01.13.2017 09:51 AM

Trudeau: guilty!

…of using a dangling preposition. (It’s also an auxiliary verb verb, so maybe there’s no need to contact the Grammar Commissioner just yet.)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he made use of the private helicopter of the Aga Khan during a family vacation at the billionaire Ismaili Muslim leader’s retreat in the Bahamas in what appears to be a direct breach of government ethics rules.

Mr. Trudeau, who had kept the vacation secret for days and now faces opposition calls for an ethics probe, was asked at a news conference Thursday how he got to the Aga Khan’s private island – located 115 kilometres from the Nassau airport.

Mr. Trudeau and his family flew to Nassau aboard a government Challenger jet in late December. He was joined on the vacation by Newfoundland Liberal MP Seamus O’Regan and his husband as well as Liberal Party president Anna Gainey and her husband.

“The travel back and forth from Nassau to the island happens on the Aga Khan’s private helicopter, which he offered us the use of,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters. “It is something that we look forward to discussing with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, but we don’t see an issue on that.”

“Offered us the use of.” Gadzooks! I hate dangling prepositions. Sometimes you have to use ’em, though.

Helicopters, too. Was Trudeau supposed to swim to his destination? Hitch-hike? Canoe? Walk on water?

Now, now, I know what you are going to say (and God knows I’ve heard enough of it on the various radio panels I’ve done this week): “But, Warren, the Conflict of Interest Act says he can’t do it! Read section 12, you Lie-beral Leftard!”

Well, okay.  Here’s what the Act says.

“No minister of the Crown, minister of state or parliamentary secretary, no member of his or her family and no ministerial adviser or ministerial staff shall accept travel on non-commercial chartered or private aircraft for any purpose unless required in his or her capacity as a public office holder or in exceptional circumstances or with the prior approval of the Commissioner.”

Let’s not bother debating whether the circumstances were “exceptional” (although they probably were: he was going to, you know, an island). Let’s also not debate whether a Prime Minister ever stops being a “public office holder” (because they probably never really do, do they?). Let’s just say this was, say, sponsored travel.

“Sponsored travel” is done a lot by all of our federal politicians. It usually drops off in election years, for obvious reasons.  But in non-election years, it happens a fair bit. It happened 85 times in 2012; 110 times in 2013; and 87 times in 2014.  All the political parties take sponsored trips, which are defined by the Commissioner as any travel costing more than $200 that isn’t totally or mostly paid for by the MP, his or her party or a House of Commons-recognized association.

So what does the Commissioner say about this sponsored travel stuff, which I presume includes rides on someone’s helicopter?

Subsection 15(0.1) of the Members’ Code expressly permits Members to accept sponsored travel that arises from or relates to their positions, effectively exempting it from the rules on gifts or other benefits. Sponsored travel includes all benefits received in connection with the travel, including accommodation and, as noted above, gifts and other benefits.

Where the cost of any sponsored travel accepted by a Member exceeds $200 and is not wholly paid from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or by the Member personally, his or her political party or any parliamentary association recognized by the House, it must be disclosed to the Commissioner and publicly declared within 60 days after the end of the trip.


For MPs, which Trudeau is one of (oops!), it is “expressly permitted,” quote unquote.  It is exempted from the rules on gifts and benefits, too.

And it needs to be “publicly declared” within 60 days of the end of the trip.  This being the middle of January – and the now-infamous helicopter jaunt having taken place in late December – my calculation is that Trudeau is okay.  Should he have cleared it with the Commish before he left? Sure.  But most folks won’t see that as a big problem.

Instead, there are a couple problems don’t include “sponsored travel.”  One problem is that PMO needs to stop being so frigging clandestine about where the big guy is going, with whom, and for how long.  The Americans always know where their president is (except when there’s a surprise visit to the troops somewhere, I guess).  Why can’t we do likewise? It would probably avoid teapot tempests like this one, which someone will almost certainly brand as “Copter-Gate” any minute now.

Two, I have never liked it when politicians hang out with rich guys – whether it be on a private golf course or in Davos.  Populist-type politicians remain popular when they keep their feet on the same gritty ground upon which the rest of us eke out a meagre existence.

So, Ralph Klein would hang out at the Calgarian, and buy me and my punk rock pals drinks.  Mel Lastman would come right up to someone on the sidewalk and just hug them: I saw him do it when I volunteered for him.  Bill Clinton: jogs, then decides to pop into the Golden Arches for a Big Mac (his pal Jean Chretien told me about that.).  And my political Dad, Chretien? He’d go to Harvey’s when Madame was away, sit with Joe and Jane Frontporch and their kids, and tell jokes.  He’d buy the RCMP burgers, too.

