OTTAWA, Jan 12 (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, under fire for holidaying on a Caribbean island owned by the Aga Khan, on Thursday revealed he had flown there by private helicopter – an apparent breach of official ethics rules.
Trudeau, 45, came to power in November 2015 promising to run an open and accountable administration but has been dogged by repeated questions about his luxury Bahamas vacation over the New Year, which his officials first declined to talk about.
Justin Trudeau and bride Sophie Gregoire leave the Sainte-Madeleine D’Outremont Church, Montreal, after their wedding ceremony here, May 28, 2005. The car a 1959 Mercedez 300SL, was Pierre Trudeua’s car and was recently renovated and given its original silver grey colour.
(Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
With son Justin in her lap; Margaret Trudeau; wife of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau; sits in a car outside the Inn on the Park just before a lunchtime visit to the home of friends. Star photographers Dick Loek had been waiting in the Don Mills hotel’s lobby hoping the family might emerge. Mrs. Trudeau; with Justin in her arms; walked to her car accompanied by three security men. At the time; her husband was visiting an Etobicoke Ukrainian home for the elderly.
(Photo by Dick Loek/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Justin steals the show. Margaret Trudeau; the Prime Minister’s wife; and son Justin walk along the lake at Mont Tremblant.
(Photo by Graham Bezant/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Tracking the track stars. Drama of the pole-vaulting at Toronto Star Maple Leaf Indoor Games last night in Maple Leaf Gardens captured Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his wife; Margaret; but their 2-year-old son; Justin; was a little overwhelmed by it all. Although their two-day visit to Metro was on a crowded schedule; Trudeaus stayed ‘at games for more than an hour. They had hoped to st for all events; but Justin tired and wouldn’t sleep they left before halfway mark.
(Photo by Boris Spremo/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Justin Trudeaus (R)
(Photo by Boris Spremo/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Canadian Prime Minister Pierre E. Trudeau joins sons Justin, Sacha, and Michel in this photo for his 1980 Christmas card. Justin and Sacha will be nine and seven years, respectively on Christmas Day. Michel is five
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Justin Trudeau pictured at age 14 in December, 1986.
(Boris Spremo/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Justin Trudeau, the eldest son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, speaks about the loss of his brother Michel as he is accompanied by his mother Margaret, as they launch an awareness campaign with the Canadian Avalanche Foundation, January 14 on Mt. Seymour. As a result of the loss of Michel in an Avalanche accident in 1998, the Trudeau family is helping support avalanche safety awareness.
(Reuters Photographer / Reuters)
Sacha(L) and Justin Trudeau(C) and former wife Margaret Kemper(R) of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau look over his casket in the Hall of Honor on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada 30 September, 2000. The former prime minister died 28 September after a a battle with prostate cancer.
(AARON HARRIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Justin Trudeau (L) and his brother Alexandre, sons of the late Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, pose with a stamp honouring their father at it’s unveiling in Montreal, July 3, 2001. Pierre Trudeau, one of Canada’s most popular politicians, died in September 2000.
(Shaun Best / Reuters)
Justin Trudeau speaks at the countdown to World Youth Day 2002at Nathan Philips Square. The international youth conference and papal visit to Canada from July 18-28, 2002 will be held at the old Downsview airport.
(Photo by Jim Ross/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Justin Trudeau, on stage, during the tribute to Jean Chretien at the ACC.
(Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet (R) greets Justin Trudeau, son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, at the Kalachakra Teachings at the Sky Dome in Toronto, April 25, 2004. His Holiness will confer the Kalachakra Initiation for World Peace, the largest Buddhist ritual and initiation regularly conferred by the Dalai Lama.
(REUTERS/Mike Cassese MC/HB)
Justin and Alexandre Trudeau stand by the plaque which offically renames Dorval Airport in honor of their late father former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau in Montreal on September 9, 2003. The new name “The Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport” will be effective January 1, 2004.
Justin Trudeau and bride Sophie Gregoire share a kiss as Margaret Trudeau looks on as they leave the Sainte-Madeleine D’Outremont Church, Montreal, after their wedding ceremony here, May 28, 2005.
(Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Justin Trudeau introduces Liberal leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy at the Liberal convention in Montreal, December 1, 2006.
Liberal leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy and Justin Trudeau, son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, attend the Liberal convention in Montreal, November 29, 2006. The Liberal Party will elect a new leader later in the week.
Justin Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, talks to supporters after winning the Liberal nomination for the Montreal riding of Papineau April 29, 2007.
Justin Trudeau, son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and candidate for the Liberal Party in Montreal, is seen during an interview in his campaign office on October 12, 2008 in Montreal, two days before the federal elections on October 14. One of three sons of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, prime minister of Canada from 1968 to 1979, and 1980 to 1984, Justin Trudeau swapped a teaching career for a chance to represent his father’s Liberals in the Montreal electoral district of Papineau, and win it back from the separatists who took it in 2006.
