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Opposition Readies to Hit Trudeau Hard on Ethics as Parliament Resumes

Both NDP and Conservatives say their scrutiny of PM’s hobnobbing with the wealthy isn’t over.

By Jeremy J. Nuttall 27 Jan 2017 | TheTyee.ca

Jeremy J. Nuttall is The Tyee’s reader-funded Parliament Hill reporter in Ottawa. Find his previous stories here.

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau winds down a public relations tour aimed at mending his reputation with Canadians after a pre-Christmas ethics scandal, opposition parties say Trudeau can expect more pressure on the issue when the House starts again up next week.

After his party wrapped up its strategy session for the next sitting in Ottawa, New Democrat leader Tom Mulcair said Thursday the NDP will be challenging the Trudeau government to “walk the walk” on ethical issues.

That means getting the Liberals to support an upcoming private member’s bill from the NDP’s Alexandre Boulerice that would enshrine Trudeau’s own ethics rules for his party into rules for the entire House. The bill will be introduced next week.

“If he’s serious about it, he’s going to help us get that bill enacted and that would give the ethics commissioner the full array of powers,” Mulcair told reporters in Ottawa.

Ethical conduct rules Trudeau laid down for the Liberal party are more strict than those Parliament has set for House members, but opposition parties allege the prime minister himself broke his own party’s rules.

Mulcair pointed to Trudeau’s fundraising dinners with wealthy business people and his Christmas trip to a private island owned by the Aga Khan, suggesting they were ethical breaches by the prime minister.

Mulcair went as far as to say Trudeau “broke the law” by accepting private helicopter flights to the island. “Mr. Trudeau’s got a lot to account for,” he said.

Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Conservative party said it, too, will be hitting the Liberals on ethics as the House starts up again.

Jake Enwright, press secretary for opposition leader Rona Ambrose, wouldn’t reveal much about how the Tories will press the Liberals on ethics, but confirmed it is in the cards.

“I can guarantee that either Ms. Ambrose or somebody in the Conservative caucus will be mentioning this to the prime minister,” Enwright told The Tyee in a phone interview.

He wouldn’t speculate on whether the Conservatives will support Boulerice’s private members bill, but said the party would likely be discussing it in caucus when it comes up.

At the Conservative strategy session in Quebec City, Ambrose also raised concerns about Trudeau’s ever-warming relationship to China, in light of Ottawa’s decision to revisit the sale of a Montreal tech company to a Chinese firm.

The deal was initially blocked by the previous Conservative government, at the recommendation of national security agencies.

Ambrose drew parallels in her speech between the deal being revisited by the Trudeau government and the prime minister’s secretive dinners with wealthy Chinese investors.

“When Justin Trudeau holds cash-for-access fundraisers, surrounded by Chinese flags and influential communist officials, and then weeks later reopens national security reviews, Canadians rightly wonder, is our national security for sale?” Ambrose said in Quebec City, later re-posting the quote on Facebook.

Enwright said Trudeau’s approach to the deal is “dangerously naive” and said the Official Opposition will be raising the issue when Parliament returns.

“Canadians should wonder why the government is making decisions like that and why the prime minister continues to fundraise with Chinese billionaires,” Enwright said.

Both Mulcair and Enwright also raised concerns about the Liberals’ attitude toward U.S. President Donald Trump’s protectionist trade agenda, suggesting the government has no plan in place to deal with negative impacts to Canada’s economy.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics

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