I have no intention of establishing any new doctrine of conflict of interest, of course, but in a situation where decisions are made and the decision-maker has an interest, a private interest, and that is not disclosed, that is an unacceptable situation because nobody can judge the basis upon which the decision has been made. Maybe it is private interests, and maybe it is public interests, but it's invisible. That's why the Conflict of Interest Act requires public office holders to declare their private interests, including their financial dealings and often what would be considered by many Canadians to be quite intimate details of their affairs and of their family. The purpose is so that the light can be shone on their interests.
That does not by itself solve all conflict situations, but it is one of the classic ways of resolving conflict of interest situations so that other parties can judge whether in fact there was a conflict, or, if there was, whether it was resolved in the public interest.
In this case, the Prime Minister was the Minister of Youth in the previous Parliament, and at the same time he had extensive background with an organization that at least in part deals with youth affairs. Therefore, it would not have come as a surprise that he would have had a relationship with WE. Whether that by itself constitutes a conflict of interest is a matter before the commissioner. I think, in his comments, the Prime Minister has indicated that he is willing to submit himself to that finding.
I simply meant that in terms of my own conduct through that period, it did not occur to me that there was a private interest here, because the Prime Minister's interest and involvement and history with WE were anything but private. They were very public. At that time, therefore, I did not say, “Prime Minister, I understand that you have a background with WE, so maybe you shouldn't be part of this conversation”, because it was a very public thing.