Canada's ethics watchdog will question Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over accusations that he gave privileged access to rich donors. There is still no evidence of wrongdoing, Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson has said.
Dawson said she would "follow up with Mr. Trudeau" after the two largest opposition parties accused the prime minister and his justice minister, Bill Blair, of conflict of interest.
The opposition claims that the officials gave privileged access to donors during three fundraising events this year. Previously, Canadian media reported on the so-called "cash-for-access" events where Trudeau and Blair interacted with various businessmen, potentially giving them the chance to influence government policy.
For example, Blair, who is government's point man on the legalization of marijuana, spoke at an event attended by people involved with Canada's Cannabis Friendly Business Association. In turn, Trudeau allegedly spoke to businessman Thomas Liu, who is involved in canola exports to China, banker Shengling Xian, and others.
No evidence so far
In a written reply to the opposition inquiry, Ethics Commissioner Dawson said that there was not enough evidence to start a formal examination "at this time."
However, "your letter and media articles leave me with concerns in relation to Mr. Trudeau's interactions with individuals involved with the canola export agreement, Wealth One Bank, and Anbang Insurance Group," Dawson wrote in the letter to interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, as cited by the Canada's public broadcaster CBC.
"Consequently, I will follow up with Mr. Trudeau regarding his involvement with the fundraising events and with the three above-noted matters," Dawson added.
After the talk, Dawson would decide whether a full investigation was needed.
Trudeau has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, saying that donors can only give a maximum of C$1,500 ($1,120) per person, too small an amount of money to influence government policy.
"The fact is, at the federal level our fundraising rules put very strict limits on personal donations," he told reporters on Thursday. "They have completely eliminated corporate and union donations, and there is absolute and total transparency for anyone who gives money to the federal level."
"Our commitment is to show the highest level of ethical standards, and that's exactly what we're doing," he added.
Trudeau, who won office last year, said he was looking forward to answering questions from Dawson or other officials looking into the matter.
Darko Janjevic (with Reuters)