Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s making sure “all rules” were followed in the decision to give $103,050 in contracts to a foodie firm with family ties to Housing Minister Ahmed Hussen’s senior staffer.
Global News reported Thursday that Hussen’s office awarded $93,050 in communications contracts to Munch More Media, a Toronto-based firm focused on the food and restaurant industry. The taxpayer funds came from his constituency office budget, not his ministerial budget.
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The director of the company, Hiba Tariq, is sister to Hussen’s director of policy and close advisor, Tia Tariq.
On Friday, Global reported that Marci Ien, the minister of women and gender equality, also gave $10,000 in contracts from her constituency budget to Munch More Media.
“I know the minister (Hussen) has spoken to this and will continue to answer questions on this,” Trudeau said in a press conference on Monday in Hamilton.
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Trudeau’s office has refused to answer questions about what they knew about the contract prior to Global News’ reporting, but sources have suggested it was an open secret within Liberal circles.
“My preoccupation is that the rules always be followed…. But also that members of Parliament continue to put a priority on connecting, communicating with Canadians,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau added that Hussen “is making sure that he’s answering our questions on this.”
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MPs are permitted to spend constituency funds — which ultimately come from the taxpayer — on outside communications work. But a Global News analysis of cabinet ministers’ constituency spending shows that Hussen is just one of three ministers who spent a significant amount of public money on outside public relations help in recent months.
Munch More Media Inc. is a Toronto-based public relations firm specializing in promoting the restaurant and food services industry. It is not clear, outside of what Global News reported last week, that it has any experience in political communications.
Lobbying records show Tia Tariq has been working with Hussen since at least 2017, when he was minister of immigration, and has held a number of positions with Hussen’s office since. She now serves as Hussen’s director of policy.
Hiba Tariq, her sister, is the director of PR firm Munch More Media Inc., a foodie communications firm in Toronto. In a December 2015 Instagram post, Hiba tagged a fellow Instagram user, identifying them as siblings.
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