The Aga Khan trip and a glimpse into Trudeau’s bad judgment -

The Aga Khan trip and a glimpse into Trudeau’s bad judgment

Stephen Maher: Taking a billionaire’s hospitality is so obviously wrong, it makes you wonder: What else is the PM messing up?


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with the Aga Khan on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 17, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

I have often tried to imagine the conversations that took place between Justin Trudeau and his senior officials when the Prime Minister was planning his family’s Christmas last year.

Trudeau: “Well, I’ve decided that I’m going to take the family to the Aga Khan’s private island.”

Senior official: “Boss, I know how much you need a vacation, and the kids, too, bless their hearts. But we don’t think you should go to that island. There are a lot of legal and ethical questions, and it just wouldn’t look good. In fact, I was talking to another senior official about it, and we both think…”

Trudeau: “Thanks. Great. I get it, but we’re going. He’s an old family friend. Don’t worry about it.”

Senior official: “Well, you’re the boss. We think that if you are going to do it, we should talk to the ethics commissioner, get it cleared, and also draw up a comms plan. It’s sure to leak out eventually. Better if we tell people rather than have them learn it from David Akin or someone even worse.”

Trudeau: “Do you like this blue tie better or the red one?”

I only get so far in the scenario before I can’t figure out what Trudeau’s lines are. The more you know about how government works, the more bizarre the whole thing seems.

To be clear, I don’t think there was any dirty quid pro quo. I don’t think that the wealthy prince and Trudeau had a deal to exchange tax dollars for a holiday. I don’t imagine they haggled, negotiating a private room for Seamus O’Regan in exchange for a larger grant for the Global Centre for Pluralism.

READ MORE: Friends! Welcome to Justin Trudeau’s ethical island

But the Prime Minister shouldn’t even think about putting himself in the position that we need wonder about that kind of thing. Aga Khan Foundation Canada received almost $50 million in federal funding in 2016. Trudeau controls the purse strings. He did not recuse himself from business meetings.

By staying on the island—his family went three times—Trudeau violated four provisions of the conflict of interest act, accepting free holidays that “might reasonably be seen to have been given to influence Mr. Trudeau.”

I would have thought that Trudeau would have imposed a higher standard on himself, avoiding accepting extravagant overnight hospitality from any billionaire, whether or not they happen to be doing business with the government.

Perhaps 10 years of the grim rectitude of Stephen Harper distorted my sense of what kind of freebies our politicians might take. I am glad that we no longer need fear that CSIS might lock up the Raging Grannies, but this Trudeau business is enough to make one nostalgic for Harper’s abstemiousness.

I agreed with Rona Ambrose when she tweeted: “Justin Trudeau knew what he did was against the law. All he had to do was say no, but he couldn’t resist the billionaire lifestyle.”

I was surprised to later learn that she was making her criticism from a yacht belonging to an Alberta billionaire. Ambrose was on her way out of politics, and she didn’t have the power to sign over millions of dollars, but it was sick-making too that both our Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition couldn’t get through the holidays without accepting a billionaire’s hospitality.

It makes me wonder whether it is naive to expect our leaders to pay for their own trips.

This is a long tradition in Canadian politics of politicians taking free stuff from rich people who do business of the government.

Rich people want to spend time with politicians, because politicians have power. Note that Trudeau’s old family friend only made the island available to him after he became a party leader.

I see no good excuse for any of this, but there is no shortage of bad excuses. One of the four sections of the act that Trudeau violated with his trip was Section 12, which forbids taking free trips on private aircraft. This section was brought in after four of Jean Chretien’s cabinet ministers were found to have taken free trips to an Irving family salmon camp in New Brunswick.

Trudeau’s lawyers argued that he didn’t violate Section 12 because it was an exceptional circumstance. After all, the Aga Khan’s island is an island, and therefore it’s obviously exceptional. Mary Dawson didn’t buy that.

They also argued that since the French section of the act refers to “avions,” meaning airplanes, that doesn’t include helicopters. Obviously Trudeau, a Francophone, couldn’t have been expected to know that helicopters were forbidden!

