08/13/2013 12:55 EDT | Updated 10/13/2013 05:12 EDT

Ethics group questions rules that let Tory MP take new job

An ethics watchdog and at least one politician are raising questions about how it was possible for a Manitoba MP to resign and take a new job in the private sector hours later.

On Tuesday, Merv Tweed, a Tory MP for the Brandon-Souris area, announced he was resigning from his position -- stating his last day would be Aug. 31.

Hours later, OmniTRAX Canada, a rail company that owns the Port of Churchill, a major arctic port in Canada’s north, named Tweed as their new president.

Tweed served as the MP for the area for nine years and as recently as six months ago chaired the House of Commons transport committee.

Tyler Sommers of Democracy Watch wasn’t impressed with the move. He said current conflict laws allow for Tweed and other MPs to make similar moves, which is troubling.

“It’s very undemocratic at the end of the day because it allows people to resign today and then tomorrow turn around and lobby their former colleagues,” said Sommers.

Current rules do stipulate MPs have to wait two years before they can become lobbyists, but according to the MP for Winnipeg Centre, Pat Martin, that allows a lot of ethical wiggle room.

“You can go and work for a company that came to lobby you right after you cease to be an MP, so this is where, you know, it’s up to the public to decide if this kind of thing meets the smell test,” said Martin.

Tweed maintains he isn’t don’t anything wrong. “I don’t think I’m in a conflict. I know it will be reviewed -- that’s part of the process whenever an MP leaves,” he said.

Tweed added he has been forthright about the move.

“Our proposal was to make the announcement at the resignation and then make [the hiring] announcement at the same time so no one has any questions as to what I’m doing,” said Tweed. “It just, to me, satisfies a lot of unanswered questions.”

Regardless, Martin and Democracy Watch want to see the current conflict of interest rules for MPs tightened.

“Politicians are able to use those connections they’ve made and the people they’ve met to their advantage when they leave public office,” said Sommers. “As long as you lobby a day a week you can do that without having to register [as an official lobbyist] without being caught in any issue.”