The two major stories out of Ottawa this week revolve around Prime Minister Trudeau’s newly revealed vacation details followed by news of a small cabinet shuffle. I believe most Canadians support and understand that the Prime Minister would enjoy an exotic vacation to a warmer climate not unlike many Canadians often do so why is this current vacation a controversy? The answer is a tad more complex than one might expect.
In Canadian public office we have very strict rules that limit and restrict financial benefits that a Minister of the Crown can accept and directly benefit from. These restrictions also include gifts that cannot be legally accepted from any registered lobbyist. Obviously gifts have a momentary value and must be disclosed and this includes the value of accepting a stay at an exotic Bahamas private island as has been now revealed was the vacation destination of Prime Minister Trudeau.
On a related theme the private island where the Trudeau family vacationed happens to be owned by the Aga Khan who in turn is the head of an organization that is registered to lobby the Trudeau Liberal Government. This same organization headed by the Aga Khan also received $55 million in Canadian public funding from the most recent Liberal Government budget and as a result the Conflict commissioner is investigating this matter further. I am not for a moment suggesting any wrongdoing on the part of the Prime Minister but rather clarifying why this subject continues to be actively raised in Ottawa and more so as the Prime Minister’s office initially refused to provide details of the vacation in question.
Following the vacation controversy the Prime Minister also announced a cabinet shuffle that will see the departure of the following Ministers: John McCallum (Citizenship and Immigration) Stéphane Dion (Foreign Affairs) and MaryAnn Mihychuk (Employment, Workforce Development and Labour) The departure of these Ministers provided an opportunity for three new Minister to join the Federal cabinet: François-Philippe Champagne (International Trade) Karina Gould, (Democratic institutions) and Ahmed Hussen, (Immigration). The following existing Ministers were also shuffled into new portfolios: Chrystia Freeland (Foreign Affairs), Patty Hajdu (Employment, Workforce Development and Labour) and Maryam Monsef (Status of Women).
My take on this shuffle is mixed. Government experience is critically important in a cabinet and the loss of veteran Ministers such as McCallum and Dion will no doubt be felt. At the same time adding fresh blood is not necessarily a bad thing and given the failure to date for the Liberal fiscal plan to reap the promised benefits some new ideas at the cabinet table may be welcome. A Cabinet shuffle is never an easy task for any leader and time will tell if these changes will help reverse the current direction. It is important to remember that citizens run for public office in order to help build stronger communities and federally a stronger Canada. I know that MPs from all parties are concerned at the current economic direction Canada is heading in and I believe we will continue to work diligently in 2107 towards constructive solutions. I would also like to take a moment and public thank Stéphane Dion and John McCallum who have spent many years in public office and have both recently announced they will be resigning as MPs to serve in other areas.
I would also like to extend an invitation to come and meet with me. I will be holding town hall meetings and constituents are welcome Saturday, January 14th in West Kelowna at the Lions Community Hall 2466 Main Street; West Kelowna from 3:00pm–4:30 PM or on Sunday, January 15th in Kelowna at A. S. Matheson Elementary at 2090 Gordon Drive, Kelowna from 3:00–4:30 PM to share their views. I look forward to hearing from you! Contact me at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament elect for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.