Nothing in the affair has inspired confidence in the young man running our country. He violated four sections of an act that his highly paid staffers must have known he was going to violate. He didn’t tell Canadians about his trip until journalists learned about it. His highly paid lawyers made ridiculous, legalistic arguments in a vain attempt to avoid taking responsibility, and when he apologized for it, he couldn’t  bring himself to say why what he did was wrong, and sounded like a highly trained but malfunctioning political robot.

This is all disappointing, not because it is hugely important in itself, but because it suggests a worrying lack of judgment. If he messed this up, what else is he messing up?

Observing politics is like watching a play where most of the action takes place behind the curtain while the players repeatedly tell us what a great job everyone is doing. But every now and then, when a stagehand inadvertently forgets to draw the curtain shut, we get a glimpse of the real business.

In this case, what we see is Trudeau with his pants around his knees. I feel bad for his team and the volunteers and voters who placed their hopes in him, who are now making absurd excuses for him, and I hope he has learned a valuable lesson.

But he might not have, because I doubt he is going to pay much of a political price for it. Trudeau messed up, but when we spend most of our time worrying about Donald Trump, it’s hard to stay focused on free holidays.

Trump’s White House is full of open conflicts of interest much worse than anything in Trudeau’s world. The president of the United States seems to be doing everything he can to get money out of his government, charging top rates for secret service agents to stay at his own properties, for example.

Worse, he has put former CEOs in charge of deregulating industries that threaten the public interest. The secretary of state, by all accounts one of his most reasonable Cabinet members, is the former CEO of Exxon, the company that covered up climate change. These are not even the worse things about Trump. He is foolishly engaged in nuclear brinksmanship. His presidency is possible because of racism. And the former director of national intelligence believes the president is a Russian asset.

In the face of all that, I find it hard to care too much about Trudeau’s trip, and I don’t see why most voters will either.

I hope he doesn’t draw the wrong lesson from that.



The Aga Khan trip and a glimpse into Trudeau’s bad judgment

  1. I hope he(Trudeau) learns a lesson from this too(take a personal inventory), but i hope the conservatives realize they may have lost the support of the people in this country, who support the Aga Khan, and that includes the NDP. A pure example of dividing a people(Muslim) in this country, and no one does it better than the conservatives(possible racism factor involved). I have heard and read nothing but good things about the Aga Khan. It’s a shame he(Aga Kahn), like a lot of other people, like him, who do good things in their lives throughout the world, all their lives, to help other people with good intentions, have their lives ripped apart.

    • What a stupid comment. Are you ignoring history? Get your head out of the sand.

      Mr. Harper invited the Aga Khan to address the Canadian Parliament. But not just ANY parliament. It was a “joint address”. That’s where both the Senate and the Justices of the Supreme Court are also invited to attend. Obama, Clinton, Reagan, Churchill, Thatcher, Mandela are just a few of the infamous names that have spoken at a joint address. You need a better handle on Canadian history! Your dividing comments demonstrate the root of racism.

      • Oh Boy, did i ever hit someone’s sciatic. You must have seen the polls today too.

        • Let’s recap:
          You get caught red-handed making up a false narrative. Instead of fessing up — you point to some imaginary ailment that I am supposedly under duress about?
          Then you throw in something about a poll?

          Way to defend your position CB!!! Way to go!!! You have the most senseless handle in “carpet bomb” and then you end the year with an idiotic statement.

          Well. You have a couple of days to redeem yourself. Too bad you have to end the year by outright lying.

          I should add that “oh boy” is no longer politically correct. We have the loony left speech police to thank for that one.

          • I completely agree with CB! Do you remember the “snitch line” Harper campaigned on? The niqab issue? There was no lie.

        • Tom — the barbaric practices tip line was not even implemented???
          How can you argue for/against something that was never even rolled out!!! LOL!
          Deal with hard concrete facts man! Not with platforms that never came to fruition.

          On the other-hand — we did have a BLM leader call Trudeau a white supremacist terrorist.

