Prime Minister Justin Trudeau regularly receives lavish gifts from world leaders and dignitaries, usually as a matter of protocol.
But a growing trend among freebies to the prime minister and his family are gifts from clothing designers and private companies. Here is just a taste of some of the many gifts the Trudeau family has received over the last year.
1. Hard-shell carry-on luggage pieces for Justin Trudeau and his wife from Herschel Supply Co., B.C.
2. Blue dress given to Sophie Gregoire Trudeau from Montreal designer Daniel Leinad.
3. Pink bomber jacket given to Gregoire Trudeau from Toronto designer Aleks Susak.
4. Sports accessories for the family from Quebec-based Kombi Sports Inc.
5. Scarves from Toronto designer Leo and Clive for Gregoire Trudeau.
6. Two angora and velour hats adorned with amethyst for Gregoire Trudeau from Toronto designer Sharon Snitman.
7. Clothing for the Trudeau children from B.C.-based Peekaboo Beans Inc.
8. MILCK clutch and editor’s pouch to Gregoire Trudeau from Toronto director of Holt Renfrew, Alexandra Weston.
9. Gift basket containing Jack Daniel’s products from Canadian Whisky brand ambassador Alexis Green.
10. Huawei Mate 10 Pro Android phone for Justin Trudeau from Li Keqiang, premier of the People’s Republic of China. This gift was forfeited.
Canada's ethics watchdog, Mario Dion, says all the gifts listed on the prime minister's public gift registry have been cleared by his office and are compliant with the rules of the Conflict of Interest Act. But NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus says he believes these corporate gifts are "problematic."
"What's concerning is fashion labels sending clothes to the family, because this is a family that is very much in the spotlight, very much in the world of Instagram and there would be a very real benefit for a company to have them sporting their clothing labels as gifts," he said. "The connection to the pecuniary interests of those companies is clear and direct." If the Trudeaus are photographed sporting their gear, the companies often use these images to promote their business brands. A growing trend among the high-priced offerings to the prime ministerial family are gifts from private companies -- clothing and accessories from Canadian designers hoping the famous family will sport their wares in public.
Numerous clothing designers have offered gifts to Gregoire Trudeau, and have later posted photos or references to the prime minister's wife sporting their wares on their official websites and social media feeds. They are also apt to name-drop the Trudeaus when interviewed in magazine-style feature stories about their brands.
Canada's Conflict of Interest Act has only been in force since 2007, and has therefore governed only two prime ministers and their governments -- those of Trudeau and Stephen Harper.
Stephen Harper received his own trove of gifts: paintings, sculptures and even some personalized gifts such as Beatles paraphernalia from world leaders and dignitaries during his tenure as prime minister. But the clothing and accessories from Canadian fashion designers being sent to the Trudeau family fall within a newer category, Angus argues, more in line with the kinds of gifts given to celebrities and royals.
"We are dealing with a new genre of politics which is very much focused on the politician as a celebrity, and nobody anywhere in the world personifies this more than Justin Trudeau and the Trudeau family," Angus said. "They're trailblazers in the sort of brand identification of celebrity politicians. So a clothing line tied to them would have huge financial benefits."For that reason, Angus believes these kinds of gifts should not be accepted.
All gifts to public office holders over $200 must be publicly declared. Anything over $1,000 must be forfeited to the Crown, although they can be retained if the public office holder pays the difference. The rules dictate that public officer holders cannot accept gifts that could reasonably be perceived as attempts to influence them in the exercise of their official duties.
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