LILLEY: Trudeau’s office won’t answer questions on $84,000 vacation

The PM said his $84,000 vacation gift from a ‘friend’ was cleared by the Ethics Commissioner but the Commissioner’s office says they don’t do that.

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The story about Justin Trudeau’s Christmas vacation to Jamaica won’t go away, and with good reason – someone isn’t telling the truth.

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The story out of Trudeau’s PMO has changed multiple times and now the Conservatives are asking for a new look by the Ethics Commissioner.

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This isn’t just gotcha partisan politics, there are serious questions we don’t have answers to. Trudeau’s office has put out contradictory and possibly false statements about this vacation from the start.

A Dec. 22, 2023, story by the Canadian Press wire service cited the Prime Minister’s Office in making it sound like Trudeau had cleared the trip with the Ethics Commissioner beforehand and was paying for his accommodation, but neither statement is true.

“The office says it consulted the federal ethics commissioner ahead of the coming trip, and that the family will cover the cost of its stay as well as reimburse the cost of travelling on a government plane,” the CP report stated.

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Trudeau flew to Jamaica to stay at a former slave plantation on Dec. 26, 2023, and returned on Jan. 4., 2024. Just before his return, his office “clarified” that instead of paying for his accommodation, Trudeau and his family stayed “at no cost at a location owned by family friends.”

That’s what got people asking questions, especially after Postmedia first reported that the villa he and his family stayed in cost $7,000 USD per night or $84,000 CAD for his nine night stay. That’s one heck of a gift from a “family friend,” which is all the more reason questions need to be asked.

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Liberal House Leader Steve McKinnon was asked about the trip and the discrepancy between the PMO saying Trudeau would pay for the accommodation and it being free, as well as whether the full information had been presented to the Ethics Commissioner.

McKinnon was emphatic in dismissing any questions about it.

“The Prime Minister followed all the rules and, in fact, got his travel plans pre-approved by the commissioner,” McKinnon said

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Here’s the thing, the Ethics Commissioner does not pre-approve vacations despite what the Liberals have been trying to tell Canadians.

“To clarify, the Office does not approve or ‘clear’ regulatees’ vacations. The Office has a role only in ensuring that the gift provisions of the Act and Code are observed,” spokesperson Joycelene Brisebois wrote in an email to The Sun.

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As for this being acceptable because it was a gift from a friend, that is something the Conservatives have raised concerns over.

“Is it acceptable for a sitting Prime Minister to accept a benefit of over $80,000, even from a supposed family friend, whether it comes either directly or indirectly through a corporation the friend might have an interest in?” Conservative MP Michael Barrett wrote in a letter to the Ethics Commissioner.

He pointed out that the $84,000 “gift” is more than the median household income of $70,332. There is an exemption for accepting gifts from a friend or relative but it’s not clear that this “gift” would meet the standard.

“Examples are gifts or other advantages offered in a personal setting and on a personal occasion, such as a birthday, wedding, anniversary or retirement,” says guidance published on the Ethics Commissioner’s website.

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A gift of $84,000 would appear to be outside the limits of what is acceptable while the Green family looks like they might be outside what the Commissioner defines as a “friend.”

It’s true that Peter Green was friends with the Prime Minister’s father Pierre and that Pierre was even godfather to one of Green’s sons. That doesn’t mean the friends of the father are friends of the son as we learned when Justin Trudeau took a vacation on the private island of Pierre Trudeau’s friend the Aga Khan.

The Prime Minister’s Office gave three different answers that do not match each other when asked about this issue on Wednesday. Asked to clarify on Thursday, they forwarded one of the answers and said they had nothing more to add.

Neither Trudeau nor his office can wish this away.

They led Canadians to believe Trudeau was paying for his stay and that it was all approved by the Ethics Commissioner, neither of which were true.

Trudeau could clear all of this up by offering up something he speaks of often but practices rarely, transparency. Release his communications with the Commissioner.

[email protected]

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