          • Time for you conservatives to get over these social issues, live and let live, and stop telling people what they should wear, what they should drink, what they should smoke, what they should wear, and the hits just keep on coming. Stay out of peoples lives and bedroom, your like Gastapo, the moral police..Let me tell you a little secret, all the MSM are saying the country don’t know who Andrew Sheer is, thats why his numbers are down, let me ask you, how do you or the MSM that, maybe the voters do know him, and just don’t like him, and this bull about not knowing him is just another bit of tea leaf reading by the people who work inside the bubble to long, maybe there is something in that tea, pink kush. Big tent parties are like electoral reform, you have all these fringe groups you have to pander to in one party(thank you Mr. Trudeau for putting a spike through that idea), and you get stuck with the social cons with RW agendas trying to tear the Charter of rights up..

          • Just to add, if the Cons dumped the social cons, there wouldn’t be nothing left of the party, only a bunch of angry people living in the past.

        • “Time for you conservatives to get over these social issues, live and let live, and stop telling people what they should wear, what they should drink, what they should smoke, what they should wear, and the hits just keep on coming. Stay out of peoples lives and bedroom, your like Gastapo, the moral police”.

          Your joking right??? Can you come up with any examples. Can you not take off your blinders for one moment???

          I’ll throw out 2 examples for you wear the loony left is doing exactly as you complain about above.
          1. WLU fiasco. Talk about shaming someone. Do you know understand what the loony left put Lindsay Shepherd through? Where’s your heart man. That’s was not your social conservatives — that was your loony left telling people how they should think and live their lives.
          2. Trudeau announcement on Federal Funds. At the beginning of December Trudeau quietly announced that if organizations wanted access to Federal Funds then the owners, board members, etc would have to sign an attestment that they support ALL Liberal platforms on gender and abortion. Again this is the loony left telling people how they should think and live their lives. Of course we shouldn’t be surprised right? That’s how JT ran his platform. Every new Liberal member was vetted for social issues. Old Liberal veterans were grandfathered into JT’s platform. That’s right — the ONLY party currently in Canada that allows you to join without ANY discrimination is currently the Conservative Party. There is NO WAY you can argue that both the Liberal’s and NDP don’t discriminate. They are both the source of ALL discrimination in Canada.

    • Aga Khan is a scam. Say Canada gives me 25 million, okay. I give 15 million of it to charities and use the rest for my yacht, helicopter, and private island. Nice work if you can get it.

  2. I hope he(Trudeau) learns a lesson from this too(take a personal inventory), but i hope the conservatives realize they may have lost the support of the people in this country, who support the Aga Khan, and that includes the NDP. A pure example of dividing a people(Muslim) in this country, and no one does it better than the conservatives(possible racism factor involved). I have heard and read nothing but good things about the Aga Khan. It’s a shame he(Aga Kahn), like a lot of other people, like him, who do good things in their lives throughout the world, all their lives, to help other people with good intentions, have their lives ripped apart.

    • Mr. Carpet,
      You always spout such nonsense!! The Conservatives haven’t maligned Khan at all and will lose no support because of this. They maligned a P.M. who was sufficiently stupid and arrogant to believe he could get away with a blatant conflict of interest. And for that, the Conservatives will gain ground.
      I suppose you believe the Conservatives being against Mr. Selfie’s plan to rehabilitate ISIS fighters is racist. The Conservatives have ALWAYS put the safety and security of Canadians on a far higher level than the Libs.

      • Did you see the polls today, seems like them boomerangs are still being used by the MSM and the opposition. Two weeks in a row, looks like that frame is starting to take shape around Sheer and Singh’s head. The 2 Dion’s.

      • Sorry but the only thing the Conservatives have always put first is the rich…basically because they donate to their party and the Conservatives give them massive tax breaks. I like the Liberal approach of giving more to the poor and middle class while still putting the safety of Canadians at the highest level possible.

        • You are delusional. Look at what the ibs have done recently with small business.

