Trudeau defends vacation at Jamaican estate belonging to Trudeau Foundation donor
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is defending a Christmas vacation he and his family took at the Jamaican estate belonging to a wealthy donor to the foundation that carries his father’s name.
Mr. Trudeau was under fire from opposition leaders Tuesday after Radio-Canada, the French-language arm of the CBC, reported that he vacationed at Prospect, a “luxurious estate” with seaside villas owned by the family of Alexander and Andrew Green.
The Greens made a large donation to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation in 2021 to establish a scholarship in memory of their mother.
The Jamaica trip cost taxpayers roughly $160,000 because of travel-related security and personnel costs.
“The Prime Minister has a right, like anybody else, to go on vacation with his family. And I understand the fact that moving this specific guy comes with a lot of expenses and he doesn’t have a choice,” Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet told a morning news conference on Parliament Hill.
But the BQ leader added the question is whether Mr. Trudeau has to spend his vacation time with a friend providing opulent surroundings at a time when so many Quebeckers and Canadians are facing questions about their capacity to cover their living costs and income supports.
“There’s a lack of consideration and respect for the average citizen.”
Heading into Question Period, Mr. Trudeau noted, in remarks to journalists, that he cleared his trip with the federal ethics commissioner.
He also said his family has been friends with the Green family for 50 years.
The ethics commissioner last December was Mario Dion. Mr. Dion stepped down as ethics commissioner in February.
On Tuesday, Mr. Dion tweeted in regard to the matter, “Gifts from a friend are acceptable from a legal ethical point of view. Public opinion sometimes uses a different test and that is healthy.”
Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, in Question Period, suggested the fiscal policies of Mr. Trudeau and his government are to blame for many Canadians having had to reduce or eliminate their vacation plans, and asked if the Prime Minister paid for his own lodgings.
Mr. Trudeau did not directly answer, but said Mr. Poilievre should support the federal budget, which includes such affordability measures as the grocery rebate.
David Johnston's position is barely tenable. Can his investigation be salvaged? – CBC News
As always, multiple things can be true at the same time.
David Johnston can be both a flawed choice to investigate the government’s response to intelligence on foreign interference — and the target of unfair treatment since taking on that task. The prime minister could have been better off asking someone else to be special rapporteur — and Johnston’s reception from his critics may have diminished the number of people willing and able to do the job.
Now that most members of the House of Commons have called on Johnston to resign, his position is barely tenable. But he is apparently determined to finish the job. And the process he initiated may still be salvageable.
In Johnston’s telling, the extent of his relationship with Trudeau — what Johnston himself has referred to as their “so-called friendship” — has been overstated. According to Johnston, he knew Pierre Trudeau and the former prime minister’s sons went skiing with Johnston’s family when Johnston had a condominium near Mont Tremblant in Quebec [Johnston says the elder Trudeau had a home 50 km away]. On one occasion, Johnston said, he drove the Trudeau boys to their mother’s house, 10 km away from Johnston’s condo.
According to Johnston, he and Justin Trudeau occasionally crossed paths when Johnston was the principal of McGill University and Trudeau was a student there (Trudeau graduated in 1994). They had no further interactions, he said, until Trudeau was an MP (he was elected in 2008) and Johnston was appointed governor general (Johnston assumed that office in 2010).
Johnston was still governor general when Trudeau became prime minister. The Trudeau family lives at Rideau Cottage, which is located on the grounds of Rideau Hall, the governor general’s residence.
Based on those facts, it’s at least a stretch to describe Johnston as Trudeau’s “ski buddy,” “neighbour” or “personal friend,” as the Conservative Party has taken to labelling him.
But given those facts — and the fact that Johnston was involved with the Trudeau Foundation after his time as governor general came to an end — Trudeau surely would have been better off finding someone else to act as the prime minister’s special rapporteur on foreign interference. At the very least, Trudeau and his advisers should have anticipated the attacks Johnston faces now.
Johnston’s desire to say yes whenever a prime minister asks for help is admirable. But in this case, it seems like the prime minister asked him to jump into a tank of piranhas.
There is surely much to be said for Johnston. And if it was a mistake for Trudeau to tap him for this job, presumably it was also a mistake for Stephen Harper to ask Johnston to advise him on an inquiry into Brian Mulroney’s dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber (the Mulroney government appointed Johnston as chair of the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy in 1988) and to extend Johnston’s term as governor general in 2015 (putting Johnston in a position where he had to preside over an election that prominently featured Trudeau).
