POLITICS

Senator Suggests New Investigation To Avoid Senate From Being 'Further Tarnished'

André Pratte wants a Tory senator to come clean about Chinese government-sponsored trips.

12/01/2017 18:09 EST | Updated 12/01/2017 18:46 EST
Chris Wattie / Reuters
Andre Pratte looks up while waiting in the entrance of the Senate chamber before being sworn-in as a senator on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 12, 2016.

OTTAWA — Independent Sen. André Pratte sent a message to all his colleagues Friday suggesting there needs to be an investigation into Conservative Sen. Victor Oh's undisclosed private trips to China earlier this year, paid for by the Chinese government.

In a copy of the internal email obtained by HuffPost Canada, Pratte wrote: "I would suggest that the honourable senator himself ask the Senate ethics officer to investigate the matter, in order to clear his name of any wrongdoing."

Facebook/SenatorVictorOh
Sen. Victor Oh speaks at an event commemorating the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in May 2017.

He argued that swift action and a positive conclusion would "avoid the institution's reputation from being further tarnished" and show that potential ethics code breaches are treated seriously.

"I hold a great degree of faith in Senator Oh's high ethical standards. However, I also believe that for the institution's good standing in the hearts and minds of the population, this issue needs to be clarified as soon as possible," wrote Pratte.

Earlier, The Globe and Mail reported since Oh's appointment to the Senate in 2013, he's accepted sponsored trips to China paid by Chinese airlines, three provincial governments, and business groups.

He invited Conservative senators Leo Housakos and Don Plett to join him on a trip in April, and failed to report it to the Senate ethics officer, according to The Globe.

The story also detailed how Liberal MP Geng Tan originally denied travelling to his hometown in China before an official tour in July, but admitted to taking the trip when the newspaper said there were photos published of him by local Chinese media.

Tan was part of a parliamentary delegation that included Liberal MPs Rob Oliphant, Pam Damoff and Tory MP Michael Cooper, according to a certificate issued Aug. 24 by the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs.

CIEC
Copy of a certificate from the Chinese People's Institute Of Foreign Affairs breaking down the cost for a sponsored eight-day trip for a parliamentary delegation in July 2017.

The document shows the domestic cost for the eight-day trip was $5,136.85 for each MP. Their flights ranged from $4,726.50 to $6,466.16 each.

Both Tan and Oh met with Chinese government officials during their trips, despite telling the Globe they were private trips to visit family.

Oh declined HuffPost Canada's request for comment.

Interim Senate Ethics Officer Pierre Legault could not confirm if Oh had approached the office for advice on whether or not he should disclose the trip. Legault's office cited confidentiality as reason to not answer the question.

"We do not comment on whether or not we have received a statement prior to a statement being posted on our website as we cannot otherwise publicly comment on the particular circumstances of individual senators since the office of the ethics officer is bound by confidentiality under the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators."

The revelation comes right before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's four-day visit to China. Officials say kicking off free trade talks between the two countries is not on the prime minister's trip agenda.

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