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Trudeau recuses himself from appointment of new ethics commissioner

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during question period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on May 10, 2017.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Justin Trudeau has recused himself from making a decision on a replacement for outgoing Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson, who is investigating the Prime Minister for a possible breach of conflict-of-interest rules.

Ms. Dawson, who retires on July 8, has launched a formal investigation into the Prime Minister's Christmas vacation at the private island of billionaire Ismali Muslim leader Aga Khan in the Bahamas.

"Effective immediately, the Prime Minister has recused himself from all matters related to the appointment of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, given the ongoing inquiry into the Prime Minister's family vacation this past Christmas," Mr. Trudeau's communications director Kate Purchase said in a statement.

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Ms. Purchase said Government House Leader Bardish Chagger will be responsible for naming a replacement for Ms. Dawson.

The Ethics Commissioner is investigating Mr. Trudeau for a possible breach of the Conflict of Interest Act for not seeking her approval before he used a private helicopter owned by the Aga Khan to fly from Nassau to the Aga Khan's private island.

Mr. Trudeau's own Open and Accountable Government rules state that "ministers and parliamentary secretaries must not accept sponsored travel …this includes all travel, non-commercial, chartered or private aircraft for any purpose except in exceptional circumstances" without the approval of the Ethics Commissioner.

The Prime Minister and his family flew to Nassau aboard a government Challenger Jet in late December. He was joined on the vacation by Newfoundland Liberal MP Seamus O'Regan and his husband as well as Liberal Party President Anna Gainey and her husband.

Mr. Trudeau has admitted he did not seek Ms. Dawson's approval but said that he believes he had not done anything unethical. He argued that the only way to get to the Aga Khan's island was to use his personal helicopter.

The opposition parties had demanded that Mr. Trudeau recuse himself from the appointment of Ms. Dawson's successor. Ms. Dawson is not certain she can conclude her investigation before she retires.

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