What a Federal Ethics Report Reveals about How Justin Trudeau Sees His Job

By Press, Jordan | The Canadian Press, December 25, 2017 | Go to article overview

What a Federal Ethics Report Reveals about How Justin Trudeau Sees His Job


Press, Jordan, The Canadian Press


An ethics reports insights on Justin Trudeau

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OTTAWA - The prime minister doesn't have business meetings. He has relationship sessions.

That's the view Justin Trudeau outlined to the ethics commissioner during her probe of Trudeau's family vacations to the Aga Khan's private island, which ended with Mary Dawson finding the prime minister violated four parts of the conflict of interest act.

But her report also offers a glimpse into how Trudeau views the job as prime minister and how that shapes the inner workings of his government.

Some prime ministers view themselves as a CEO who set ideas and are the face of the government, leaving the heavy lifting to their ministers or senior civil servants. Others consider themselves the CEO types who are more involved in the day-to-day operations.

Experts say Dawson's report points to the former model for Trudeau.

When Dawson asked Trudeau about meetings where there was discussion with the Aga Khan about a $15-million grant to the billionaire philanthropist's endowment fund of the Global Centre for Pluralism, the prime minister explained his lack of concern about being in the room.

Dawson described how Trudeau sees meetings as a way "to further develop a relationship between the individual and Canada" and his role in those meetings "as ceremonial in nature."

"The meetings he (Trudeau) attends as Prime Minister are not business meetings," Dawson wrote, recounting Trudeau's words.

"Rather, they are high-level meetings centred on relationship building and ensuring that all parties are moving forward together. Specific issues or details are worked out before, subsequently or independently of any meeting he attends."

While the role of prime minister is often as facilitator, the prime minister is always on government business, said Alex Marland, a professor of political science at Memorial University in St. John's, N.L.

"The prime minister is always operating in a business environment the moment that person becomes prime minister. It is totally ridiculous to me that you could somehow say no, I'm not doing this as prime minister."

Dawson did determine the prime minister shouldn't have been at the meetings.

Marland said that a hands-off prime minister allows some ministers to become more powerful than others, and also gives more power to political staffers in the Prime Minister's Office. …

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