Justin Trudeau took an MP, party president to vacation on Aga Khan’s private island

Click to play video: 'Justin Trudeau addresses vacation on Aga Khan’s private island' Justin Trudeau addresses vacation on Aga Khan’s private island
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the controversial vacation he, his family and friends took on the Aga Khan's private island. – Jan 10, 2017

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau brought a Liberal MP and the party president along on his recent, controversial vacation on a private island.

The news raises more questions about potential conflicts of interest brought to light when it was revealed Trudeau vacationed with his family and some friends on the Bahamian island belonging to the Aga Khan – whose foundation receives millions in funding from the federal government.

Seamus O’Regan, MP for St. John’s South—Mount Pearl in Newfoundland and Labrador, and his husband, and party president Anna Gainey and her husband were guests of the Aga Khan’s along with the Trudeau family, a spokesman for the prime minister confirmed Wednesday.

READ MORE: Do Canadians need to know where the prime minister is vacationing?

In an interview with the National Post, O’Regan denied any government business was discussed while he was on the island.

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Trudeau’s spokesman said no other MPs or designated public office holders were on the trip.

While speaking with reporters Tuesday evening, Trudeau skirted a direct question asking whether any other public office holders were with him.

“The Aga Khan has been a long-time family friend. He was a pallbearer for my father’s funeral. He has known me since I was a toddler. And this was our family vacation,” he said.

Earlier this week, the federal ethics watchdog was asked to look into Trudeau’s New Year’s vacation.

In his letter to the commissioner, Conservative MP and leadership hopeful Andrew Scheer described the free vacation on a private island as “a private gift … given to him by a private individual.”

“We need to know if it is appropriate for Trudeau to accept gifts from someone whose foundation receives funds from the Government of Canada,” Scheer said after releasing his letter publicly.

On Tuesday, Trudeau said he looks forward to answering any questions the commissioner may have.

What is the potential conflict?

Last year, the Aga Khan Foundation received more than $47 million from the federal government, according to lobbying records.

Between 2012 and 2017, the Aga Khan Foundation Canada received $75 million from Global Affairs Canada to fund the Partnership for Advancing Human Development in Africa and Asia and $40 million between 2012 and 2015 for improving maternal, newborn and child health in Afghanistan, according to Charity Intelligence Canada.

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The same site notes the foundation will be receiving $55 million from 2016 to 2020 for Global Affairs’ Health Action Plan for Afghanistan project.

READ MORE: Trudeau makes the tabloids for his family vacation on small Caribbean island

The Conflict of Interest Act, which guides public office holders, states “neither a member [of Parliament] nor a member’s family shall accept, directly or indirectly, any gift or other benefit, except compensation authorized by law, that might reasonably be seen to have been given to influence the member in the exercise of a duty or function of his or her office.”

Scheer has asked the ethics commissioner to investigate whether the invitation to the private island constitutes a gift and if Trudeau, in accepting the offer, violated any provisions in the act.

The Aga Khan, the hereditary spiritual leader of the world’s approximately 15 million Ismaili Muslims and a renowned philanthropist, invited Trudeau, his family and a few friends to Bell Island.

READ MORE: Trudeau will reimburse government for partial costs of family travel to Caribbean resort

The Aga Khan founded one of the world’s largest development agencies, the Aga Khan Development Network, dedicated to enhancing progress in underdeveloped regions of the world.

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In 2009, then-prime minister Stephen Harper bestowed honorary citizenship on the Aga Khan.

For security reasons, prime ministers are obligated to travel using the government’s Challenger jet; Trudeau’s office has said he will, as is customary, refund taxpayers the equivalent of economy air fares to and from Nassau, Bahamas.

No one except the Trudeau’s travelled on the Challenger, according to his office.

The Prime Minister’s Office was hesitant to release any information about the Trudeau family’s whereabouts earlier this month, eventually disclosing only that they were flown to Naussau after repeated questioning from reporters.

With files from The Canadian Press

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