POLITICS
10/12/2018 17:40 EDT | Updated 10/12/2018 17:47 EDT

Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld Faces Heat For Robocall Promoting Husband's City Council Bid

The Conservative ethics critic says Tories are "deeply concerned."

Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld is shown in an image she posted to Twitter on Aug. 23.
Twitter/anitavandenbeld
Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld is shown in an image she posted to Twitter on Aug. 23.

A Liberal MP is being accused of crossing the line with a robocall urging constituents to elect her husband to Ottawa's city council.

Anita Vandenbeld, who represents the riding of Ottawa West-Nepean, was heard on an automated message promoting her spouse Don Dransfield in the city's upcoming municipal election.

The costs for the call were paid by Dransfield's campaign in the city's Bay Ward and do not appear to run afoul of rules governing the election, CBC News reports.

In a recording posted online by reporter Laura Osman, the Liberal MP makes it clear off the top that Dransfield, who runs a local consulting company, is her husband.

"As your federal MP, I'm looking for a municipal counterpart who is going to fight as hard for the people of our community as I do," she says.

Listen to the recording:

Conservative MP Peter Kent, his party's critic for ethics, released a statement Friday saying Tories are "deeply concerned" about Vandenbeld's conduct.

"Using one's influence as an elected Member to help a family member is both morally and ethically wrong," Kent said in the release.

"Instead of doing the right thing and apologizing for her shameful conduct, Ms. Vandenbeld reportedly defended her actions and stated that she would do this again."

Vandenbeld, first elected in 2015, sits on the House of Commons ethics committee alongside Kent. The Tory MP suggested the move fits a pattern for Liberals, noting ethics investigations that some ministers have faced and the 2017 ruling from the ethics commissioner that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated conflict rules.

"It is clear that this government would rather use public office to benefit Liberal insiders and their wealthy friends than make ethical decisions that are in the best interest of Canadians," he said.

Kent would not tell HuffPost Canada if Tories want the commissioner to look into the matter.

Section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Code for MPs states: "A Member shall not use his or her position as a Member to influence a decision of another person so as to further the Member's private interests or those of a member of his or her family, or to improperly further another person's or entity's private interests."

Vandenbeld told HuffPost in an email that she was "never under the impression that the intent of the Code was to dissuade a Member of Parliament from encouraging or supporting those who choose to serve to represent Canadians at any level of government."

Expressing a position to constituents on who is best suited to represent them at City Hall is "not analogous to a private corporation hiring a specific individual," she said in the release, emphasizing that no parliamentary resources were used in the matter.

Watchdog 'considering' inquiry


"There are many examples in Canadian politics of spouses who both seek to serve the public in elected office," she said. "I have always set a high standard for myself with regard to my integrity and conduct as a Member of Parliament, and I want to reassure my constituents that I will always continue to do so."

Vandenbeld added that, "as a matter of prudence," she has asked the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner for his advice on the matter.

A spokesperson for ethics watchdog Mario Dion told HuffPost that an inquiry has not yet been launched.

"It was brought to his attention yesterday by a member of the media and at this point, he is simply considering it," the spokesperson said.

With a file from Althia Raj