Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Baloney Meter: Is Justin Trudeau's Ethics Breach a First in Canadian History?

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Baloney Meter: Is Justin Trudeau's Ethics Breach a First in Canadian History?

Article excerpt

Baloney meter: Is Trudeau case a first?


OTTAWA - "Justin Trudeau broke the law. A first in Canadian history for any sitting Prime Minister." -- Tweet from Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Jan. 5, 2018.


In December, Mary Dawson, then the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner, found Prime Minister Justin Trudeau contravened four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act in relation to vacations on a private island owned by the Aga Khan.

The findings prompted Andrew Scheer to tweet that Trudeau had broken the ethics law, a historical first for a prime minister of Canada.

How accurate was the Conservative leader's claim?

Spoiler Alert: The Canadian Press Baloney Meter is a dispassionate examination of political statements culminating in a ranking of accuracy on a scale of "no baloney" to "full of baloney" (complete methodology below).

This one earns a rating of "a little baloney." The assertion is mostly accurate but more information is required. Here's why:The Facts

The Trudeau case stands out as the only one in which a sitting prime minister was found to have violated a federal statute.

However, the issue of prime ministerial wrongdoing is not quite that simple, said Michael Atkinson, a professor with the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy and associate member of the department of political studies at the University of Saskatchewan.

"First, we haven't had a federal ethics law for very long, so it is a bit misleading to invoke a standard that most prime ministers couldn't breach if they wanted to. Second, breaking rules, whether laws or codes, is not the only standard for ethical evaluation."

The Conflict of Interest Act came into effect in 2006. It has applied only to Trudeau and his Conservative predecessor, Stephen Harper.

However, there are other examples of prime ministers being sanctioned for impropriety, facing serious accusations of wrongdoing or, at the very least, being called to explain their actions.

"We have had prime ministers whose dealings with private interests have proven exceedingly costly to their reputations and to the parties they led," Atkinson said.

Here's a look at some of those cases, in chronological order: The Pacific Scandal -- John A. …

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