For the first time, since he was elected in 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is about to face a formal investigation against a potential violation of the Conflict of Interest Act by the federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
Mary Dawson, the ethics commissioner, was having a busy time for the past few months as she received complaints from left, right, and center against Trudeau’s violation of federal ethics laws. First, it was his presence in the cash-for-access fundraisers. Then, it was about his vacations with the billionaire Aga Khan. It’s clear that Trudeau doesn’t set much store by ethics. And it is finally coming back to haunt him.
A formal investigation
The launch of a formal investigation by the ethics watchdog is not just a first for Trudeau. It’s the first time in the country’s history that a sitting Prime Minister is coming under investigation by the office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
The commissioner had to take action as she had received two separate formal complaints by the Conservative members of Parliament. The matter, itself, was pretty serious. Trudeau had committed a gross violation of the Conflict of Interest Act by accepting ride with the Aga Khan in his helicopter, something which is illegal for a Prime Minister to do.
When the Ethics Commissioner receives a formal complaint, she has to look into the circumstances of the situation to see whether there are sufficient grounds for investigation. In this particular problem, Dawson felt that there were, indeed, the grounds to launch a formal investigation.
And so she did.
But what will happen after that? Well, not much when it comes to penalty. The maximum fine that the Ethics Commissioner can impose on the Prime Minister is $500 on a single violation. But that’s not why a punishment is important. If convicted, Trudeau will be the first sitting Prime Minister in the history of the country to be found in violation of federal law.
It’s a unique achievement.