flyers and holding signs to make the people going inside the town hall are aware of some of the questions they should be asking".

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