          • I agree FOXSTAY. And Trudeau’s decision to rehabilitate returning ISIS fighters sure puts the safety of Canadians first!! How can any leader propose that for someone who has committed treason?!?

        • Yeah right!!!

          “We cross-checked the Open Secrets list of the top 100 individuals donating to outside spending groups in the current election against the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires and found that, as of June 19, there were 22 individuals on the Open Secrets list who were billionaires. Of those 22 billionaires, 13 — or more than half — gave predominantly to liberal groups or groups affiliated with the Democratic Party. The other nine gave predominantly to conservative groups.”

  3. When considering whether to clear the trip with the ethics commissioner, I imagine Trudeau reasoned “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission”. Given that all he received for breaking the rules was a severe scolding, he wasn’t wrong.

  4. You want poor judgement. Here is poor judgement.

    Canada can borrow long term money at 3% or so for infrastructure investment and we own the infrastructure. Instead Trudeau and Morneau create an privatization bank so instead of buying our bonds and earning 3%, global 1%’ers can co-invest with the government, with all of the losses assumed by the Canadian taxpayer and earn 7 or 8%, and own the infrastructure assets.

    Trudeau and Morneau are also contemplating allowing the asset stripping of Canada by these global 1%’ers allowing them to buy up things like our airports and the like.

  5. A nice bit of slight of hand at the end of the article where the author spouts a bunch of left wing stuff about Trump in an effort to deflect from Trudeau’s stupidity regarding this blatant conflict of interest. I could comment on how bogus all the shots are, but I’ll focus on a couple:
    -I worked for Exxon for over 38 years and the comment that Exxon covered up climate change is blatant, fake news. In the late 70’s a very highly respected scientist within Exxon wrote a letter requesting research funds to explore whether the burning of fossil fuels could contribute to global increases in temperature. This scientist was so well respected that Exxon invested well over $100 million in research between the late 70’s and early 90’s. This research concluded that warming in the past and currently was largely due to the relative tilt of the Earth’s axis and activity on the sun and little, if anything, to due to human activity. The research was fully peer reviewed and accepted by many senior university climate researchers but was declared to be false by the Climate Warming zealots of the day. What got all of the negative publicity recently was the letter written by the scientist and positioned as a “see they knew, long before anyone else”.
    Of course, that scientist had also signed off after the years of research which he led, that his warming proposition has been fully investigated and shown to be false. That got no publicity either!
    -The author talks about hoe CEO’s are deregulating and out of sync with public well being.. This too is bogus. For years many leading scientific organizations have noted that there has been no global warming since 1998 and have called it “the warming hiatus”.. However, just before the Paris Climate Conference, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) produced a timely rebuttal saying they had examined the data; found some errors; and, after correcting, found that, yes indeed, warming was alive and well. Well recently one of those deregulating CEO’s the author sneered at funded and supported a study of the NOAA declaration using some leading scientists from around the world and concluded that NOAA had fudged the data to get the answer the Obama Administration wanted for the Paris Conference. So I believe, fresh eyes are a welcome thing particularly in the area of climate change. It has become a corrupt industry with many climate change addicts.

  6. The author derides deregulation as though it is a given that all regulations are universally benevolent and removing regulations is thus automatically malignant.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. Regulations imposed on the auto industry add thousands of dollars to new car costs, and provide benefits that are largely intangible and often nebulous. So stringent are some regs that the only way to meet them is to mandate technologies that are more costly than the benefit they might provide, or artificially reduce the average life span of the car by ensuring that it might be sidelined by an unnecessarily costly repair. Some regs run counter to the aims of another regulatory regime. Safety regs add cost and weight. Weight reduces fuel economy, and reduced fuel economy hampers emissions performance. At no point in this equation does the government propose that the consumer be allowed more choice in the matter.

    When the public eschewed airbags as options, and found automatic seatbelts to be infuriatingly awkward, eventually airbags became obligatory. Very few people stepped up to buy rearview cameras when they were optional, so they have been made mandatory down the road. When VW found a loophole in emissions law that allowed people to purchase miserly diesels with acceptable performance, the feds crawled up Volkswagen’s ass, customers be damned.

