Ethics commissioner set to look into Liberal data contracts

·2 min read
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could face another investigation by the office of Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion — this time over contracts between most Liberal MPs and a company run by a longtime friend of the prime minister. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could face another investigation by the office of Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion — this time over contracts between most Liberal MPs and a company run by a longtime friend of the prime minister. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion has taken the first step toward a possible investigation of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after a Conservative MP filed a complaint alleging that Trudeau may have improperly furthered the financial interests of a longtime friend.

In a letter to Conservative MP Michael Barrett, Dion said he has asked Trudeau to respond to Barrett's claim that contracts between the majority of Liberal MPs and Data Sciences — a company owned by Trudeau's friend Tom Pitfield — contravene the ethics code for MPs.

Dion said Trudeau has 30 days to respond. Dion will then decide whether to launch a formal inquiry.

Should Dion choose to conduct an inquiry, it would be the fourth ethics investigation into Trudeau since 2017.

In December 2017, then-ethics commissioner Mary Dawson found that Trudeau had contravened sections of the Conflict of Interest Act when he accepted a vacation on the Aga Khan's private island. In August 2019, Dion ruled that Trudeau had contravened section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act in the controversy surrounding SNC Lavalin by using his position of authority to try to influence then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

In May 2021, Dion cleared Trudeau of violating ethics rules in the controversy over a proposed deal to have WE Charity administer a youth program.

Barrett's complaint to Dion came after the Globe and Mail revealed that Liberal MPs have been using their taxpayer-funded members' budgets to pay for services from two companies that also provide services to the Liberal Party of Canada: Data Sciences and NGP Van, an American political campaign software company the Liberals use to run their Liberalist campaign database.

The Liberal have maintained that there is a firewall between the services provided to MPs to help them with their constituency work and the services provided to the Liberal Party to do things like raise money and keep track of potential voter support.

Pitfield is a longtime friend of Trudeau who oversaw the Liberal Party's digital operations in the last two elections.

More to come ...

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