(DAVID BOILY/AFP/Getty Images)
Mia Farrow and Justin Trudeau
(Colin McConnell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau is pictured during an event to mark the end of ‘Movember’ on Parliament Hill in Ottawa November 30, 2010. A group of MPs and staff who grew moustaches during the month of November raised more than CDN $30,000 for prostate cancer research.
Canadian Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff serves pancakes with Liberal MP Justin Trudeau as they attend a pancake breakfast in Frampton, July 21, 2010.
Lui Temkovski the Liberal candidate for Oak Ridges-Markham gets a visit from Justin Trudeau during his Liberal Party’s auxiliary tour around the GTA today. They go mainstreeting in the town of Markham.
(Photo by David Cooper/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Liberal Party leadership candidate Justin Trudeau speaks to supporters at a rally in Mississauga, October 4, 2012.
Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau smiles during his speech at the Dashmesh Culture Senior Citizen Society in Calgary, Alberta, October 3, 2012. Calgary was his first stop after announcing he will seek the leadership of the Liberal party of Canada.
Sophie Gregoire and Justin Trudeau arrive at the ‘Midnight’s Children’ Premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on September 9, 2012 in Toronto, Canada.
(Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
Liberal Member of Parliament Justin Trudeau meets liberal supporters at a Stampede breakfast during the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, July 7, 2012.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau dumps a bucket of ice water onto Liberal MP Sean Casey for the ALS ice bucket challenge during a break in the Federal Liberal summer caucus meetings in Edmonton August 19, 2014.
(REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber/File Photo)
French President Francois Hollande welcomes Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau prior to attending a meeting at the Elysee Presidential Palace on November 29, 2015 in Paris, France. France will host climate change conference COP21 in Paris from November 30 to December 11, 2015.
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Canada’s Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau arrives at a ceremony to commemorate the October 2014 attack on Parliament Hill, at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Canada October 22, 2015. The event also honoured the lives of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo, two soldiers killed in a pair of separate attacks police said were carried out independently by radical recent converts to Islam.
Canadian Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau waits with his son Xavier to cast his ballot in Montreal on October 19, 2015. The first of 65,000 polling stations opened Monday on Canada’s Atlantic seaboard for legislative elections that pitted Prime Minister Stephen’s Tories against liberal and social democratic parties. Up to 26.4 million electors are expected to vote in 338 electoral districts. Some 3.6 million already cast a ballot in advance voting a week ago, and the turnout Monday is expected to be high.
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The Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau, visits Paul Brown Boxfit boxing gym for a photo opportunity on August 6, 2015 in Toronto.
(Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Premier Kathleen Wynne joined Liberal Party of Canada leader Justin Trudeau for an election rally in Toronto Centre Monday night.
(Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau waves to supporters as he arrives for the first federal leaders debate of the 2015 Canadian election campaign on August 6, 2015 in Toronto, Canada. The federal election is set for October 19, 2015.
(GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)
Canadian Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie wave on stage in Montreal on October 20, 2015 after winning the general elections.
(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau meets with the editorial board at the Toronto Star in Toronto.
(Todd Korol/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is greeted by British Prime Minister David Cameron prior to their meeting in Downing Street on November 25, 2015 in London, England.
(Photo by Tolga Akmen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau poses with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre as they visit the site of the Universite de Montreal’s new Science Complex in Montreal, December 16, 2016.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks with Prince George following the arrival of Britain’s Prince William, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George and Princess Charlotte at the Victoria International Airport for the start of their eight day royal tour to Canada in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, September 24, 2016.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during a meeting in Trudeau’s office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, December 9, 2016.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, December 12, 2016.
Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau and US President Barack Obama exit the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill following the North American Leaders Summit in Ottawa, June 28, 2016.
(CHRIS ROUSSAKIS/AFP/Getty Images)
(L-R) Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prince William the Duke of Cambridge, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, and Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge take a walk at the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, in Vancouver, British Columbia on September 25, 2016.
(JONATHAN HAYWARD/AFP/Getty Images)
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a meeting with representatives of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, January 10, 2017.
Opposition legislators say the holiday was inappropriate since Ottawa helps fund the Aga Khan’s foundation, and shows Trudeau is out of touch with ordinary Canadians at a time when the economy is struggling.
“The travel back and forth from (the Bahamian capital) Nassau to the island happens on the Aga Khan’s private helicopter, which he offered us the use of … we don’t see an issue on that,” he told a televised news conference in Kingston, Ontario, during a cross-country tour to meet voters.
The Aga Khan, the wealthy leader of the Ismaili branch of Shi’ite Islam, is a close Trudeau family friend.
Under ethics rules which Trudeau himself introduced in 2015, government ministers may not take private flights without first getting approval from Mary Dawson, the country’s conflict of interest and ethics commissioner.
Asked why he flew on the helicopter without consulting Dawson, Trudeau said he would happily answer any questions she might have. Dawson has already opened a preliminary inquiry into opposition complaints about the vacation.
Trudeau, who faces a separate probe by Dawson into fundraising by his Liberal party, last week scrapped a trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos and announced the cross-country tour.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Alan Crosby)