    The massive problematic and dysfunctional regulatory regime that burdens the auto industry is not likely to exist in isolation. There is nothing government likes to do badly as much as repeating its own failures loudly and often. More egregiously, many regulations are imposed upon the citizenry BECAUSE the citizens will not comply voluntarily. This is tyrannical in nature, even if not in intent. The question must always be asked of any proposed regulation “Would the citizenry take it upon themselves to bear these costs if we weren’t forcing them to do so?”

    If the answer is “No”, then the proposal may be wrongheaded, no matter how virtuous the intent. When regulations are demonstrable job killers, then they really should be repealed.

    • What planet did this occur on? Back in the day, one avoided 5 year financing on a new car to avoid having to buy a new car while still paying for the previous one: the average working life of a vehicle is over 3 times what it was and fuel economy is more than twice while the cost of a similar vehicle (if you can call a vehicle with standard AC, radio, cruise control, power windows, ABS, sealed battery, air bags, head restraints, rust coating, fuel injection, disk brakes, 6 speed auto, etc comparable) is less in constant dollars. It’s been years since one had to top up the battery, check oil every fill up, get oil spray every two years, replace the exhaust system every 3 years, get the rust holes filled and painted starting at year 4, get a head job every 100 km, pay for major carburetor service every 150 km, pump the gas judiciously in order to get started without flooding in cold weather, roll down the windows for cooling in summer, put plywood floor under the mats after 5 years, and die in a 15 km/h collision.

      • You’re dead right on all of that. But all of those things occurred while the automakers were being saddled with ever more expensive and harder to meet regulations that have negated improvements in productivity. The quality has improved immensely, and you get more for the same inflation-adjusted dollar than you used to. But, that inflation adjusted price includes thousands of dollars in regulatory hurdles. If crash and emissions standards had been frozen in 1999, and all the engineering might that has been invested in those areas alone been redirected towards other design aspects, would the air be any dirtier? Would any more people be dying in car crashes? Well, maybe, maybe not, because all that engineering prowess may have produced other tangible benefits that we value equally. Instead, it has been squandered on meeting regulations that public is only told they want.

        • You don’t understand engineering and compliance: it’s something you do once in the design phase, roll out into the manufacturing process and supply chain and it’s done and dusted; we call that NRE cost (non-recurring engineering) which must be amortized over product but divided by million quantity platform units it amounts to very little per unit and is small compared to esthetic design and marketing costs. Compliance is not an excess expense: regardless one would be obliged to incorporate quality, performance and safety into a product; however, standards provide a well defined framework and improve supply chain efficiency. Your suggestion that engineering for product quality, performance and/or safety is a waste of effort is ludicrous.

          • All engineering is the science of trade-off’s, essentially. It’s finding the best balance of elements for a given set of operational requirements. The problems lie in the areas where design elements, and the costs related, are not driven by customer demand but government fiat.
            Right now, automotive engineers are struggling to find miniscule amounts of fuel savings, in ways that end up costing consumers more than they save.
            Ultra-low profile tires (45 and 55 series) have less rolling resistance than a 65-70-75 series tire of the same tread width and circumference. The customer will be hard pressed to measure that difference in fuel economy. They will, however, face a far higher risk of replacing a $300 tire, or an $800 rim due to it being damaged by a road imperfection, in spite of the fact that the fuel savings from that feature will never amount to even $300 for that owner.
            LED headlamps are nice. However, the increasing commonality is a result more of the need to reduce weight and amp-load on electrical systems to save fuel. However, the presence of $1200 LED headlight and tail light assemblies drives up insurance rates. It also means that someone stuck with the tab for replacing one is forced to pay out more than they can ever save on fuel from having one.
            I’m with you 100% in the quality of newer cars. Both of my current vehicles are older, with more miles on them, then the first car I bought. It was almost done, but my current pieces have hundreds of thousands of kilometers left in them.
            What I’m getting at is the most powerful force driving automotive design and engineering is not the customer’s needs and wants, but the regulatory demands of Washington DC bureaucrats. Think of what might be achievable if we declared a moratorium on new regulations, across all sorts of industries. What might we achieve if we allowed designers and engineers and movers and shakers to design, engineer, move, and shake absent the scolding hand of the nanny state?

