Liberal MP found guilty of conflict-of-interest, but no action will be taken
Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld has been found guilty of using her position of authority to advocate for her husband Don Dransfield in his failed bid for a City Council position in the Bay Ward area, reports Canadian Press’s Teresa Wright.
The conflict-of-interest stems from her decision to explicitly mention her position as MP in a letter, on social-media accounts, and through automated robocalls to influence voters.
“The evidence showed that the way Ms. Vandenbeld communicated to voters, who are also her constituents, using her MP title to endorse her spouse’s candidacy and thereby increase his election prospects, was prohibited,” according to a news release, reports CBC News.
Her letter to voters reads as follows:
As your federal Liberal Member of Parliament, I know how important it is to listen to the people of our community in government decision-making, to be accessible to people and to help people in every way that I can. It is important to have that kind of political leader at all levels of government. I need a strong municipal counterpart who will partner with other levels of government, with community associations, non-profit groups and small businesses to make our community one where everyone can succeed.
That is why I am asking you to support my husband, Don Dransfield, who is running for City Council in the municipal election.
In addition to her letter, Vandenbeld also sent out automated robocalls to voters in the area. “As your federal MP, I’m looking for a municipal counterpart to who’s going to fight as hard for the people of the community as I do,” she says.
She, then, utilized social-media accounts to further advocate for her husband, and it is not clear from her posts whether she was acting as MP or a private citizen, writes Wright.
This has led CBC News to ask the question “When the MP for Ottawa West–Nepean sent a robocall to her constituents asking them to vote for her husband in the upcoming municipal election, did she violate the code of conduct for federal politicians?”
The answer is a resounding ‘Yes’. All the above examples are in violation of the conflict-of-interest code, regardless if her husband won a seat or not, according to a ruling released Wednesday.
“The position of city councillor for Bay Ward, with its six-figure annual salary and other benefits over a four-year term, clearly constitutes a private interest,” said Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion.
However, no actions will be taken against the Liberal MP, with the Ethics Commissioner acknowledging wrongdoing, but assuming ignorance on the part of Vandenbeld.
In the report, Dion said that Vandenbeld “made significant efforts to comply with the rules that she had considered”, but that she overlooked certain details. Despite this oversight, she did not use “parliamentary resources for the municipal campaigned” and stopped “immediately after hearing from hearing from the commissioner”, reports CBC News.
Dion continued, “Weighing all of the evidence, I can only conclude that Ms. Vandenbeld used her position as a Member of the House of Commons to endorse her spouse in a manner intended to give weight and credibility to his candidacy,”. However, he added that he believes her actions were a result of “an error in judgment made in good faith”; and, thus, not worthy of any further action.
“He recommends there be no punishment for the breach,” reports the Ottawa Citizen.