POLITICS

Rookie Tory MP Pat Perkins Accused Of Skirting House Rules

02/17/2015 08:50 EST | Updated 02/18/2015 02:59 EST
CP

OTTAWA — A new Conservative MP is skirting House of Commons rules by hiring her daughter’s live-in fiancé, critics charged Tuesday.

Whitby–Oshawa MP Pat Perkins hired James Beattie, her daughter Laura’s fiancé, to work in her constituency office after her byelection win last November.

The hiring doesn’t explicitly flout the rules. Commons bylaws state that MPs cannot hire “immediate family” which is defined as “a Member’s father, mother, brother, sister, spouse, and children, as well as the spouses and children of the Member’s children.” The policy is silent about a family member's fiancé, common-law partner or live-in partner being employed by an MP.

Beattie and Perkins’ daughter got engaged last year. Their wedding date is set for May 23.

In an email, Perkins’ assistant, Brooke Timpson, said Beattie’s employment would end before the wedding.

“Mr. Beattie’s employment is scheduled to end on May 22,” Timpson wrote.

Perkins told The Huffington Post Canada Wednesday that the House of Commons had not contacted her about Beattie’s employment.

But some people think Perkins is taking advantage of a loophole.

“It is unethical to work around the rules by hiring someone who is going to be your future son-in-law and is currently your common-law son-in-law,” local Conservative member David Glover said.

“That is unethical. It may not be illegal, but it is clearly unethical, because the spirit of the rule is that you will not … hire your whole family.”

Glover, a longtime family friend of former finance minister and local MP Jim Flaherty, tried to run against Perkins last August for the Conservative nomination in Flaherty’s former riding. He says that the party backdated the membership cut-off to prevent him from mounting a successful campaign against Perkins, who was mayor of Whitby at the time.

Liberal MP Wayne Easter said Perkins’ decision to employ her daughter’s fiancé broke the spirit of the law.

“The rules are there for a reason, to ensure that a parliamentarian doesn’t use their position to enhance the financial position of family members. This is too close to that line,” he told HuffPost. “I personally don’t understand why she would do it.”

Still, Easter noted that Perkins is a new MP and there have been many cases in the past of MPs going “a little astray of the rules.” He thought the Conservative leadership in the Commons should have told Perkins she could not hire her future son-in-law.

This isn’t the first time an MP’s hiring practices have been scrutinized.There have been past examples of MPs hiring the relatives of other MPs.

NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus did not return requests for comment. Some family members of NDP MPs have been employed in other offices on the Hill. For example, NDP justice critic Françoise Boivin’s partner Ursula Strolenberg works in the NDP research bureau. The practice doesn’t break the rules.

During the 2011 election, the Liberals said Boivin had bolted to the NDP after she had been told by the Grits that she couldn’t employ Strolenberg to work in her Parliamentary office anymore. Boivin, who sat as a Liberal MP from 2004 to 2006, had told the party her partner was only her roommate, according to information obtained by Le Devoir.

Perkins won the Nov. 17 byelection with 49.3 per cent of the vote, compared with 40.7 per cent for her closest rival, Liberal Celina Caesar-Chavannes.

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