Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Tuesday.

Ethics watchdog concerned that Scheer’s office advised MP to contravene code

OTTAWA — The federal ethics watchdog says he’s concerned that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s office encouraged a Tory MP to violate the conflict-of-interest code for members of the House of Commons.

In a written ruling Tuesday, Mario Dion says Calgary Conservative MP Stephanie Kusie contravened the code last March 29 when she posted on social media a letter she’d sent the ethics commissioner that day asking him to investigate Raj Grewal, who was a Liberal MP at the time.

Kusie was one of two MPs to ask Dion to investigate whether Grewal was in a conflict of interest when he invited a construction company executive — who was paying Grewal for legal services at the time — to official events with Justin Trudeau during the prime minister’s trip to India early this year.

Grewal was kicked out of the Liberal caucus last week amid revelations that he was under police investigation after racking up enormous gambling debts.

Dion says he’s imposing no sanction on Kusie because she posted her ethics complaint on the advice of the Opposition Leader’s Office (the “OLO,” in Parliament Hill jargon).

Indeed, Dion indicates he’s troubled by the cavalier attitude Scheer’s staff took toward a rule meant to prevent disclosure of an ethics complaint against an MP until that MP has been notified.

Under the code, an MP who requests an ethics investigation is prohibited from making any public comment on the matter until the commissioner confirms that the subject of the inquiry has received a copy of the complaint, or 14 days after the request is made, whichever is earlier.

He says Scheer’s office first gave Kusie’s letter to the National Post, several hours before the commissioner received it, and then urged her to post it on Facebook and Twitter.

“I am concerned that Mrs. Kusie received information and advice from the OLO encouraging her to make public comments once the OLO had made her request public as this clearly prompted her to contravene a provision of the code,” he says.

Dion says Scheer’s office urged Kusie to post her letter, despite knowing that other MPs — including Scheer himself — had previously run afoul of the code by prematurely disclosing their requests for investigations. He notes that in January 2017 the leader had been forced to apologize for public comments about a request for an investigation into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s conduct.

Yet, Dion says both Kusie and an aide told him that in their dealings with Scheer’s office on the matter, “they had never been informed of past incidents involving other members but instead were encouraged to post on social media.”

Only after Dion informed Kusie a week later that she might have contravened the code did the leader’s staff mention those past incidents.

And even then, Dion says an email to Kusie from her assistant summed up advice from the leader’s office this way: ”Staff in OLO did not think that the commissioner’s concerns were ‘a big deal,’ had noted that other members had been ‘similarly reprimanded’ and had sought to obtain approval to ‘leak out the letter (Mrs. Kusie) received confirming that the ethics commissioner is indeed investigating Grewal.’ “

As well, the leader’s staff proposed getting the National Post to correct its March 29 story to delete a reference to Kusie’s sharing her letter to the ethics commissioner with the newspaper. The Post did update its story on April 5, specifying that it got a copy of the letter from “a Conservative staffer.”

Dion concludes that Kusie’s violation of the code “was an error in judgment made in good faith” and on the advice of the leader’s office and consequently recommends no sanctions be imposed.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Andrew Scheer

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Health Services' central zone jumped from 162 active COVID-19 cases to 178 on Friday. Five additional deaths were reported provincewide, bringing the toll to 323. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
622 new COVID-19 cases set another daily high Friday

Province confirmed 622 additional cases Friday

Advocate file photo
Man awaiting murder trial facing two new trials for breaching release conditions

Quentin Strawberry going to trial in March in connection with 2019 murder

Ecole La Prairie students and teachers dressed up in Halloween costumes and paraded by Barrett Kiwanis Place, while waving at the building’s residents in Red Deer on Friday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Ecole La Prairie students parade in Halloween costumes for Red Deer seniors

Dozens of Red Deer students put on their Halloween costumes to spread… Continue reading

Advocate file photo
Preliminary hearing set for Walmart shooting suspect

Chase Freed facing second-degree murder and attempted murder charges

Truck driver Jaskirat Singh Sidhu walks into the Kerry Vickar Centre for his sentencing in Melfort, Sask., Friday, March 22, 2019. nbsp;A lawyer representing the truck driver responsible for the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus collision says he wants to stay in Canada once released from prison. nbsp; THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kayle Neis
Truck driver responsible for Humboldt Broncos crash seeks to stay in Canada

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu was sentenced to eight years after pleading guilty to multiple charges

Regina Pats defenceman Cale Fleury (4) tries to clear OHL Hamilton Bulldogs forward Nicholas Caamano (10) from in front of the net during third period Memorial Cup semifinal action in Regina on Friday, May, 25, 2018. The Ontario Hockey League will not have bodychecking this coming season. Lisa MacLeod, Ontario's minister of sport, confirmed the decision on Friday afternoon.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
MacLeod: No bodychecking allowed in upcoming Ontario Hockey League season

MacLeod: No bodychecking allowed in upcoming Ontario Hockey League season

Colorado Avalanche goalie Pavel Francouz (39) makes the save on Minnesota Wild's Alex Galchenyuk (27) during third period NHL exhibition game action in Edmonton, on Wednesday July 29, 2020. Galchenyuk says his new team is getting a motivated player with something to prove. The forward signed a one-year, US$1.05-million contract with the Ottawa Senators in free agency earlier this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alex Galchenyuk eager for fresh start with Senators: ‘I have a lot to prove’

Alex Galchenyuk eager for fresh start with Senators: ‘I have a lot to prove’

Bayern's Alphonso Davies, right, challenges PSG's Thilo Kehrer, left, during the Champions League final soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon, Portugal, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020. Canadians Alphonso Davies, Will Johnson, Pat Onstad and Dwayne De Rosario are among the 134 finalists for Major League Soccer's "25 Greatest" players. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Miguel A. Lopes/Pool
Davies, DeRo join Beckham, Giovinco and others as finalists for MLS’ ‘25 Greatest’

Davies, DeRo join Beckham, Giovinco and others as finalists for MLS’ ‘25 Greatest’

Michael Jordan’s NASCAR team partners with Gibbs, Toyota

Michael Jordan’s NASCAR team partners with Gibbs, Toyota

Canadian junior men’s finalist Krats gets call to fill in on Team Gushue

Canadian junior men’s finalist Krats gets call to fill in on Team Gushue

FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, file photo, Detroit Lions strong safety Duron Harmon (26), cornerback Darryl Roberts (29) and safety Jayron Kearse (42) review plays with defensive backs coach Steve Gregory and defensive coordinator Cory Undlin, right, on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville, Fla. The NFL is recommending that players on the sidelines who are not participating in a game or about to go on the field wear protective masks, according to a league management council memo obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. Although the NFL stopped short of mandating masks for all players not on the field, it “strongly encouraged” all active players in the bench area who are not about to enter the game to wear masks while standing on the sideline and/or sitting on the bench. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
NFL recommends some sideline players wear masks during games

NFL recommends some sideline players wear masks during games

Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos walks onto the field before an MLS soccer match against the San Jose Earthquakes in Vancouver on Saturday, July 20, 2019. In a season full of adversity, the Vancouver Whitecaps have been dealt yet another blow in their quest for the playoffs. Major League Soccer has announced that post-season placements will be determined on points per game due to an unbalanced schedule caused by COVID-19 outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘We just have to deal with it’: Whitecaps’ path to playoffs gets a little rockier

‘We just have to deal with it’: Whitecaps’ path to playoffs gets a little rockier

“Callous and cowardly:” Alberta woman who shot husband sentenced to 18 years

“Callous and cowardly:” Alberta woman who shot husband sentenced to 18 years

Most Read