Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office is clarifying that he and his family are vacationing in Jamaica “at no cost at a location owned by family friends,” after initially saying the family was paying for their stay.
The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement on Wednesday that the federal ethics commissioner was consulted “on these details prior to the travel to ensure that the rules were followed.”
The office offered the clarification the day before Trudeau’s holiday on the Caribbean island is set to conclude. He is there with Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and their three children.
The pair announced last summer that they were separating after 18 years of marriage, with both saying in separate statements that they would remain close.
Before the family left for Jamaica on Boxing Day, Trudeau’s office said it consulted with the ethics commissioner and the family would cover the cost of their stay and reimburse the public for the cost of travelling on a government plane.
“The prime minister continues to reimburse the equivalent of a commercial airline ticket for his personal travel and that of his family,” his office said on Wednesday.
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Officials declined to confirm where Trudeau is staying.
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But CBC and Radio-Canada reported last spring that during the family’s last New Year’s trip to Jamaica, they stayed at a luxury estate owned by Peter Green, whose family has known the Trudeaus for decades.
The public broadcaster reported at the time that the PMO declined to say whether Trudeau paid for his own accommodation.
Trudeau’s travel to the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas following Christmas Day in 2016 landed him with a ethics violation for crossing conflict-of-interest rules.
Former commissioner Mary Dawson ruled that Trudeau’s vacation broke the law prohibiting ministers from accepting gifts or “advantages” that could be perceived as trying to influence government business.
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She concluded that the exception that applies if the gift comes from a friend did not apply in that case. Trudeau and the Aga Khan, a friend of his father’s, had had little to no contact in the 30 years before his election as Liberal party leader.
A spokesperson for the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner said on Wednesday that it could not divulge details about what information Trudeau’s office provided about the trip, citing the privacy requirements inked into the conflict-of-interest rules.
“The office has a role only in ensuring that the gift provisions of the act and code are observed,” Jocelyne Brisebois said in a written statement.
“Note that there is an exception in the act that allows a public officer holder to accept gifts or other advantages given by a relative or friend and any such gifts do not require public disclosure.”
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