Mary Dawson says she worked hard to get a report into Justin Trudeau‘s controversial Bahamas vacation out to the public before finishing her term as federal ethics commissioner, mainly because she hates loose ends.
“I very badly wanted to get it done,” Dawson told The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos in a recent interview.
The complexity of the file and the high level of scrutiny surrounding the case from both the public and the media made it both challenging and “interesting,” Dawson explained. Trudeau accepted a ride in the Aga Khan’s private helicopter and stayed on the spiritual leader’s private island over the holidays in 2016.
Dawson’s final report, issued on Dec. 20, 2017, found that in doing so, the prime minister contravened specific sections of the federal law governing conflict of interest and ethics on Parliament Hill.
“I mean, the prime minister is the prime minister and I was careful with (the report), but I’m careful with all my reports,” Dawson said.
Dawson has deployed a matter-of-fact tone and clipped replies repeatedly in recent weeks as the opposition parties and the media have attempted to get her to expand on her findings. She maintains that her report on Trudeau’s behaviour, which was twice as long as any other she produced during her tenure, speaks for itself.
The prime minister, for his part, has apologized for what he has acknowledged was a “mistake.”
But the now-former ethics watchdog was careful to point out that Trudeau did not “commit a crime” and was never charged under the Criminal Code — contrary to the belief of at least one Canadian posing a question during a town hall in Nova Scotia last week.
WATCH: Trudeau asked what it feels like to be the first PM to ‘commit a crime’
Dawson also addressed possible updates to the Conflict of Interest Act, a law passed by the Conservatives in 2006 that she used to assess cases and render her decisions.
Dawson says there’s still plenty of room for improvement to the act, especially when it comes to the rules surrounding blind trusts and the exemption for gifts to public office holders from “friends,” but at its core, it’s a solid and progressive piece of legislation.
“This was a new piece of legislation that the previous government brought in … I know that Mr. Harper felt quite strongly that it was important,” Dawson noted.
“But I believe (the government) is going to be looking at it again next month. That’s what they’re saying.”
One thing she doesn’t support is greater penalties or even jail time for people found to be in violation of the act. That type of punishment belongs in the criminal domain, Dawson says, and the public release of a report is often enough to minimize future bad behaviour or mistakes made by politicians like Trudeau.
Overall, Dawson told Kapelos, there’s little or nothing she would have done differently during her time as ethics commissioner.
“I really feel that I’ve done a pretty good job, basically.”
WATCH: Extended interview with former Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson
— Watch the full interview with former ethics commissioner Mary Dawson above.