OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, dogged by accusations that rich donors to his Liberal Party gained privileged access, will be questioned by the ethics commissioner to see whether he broke conflict of interest rules, an official said on Thursday.
The development marks a new low for Trudeau, who came to power in November 2015 vowing to run an open and ethical government but faces relentless accusations that the Liberals are running a cash-for-access scheme.
“I will follow up with Mr. Trudeau regarding his involvement with the fundraising events,” Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson said in a letter to Rona Ambrose, interim leader of the opposition Conservative Party, who had filed a complaint.
Jocelyne Brisebois, a spokeswoman for Dawson, said she did not know when the conversation would take place.
Trudeau has been under pressure for weeks about revelations that Liberal donors enjoyed privileged access to fundraising events where the prime minister and cabinet members spoke.
In remarks to reporters after the news broke, Trudeau stuck to his position that he had done nothing wrong.
“We will always work with the ethics commissioner and anyone else who has questions of this government,” he said.
Dawson’s talk with Trudeau will mark the first time in a decade that the ethics commissioner has questioned a sitting prime minister. She will then decide whether a full investigation is needed.
A copy of the letter was made available to Reuters.
Trudeau says it was ridiculous to imagine that donors handing over C$1,500 ($1,120) each - the maximum donation allowed - could influence government policy.
Accountability rules he issued shortly after taking power state: “There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access” for people who contribute to politicians and parties.
Trudeau is in no immediate political danger. His Liberals have a majority in the House of Commons, and the next federal election is not due until October 2019.
Both the Conservatives and the left-leaning New Democrats, the other main opposition party, are holding leadership races that will not end until next year.
A Nanos Research poll on Wednesday showed 61.7 per cent of Canadians would consider voting Liberal. The figure for the Conservatives is 44.5 percent.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Paul Simao and Lisa Von Ahn