Sorry, chattering classes: Justin Trudeau’s mistake wasn’t being a passenger on Air Aga Khan.  It was hanging out with a billionaire, and trying to keep it a secret.

Now, Justin, remember: this is the kind of nonsense up with which we will not put.


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    Vancouverois says:

    So going to an island is an “exceptional” circumstance?

    This lavish vacation was somehow travel that arose from or related to JT’s position as Prime Minister? Really? Was it an official state visit we somehow weren’t informed of until it was over? What state business did it involve, exactly?

    It’s looking more and more like Trudeau is being “sponsored” by the Aga Khan and the Chinese oligarchy in the same way that Trump is “sponsored” by Putin.

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    Matt says:

    Sure he’s an MP, but as Prime Minister he’s also a cabinet minister making the trip on a private plane expressly forbidden.

    And I’m sure there was a, you know, boat he could have taken to the island.

    He’s rather tone deaf on all these sorts of things.

    And a tip for his press secretary: On Justin’s little “Reconnecting with Canadians Tour” he started yesterday, (which is nothing more than an attempt at damage control for his holiday trip with the Aga Khan and a partisan data mining exercise by the Liberal party as one must sing up at the local Liberal MP’s website providing your name, address, phone number and email to be considered to attend) you might not want to claim on twitter 1000+ people were at the Kingston event when members of the media were there and counted 300.

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    Ann Jarnet says:

    Never use a preposition to end a sentence with.

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    billg says:

    My personal favorite was the taped message for the New Years Eve crowd on Parliament Hill saying…”there isn’t a better place to be to ring in Canada’s 150th birthday then Parliament Hill”., except for him, he was on his 8th? 9th? vacation, on a private Island owned by a Religious guru , and, being shuttled back and forth on the billionaires private luxury helicopter, if there is any cake left give it to the poor I guess.
    The walked back outrageous moving expenses of his assistants.
    The love letter to Fidel.
    The Cash for Access.
    And now, a vacation with a registered lobbyist on his private Island.
    Then, to make matters worse, a campaign tour this week with a motorcade of SUV’s and an RCMP detail wandering around the countryside meeting with “ordinary” Canadians telling them how middle class he is and how much he cares about them, oh, and, another one of my favorites, setting up phone calls to radio stations DJ’s where they were to act surprised when he called in and requested Tragically Hip songs.
    How about this you self centered spoiled boy, get into your office, there is a three headed monster coming our way and Canadians are counting on you, me included, work 7 days a week if need be, 16 hours a day if need be and figure out how Canada is going to handle this very obvious problem that is Donald J Trump.
    Step 2, someone with Liberal experience sit down with Peter Pan and get him help within the PMO’s office, the optic’s of year one with this government looks like year 6, entitled and out of ideas.

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      Tim Sullivan says:

      A) Who cares where he spends his holiday time?
      B) The moving expenses were legit, but you seem critical that they were repaid.
      C) To which registered lobbyist do you refer? Not the Aga Khan.
      D) Are you suggesting he decides on his own security, or that he should not have any?

      He’s more popular now than when he was elected, from the polls I’ve seen, so I am sure your input into how he can do his job, and where, are welcome.

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        doconnor says:

        I care about who is paying for his holidays.

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        billg says:

        Liberals are hoping Kelly Leitch wins and Conservatives are hoping the words billionaire friend, ethics commissioner and entitlements continues to be used by the media.
        If you don’t think it’s been bad month for the PM you should apply for a PMO position.

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        Matt says:

        SOME of the moving expenses were repaid only after the Globe and Mail named Telford and Butts as the two who claimed the most.

        As for his popularity, yes it is high, but all the polls in December showed a decline, some a double digit decline in his support. Is this a long term trend or a blip. We’ll have to wait and see. but as someone once said, it’s often not a big single event that erodes a politicians popularity but a steady drip of many little things.

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          Em Hess says:

          Moving expenses? You’re complaining about moving expenses for staff having to relocate? Did you forget this ???? The federal government spent more than $300,000 to move six high-ranking officials at Canada’s national energy regulator to Calgary, according to documents obtained by National Observer under access-to-information legislation. Most of the expenses claimed by the six National Energy Board (NEB) officials were legal fees related to selling and buying homes, plus expenses for hotels, mileage and meals, according to the documents. Five of the six executives moved to Calgary after 2014, while one of the moves happened in 2012. http://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/04/03/news/heres-what-you-spent-move-six-top-federal-officials-calgary

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      daveconstable says:

      Could be that he is not aware that other people do not get 8 or 9 vacations a year.