But if Trudeau needed to find someone whose background was beyond question. Johnston was not that someone.
Mind you, the past few weeks might also lead one to wonder how many perfectly unimpeachable people there are in Canada.
If not Johnston, who?
While the headline item in the NDP’s motion this week was the call for Johnston to resign, the most interesting part of that motion was an instruction to a House of Commons committee to recommend an individual who could lead a public inquiry into foreign interference. The motion says the individual should have the “unanimous support” of all recognized parties.
It would be interesting to see whether the parties — or even just the opposition parties — are capable of finding someone on whom they can agree.
Though the phrase “conflict of interest” has been thrown around a lot, it’s not obvious that Johnston’s actually in one in this case. It also would be hard to prove — at least so far — that Johnston demonstrated any kind of bias in his investigation or recommendations.
Proof of bias is generally said to be beside the point. Even the perception of bias or conflict is supposed to be avoided. That makes some sense. But it also bestows significant power upon those doing the perceiving — in this case, opposition MPs and pundits.
It can be safely assumed that no one who has had any involvement with the Trudeau Foundation is eligible (that rules out two former Conservative cabinet ministers and several former Supreme Court justices). The individual obviously can’t have had many interactions with the prime minister or any member of his family.
Any connection to China has the potential to arouse suspicions (Conservative MP Luc Berthold noted this week that three of Johnston’s daughters attended university in China). A record of political donations is probably also disqualifying (concerns have been raised about the fact that one of the lawyers who advised Johnston has donated to the Liberal Party).
Is any amount of previous political involvement permissible? What about publicly stated political views? Or a previous government appointment?
What everyone is overlooking
An open debate among MPs about who could do the job would at least clarify whether there are more than a couple of people in this country who could run the partisan gauntlet and emerge unscathed.
Ultimately, it may turn out that no special rapporteur was ever going to be acceptable — because whoever it was would be standing in the way of demands for a public inquiry.
The great irony is that the furor over Johnston’s personal credibility has largely obscured what might otherwise have been considered a significant report on China’s attempts to interfere in Canadian democracy and the poor handling of intelligence within government. If not for the fact that Johnston’s report was preceded by such sensational allegations and partisan accusations of a political cover-up — and the fact that Johnston felt some claims needed to be debunked — his findings might have been considered highly alarming.
At this point, there are surely people who won’t accept whatever comes out of the current process. That group is now bigger than it needed to be.
If there remains a narrow path to something that might limit the ranks of the suspicious and cynical, it involves Johnston doing meaningful work with the public hearings he has promised and the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians doing a credible job of following up on Johnston’s work.
A defensible conclusion to this process might also make it more likely that the next person asked by a prime minister to do a job will say ‘yes.’
But if there is still a path to real accountability and a productive discussion, it’s also fair to say that, seven months into this political firestorm, the only winner seems to be China — which has at least succeeded in sowing discord and doubt.
See Senate Majority Leader Schumer speak about deal – CNN
See Senate Majority Leader Schumer speak about deal
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke after the Senate passed the debt ceiling deal that narrowly averted a default. The bill will now go to President Biden’s desk to sign.
Bill C-18: Meta to test blocking news in Canada – CTV News
Meta is preparing to block news for some Canadians on Facebook and Instagram in a temporary test that is expected to last the majority of the month.
The company says it wants to work out the kinks before permanently blocking news on its platforms when the Liberal government’s online news act becomes law.
The bill, which is being studied in the Senate, will require tech giants to pay publishers for linking to or otherwise repurposing their content online.
The tech giant says the test will affect up to five per cent of its 24 million Canadian users.
The company says the randomly selected users won’t be able to see some content including news links as well as reels, which are short-form videos, and stories, which are photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours.
Meta says it is randomly choosing media organizations that will be notified that some users won’t be able to see or share their news content throughout the test.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2023.
Meta funds a limited number of fellowships that support emerging journalists at The Canadian Press.
David Johnston's position is barely tenable. Can his investigation be salvaged? – CBC News
Meta to test blocking news on Facebook, Instagram in Canada over Bill C-18 – Global News
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