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Indo-Canadian junior ministers may have violated norms on ties with lobbying groups

In the latest of a series of ethics issues that recently dogged Canada, two Indian-origin parliamentary secretaries in the Trudeau government may have violated guidelines set down by the prime minister himself.

world Updated: Apr 05, 2017 13:25 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times, Toronto
Indo-Canadian junior ministers,Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,Arif Virani
The government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (centre) has been dogged by a series of ethics issues recently. (REUTERS FILE)

In recent months, Justin Trudeau’s government in Canada has been bedevilled by allegations of impropriety and the latest in the list involves a pair of Indian-origin parliamentary secretaries, who accepted hospitality from registered lobbying groups and seem to have violated guildelines set down by the prime minister.

The incidents date back to a year when the two MPs from constituencies in the Greater Toronto Area travelled abroad on trips paid for by lobbying groups. One of those episodes, in fact, involves The Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation, which was “established in 2001 as a living memorial to the former prime minister by his family, friends, and colleagues”, according to its website.

That late prime minister of the country is also the current premier’s father.

Parliamentary secretary (the equivalent of a junior minister) Arif Virani travelled to London last year on a visit sponsored by the Trudeau Foundation. Another parliamentary secretary Kamal Khera went to Tanzania on a trip paid for by World Vision Canada. Both organisations are registered as lobbying groups in Canada and the prime minister’s guidelines refer to ministers and parliamentary Secretaries not accepting hospitality of such nature.

The trips came to light as the Office of the Conflict and Interests and Ethics Commissioner presented its list of sponsored travel for 2016 to the Canadian House of Commons recently.

Among those critical of these trips is former Liberal cabinet minister Ujjal Dosanjh, who wrote in his blog that the two “have violated theprime minister’s guidelines regarding outside groups paying for cabinet ministers' and parliamentary secretaries’travel. The government does not seem to be learning anything from its many mistakes.” While noting a pattern, he also said the Trudeau government “may be on its way to suffering from a fair degree of arrogance.”

The issue has also been seized upon by the two principal opposition parties, the Conservatives and New Democrats. In an emailed response to the Hindustan Times, Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai, himself a former parliamentary secretary, said, “It is important that those who hold public office conduct their actions according to guidelines established by Parliament, otherwise we lose the trust of Canadians.” He advised his “colleagues on the other side” to contact the Ethics Commissioner”.

“It will save lot of embarrassment,” he added.

First Published: Apr 05, 2017 13:13 IST

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