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    JH says:

    Obviously a PMO ‘what we have here is a failure to communicate’ moment. JT needs pro help and fast. Also saw this asked elsewhere – did this family vactation with a religious leader/billionaire ever happen before? Or just since the PM had the power to ok $55 million dollar donations/grants to him?

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    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    I take issue with this whole self-inflicted mess for two reasons: first, I think Stephen Harper said it best in 2010: “It is therefore my great honour and pleasure, on behalf of the Government and people of Canada, to formally present you today with Honourary Canadian Citizenship. Welcome to our home and native land, your Highness. It is, now and forever your home, your Highness, your home as well.” Harper didn’t do that because he made billions.

    Secondly, the Aga Khan is a family friend. If we were rich like the Americans, we would have automatically flown down a Canadian helicopter before Trudeau arrived but just imagine how prohibitive that expense would have been.

    However, keeping the PM’s agenda private is a recipe for disaster, when inevitably, I would argue, the jaunt becomes public anyway. Lesson learned, Justin?

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      Tim White says:

      Hear, Hear. Except I don’t think it’s too much to expect of the Canadian press to respect the privacy of the Trudeau family when they take a well deserved vacation.

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        @Ronald O'Dowd says:


        True but look at Obama. Every year he’s in Hawaii over the holidays and the press knows it ahead of time. And they respect his privacy.

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    Richard says:

    These are interesting times in which we live.

    Our American friends, the saner ones, are worried about whether they’ve just elected a Russian puppet who will bring all sorts of corruption, restrictions on the media and personal liberties, undo Obamacare, and enhance the wealth of the wealthy while shoving more grief on the middle and lower classes.

    In Canada, people are mad that the Prime Minister took a helicopter ride to an island over Christmas.

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    Charlie says:

    The only thing Trudeau is guilty of is being blind to optics — thats all.

    There is no basis in this matter to question his ethics beyond on the endless conjecture that is being spewed from the media in an attempt to create a controversy to cover.

    If have to hear another beat-reporter imply that there is a ground-swell of frustration with Trudeau on this matter, I’m going to throw up. Because the Joe’s and Jane’s of Canada have been on TV for 2 days now and not one of them has brought this vacation story up. There are a myriad of other issues that Canadians give a shit about right now — the Aga Khan is not one of them. The media’s unwillingness to cover those and insist on dragging a non-story along is a massive disservice to the general public and a failure of the press to carry out its journalistic duty to Canadians.

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    dean sherratt says:

    I think that you will find that it isn’t exceptional to have access to helicopters in the Bahamas because they are useful taking you from island to island you know…

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    Ridiculosity says:

    The Exuma Cays are one of my favourite places on the planet, but getting to and from there is no easy feat. It typically involves (at least) two flights, land transportation and then boat transportation before you arrive at your final destination – eating up almost an entire day both coming and going.

    Trudeau works very hard and, like every Canadian, deserves to take time off to ‘reboot’ now and then. I don’t give a damn where he spends his vacation time. Or which friends he spends his vacation time with. Or how much money they’re worth. I suspect most people who do care are simply envious, as evidenced by the numerous comments that reference ‘lavish’ vacation. Would this be an issue if he’d vacationed at a Holiday Inn Express in Ft. Lauderdale?

    When I give Trudeau his ‘performance review’ on October 21, 2019, it’ll be based on his overall performance, growth and decision-making/problem solving abilities. One of the things that won’t be on my checklist is the number of times he’s worn sun screen.

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    Kevin says:

    What Charlie said.

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    daveconstable says:

    Chretien carried money with him when he jogged?

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    Matt says:

    Yeah, because if Harper was doing what Trudeau is, you’d be fine with it.


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      Aongasha says:

      Point well made and one on which you will never get a fair response here from the Lib partisans.

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    Tim White says:

    The Aga Khan is not just some “rich guy”. He is the high holy figure in a most commendable branch of Islam which I would urge everyone to learn about. They fund hospitals, universities, public education, museums and awards for excellence in arts and architecture, to name but a few things. Canadians should be honoured and proud that he asked the Trudeau family to spend time with him leading up to what look to be challenging times ahead. I can’t believe the bullshit that passes for news right now.

