OTTAWA - Embattled Industry Minister Christian Paradis has lost another staff member amid a controversy.
The Conservative government emphasized Thursday that Paradis's former director of communications Richard Walker was no longer in his employ.
CTV News reported on Wednesday that Walker had charged personal expenses to a government credit card during a trip to Las Vegas. The network said he did not reimburse the government for five months.
Neither Paradis's office nor Government House Leader Peter Van Loan disputed the details. A government source said that Walker had discussed leaving Paradis's office some time ago because of a health issue.
"We are talking about a former employee," Van Loan told the Commons. "That is an important point.
"The second point is that all monies have been recovered. The taxpayers are not on the hook for a single dime. That is exactly how our government should act in the circumstances."
Margaux Stastny, a spokeswoman for Paradis, would not say why it took five months for the expenses to be repaid.
Paradis himself has faced calls for his resignation. Two weeks ago, the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner ruled he had broken the rules when he gave privileged access to his department to a former Conservative colleague.
In question period, NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice called Paradis "the conflict of interest minister."
"Will the minister finally put on some pants and take responsibility for all these scandals and resign, or does he think that playing blackjack at Caesar's Palace is an acceptable government expense?" Boulerice said.
Walker is not the first staffer in Paradis' office to resign over an ethics issue.
Former adviser Sebastien Togneri quit in 2010 after it was revealed he had meddled in several access to information requests when Paradis was Public Works Minister. The information commissioner later ruled that Togneri had violated the Access to Information Act, but the RCMP did not lay charges.
Two other staffers who also were involved in the access requests kept their jobs with Paradis.
The issue of credit card expenses is reminiscent of another controversy that embroiled former Liberal junior minister Ethel Blondin-Andrew in 1996. She admitted to charging personal expenses, including a fur coat, to a government credit card for three years because she did not have a personal card.
In that case, Blondin-Andrew reimbursed the government each month and said nobody had told her what she was doing was improper.
Here's a rundown of <a href="http://www.parl.gc.ca/ParlInfo/Lists/Salaries.aspx?Menu=HOC-Politic&Section=03d93c58-f843-49b3-9653-84275c23f3fb&Year=2011" target="_hplink">how much our MPs make</a> depending on their position in the House. (Alamy)
The base salary for a Member of Parliament is $157,731. Being named to cabinet or other positions nets an MP extra pay. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/scazon/" target="_hplink">Flickr: Scazon</a>)
NDP MP Nycole Turmel is the Official Opposition Whip. (CP)
Bob Rae is the interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. (CP)
Tim Uppal is the Minister of State for Democratic Reform. Ministers of State are essentially junior cabinet ministers. (CP)
Jim Flaherty is Minister of Finance. (CP) All ministers also receive a car allowance of $2,122.
As NDP chief, Thomas Mulair is leader of the Official Opposition. He also receives a $2,122 car allowance. (CP)
Andrew Scheer is currently serving as speaker. On top of his salary, Scheer receives a rent allowance of $3,000 and a car allowance of $1,061. (CP)
As Prime Minister, Stephen Harper also receives a car allowance of $2,112. (AP)