  7. Message from Canada to the Ottawa bubble.

    65.5 percent of Canadians say Trudeau has the qualities of a good political leader.

    • From The Toronto Star in late September, 2017:
      “Nearly half (45%) of Canadians say it’s time for a change when it comes to federal politics – a 15% increase over two years, according to recent polling conducted by Angus Reid. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apparent slide in the polls comes months after his government settled a lawsuit with convicted terrorist….”
      And that was before Trudeau’s current conflict of interest fiasco and the exposure of Morneau’s misdeeds.
      This is a one term government. And one term is one term too many!!

      • Nanos. Today.

        • I would like to see the questions NANOS asked. One would hope Canadians would want a P.M. who could get through a whole line without several uhs and ahs as well as one who didn’t break the law. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with our country-it could be populated by a bunch of lemmings. But even many lemmings turn back when the lead lemming gets to the edge of the cliff. Stay tuned-there’s still hope.

          • Stay tuned for what?

          • Stay tuned for the following lemmings to turn on the lead lemming who is taking our country to the cliff.

  8. Very amusing. I wonder what the conversation was like when Harper et al were arranging the ‘in and out’ scheme to circumvent election financing rules or the one where they were engineering plausible deniability for voter suppression by means of robo-calls. Certainly the conversation around strengthening Canadian security by building a network of gazebos across Ontario cottage country would be hysterical. Then the discussion around Harper’s vacation at Blue Mountain accompanied by a vast entourage, block booking an entire floor of a hotel, so that he and Laureen could watch son Ben play volleyball; remember that one? he had everyone travel in separate rented vehicles in order to sprinkle the expenses. The arrangements for one and former leader Pete McKay must have been even more amusing: what? detained up north by a fishing outfitter but have to get to an important oyster shucking competition down east … must pull out all the stops!

  9. More to the point, Maher. A lot of us out here in tax-land told you guys that Trudeau was thick as a plank years ago. The problem is that the legacy Canadian media genuflects at the Trudeau altar, so you weren’t prepared to listen. I’m not the only one who predicted he’d lionize Castro when that worthless sack of gristle vacated to Hell. We also took note of his admiration for China’s dictatorship, and his clumsy attempt at deflection afterwards. (Like all good lefty’s, he pivoted to the meme of Conservatives as nascent fascists.)
    The question we now must ask, is basic. Is Trudeau stupid-harmless, or is he stupid-dangerous? We know he’s stupid. That’s a given. It’s how dangerous he is that we must begin to ask. Are you MF’ers up to it?

    • What exactly are you calling for?

      • I think he’s after not re-electing Trudeau. I’m with Mr. Greenwood 100%. We need to get back to a government that isn’t heading us into bankruptcy. Trudeau’s old man nearly did that and Pierre was much smarter than his son!

        • What I’m asking is does the media in this country have the ability to look at Justin as intently as they did Harper? Are they willing to question his motives and values, his current and past associations, and so forth? Are they willing to challenge his assertions on economics and foreign policy as harshly as they did Harper?
          I doubt it.

          • No they haven’t and they won’t

    • And I will predict that among all the funding delays which will somehow bear fruit in 2019, the marajuana law will suffer the same fate. It is Justine’s ace in the hole as by 2019 his polling will be so far in the sewer he’ll plea with pot heads to vote for him again and this time he’ll really pass the legislation. He’s already hinting at that. 2019: housing , veterans pay, military spending.

  10. The abstention on Jerusalem was equally bad judgment. Even the UK had the guts to vote for it in the GA and against the Security Council resolution.

    • I agree-Trudeau’s abstention position was pathetic and ill conceived. You would hope that sock boy might have been smart enough to realize that voting along with the U.S. on this issue might just help with our tenuous NAFTA negotiations.