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    Marc says:

    The Commissioner says that MPs are permitted to accept sponsored travel “that arises from or relates to their positions”. In other words, to fall within the sponsored travel exemption, the travel in question would have to either arise from or relate to Trudeau’s position as MP or as PM – it must be official business of some kind.

    But Trudeau has clearly stated that the trip was not for official business. He said on Thursday: “I’ve said a number of times this was a — our family — personal family vacation.”

    As such, I don’t see how the sponsored travel exemption could be relied on in this case. The first of the exemptions set out in section 12 would likewise be unavailable. This wasn’t a trip taken in Trudeau’s capacity as a public office holder (whether as MP or PM). It was taken in his private capacity, as a personal family vacation at the home of an old family friend.

    The Commissioner hasn’t yet confirmed whether or not Trudeau obtained prior consent for the helicopter trip. You would have thought he’d have said so if he had, but we can’t rule out the availability of the second exemption in section 12 until the Commissioner confirms whether permission was sought and granted.

    The availability of the exceptional circumstances exemption will depend on where the Commissioner sets the threshold of exceptionality. If there was any alternative means of getting to the island ie. by boat, that was not taken because the helicopter was faster or more convenient, then I wouldn’t think that that would constitute ‘exceptional circumstances’. If helicopter was the only means to get there, then there would be a stronger argument that there were exceptional circumstances (though the Commissioner could quite reasonably say that any destination that can only be visited by doing something that is a prima facie breach of section 12 of the Conflict of Interest Act is not a place that a public office holder should be visiting whilst they are in office).

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      doconnor says:

      I would think that exceptional circumstances means things like emergency medical flights, not hard to reach vacation destinations.

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    billg says:

    A high holy figure that owns his own private fleet of yachts, helicopters, planes, and, a private Island in the Bahama’s, if you read that line enough times you can almost see a Monty Python sketch.
    So, no, I’m not proud our Country’s leader was asked to go visit a man who basically skims money to live the life he lives.
    And, I resent anyone calling themselves a Holy Figure and living a lifestyle most can only dream of.
    Two things in this world are pretty much guaranteed, first is, world leaders will only meet and talk about the climate in 8 Star sea side resorts where the Crème Brule is to die for, and, second, the majority of the earths religious leaders own yachts, planes, islands, castles, personal chef’s and have more bling on them the Tupac.
    Mother Theresa sure had a piss poor PR person.

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    lance m says:

    Maybe in the big scheme of things this is not a big deal but it clearly shows disregard for the federal rules and the policy he set out for his own party. If we substituted “holy figure” with “defence contractor who’s company lobbies the gov ‘t for business” and substituted Trudeau with say “any other politician” would this still pass the smell test that so many here seems to think it does? Oh remember they are lifelong friends.

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    Aongasha says:

    High Holy Figure? Multiple divorces, same for parents. Father was an international playboy and mother an heiress who shacked up with him while still married. Even some doubt as to who fathered what children. This is the lives of the rich and famous and a world Trudeau was born to and lives in. So spare me the ‘everyman’ platitudes from Liberal partisans and the groupies. Time will tell if he’s a good PM, but he’s definitely a silver-spooned elite.

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      Kevin says:

      I know. Total lack of judgment on the part of both Trudeau and the Aga Khan – being born into families that had some money. How can they look us in the eye after that?

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    Cory says:

    Keep saying “nothing to see” folks. I just spent a weekend with family who last year were all Trudeau fans and now the talk was what a disappointment he is. Latest Nanos has him down 10%, yes he still has decent levels of support but that was before the middle class joe tour backfired. Keep saying nothing to see…

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    bobsdf says:

    So, just to put this in perspective, I checked the rate on renting Musha Cay, David Copperfield’s Island in the Exumas, as it’s similar in size/value to Bells Cay. Musha Cay rents from US$39,000 to US$57,000 per night, depending time of year (Christmas/New Years is typically high season.) That works out to US$280k-400k per week, which is equivalent to C$370k-525k.

    Something that is unclear to me is if the Aga Khan was present during the PM’s visit? Also, was this Trudeau’s first visit? Given his professed close friendship with the Aga Khan, it would make sense that they would’ve holidayed together a few, if not many, times in the past. This should be very easy for Trudeau to verify. If it turns out that they have an established history of socialising together in this manner of host/guest and Trudeau was just visiting his wealthy friend, that’s one thing. If it turns out that the Aga Khan has conferred a very valuable benefit (one well in excess of the PM’s annual pre-tax salary) to the new Prime Minister of Canada in the absence of any such history, well, that’s entirely something else.

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