The Conservatives are calling for action to be taken against former Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi after it was revealed this week that she employed her sister for years in violation of parliamentary rules.
Michael Barrett, the shadow minister for ethics, sent a letter to the Speaker of the House of Commons on Nov. 12 asking for “remedial measures” to be taken while Ratansi awaits recommendations from the ethics commissioner.
Ratansi announced on Nov. 9 that she was leaving the Liberal caucus after admitting she employed a relative at her constituency office. Ratansi, who represents Don Valley East, said in a statement posted to Facebook that she “made an error” by employing her sister. She apologized to her constituents and said she intends to continue representing the riding as an independent.
According to CBC reports, Ratansi went to extensive lengths to cover up her sister’s employment including concealing her identity, asking staff to call her sister a different name, giving instructions not to photograph her sister at public events, and having her sister hide in a spare office when the public would come to the constituency office.
“Ms. Ratansi knew it was wrong to employ her sister with taxpayer dollars, yet she went to great lengths to cover up this information. Canadians deserve better from their elected leaders,” Barrett wrote in the letter to House Speaker Anthony Rota.
“I ask that you bring this matter before the Board of Internal Economy at the earliest opportunity, so that the appropriate remedial measures can be taken.”
The letter notes that the Board of Internal Economy passed a bylaw in 2012 that prohibits MPs from hiring their siblings or other family members.
The letter says that although Ratani is awaiting “guidance” from the ethics commissioner, “her likely ethics violation has no bearing on the inappropriate use of parliamentary resources which the Board has full and complete jurisdiction to address immediately.”
The office of Federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion confirmed in a post on Twitter on Nov. 12 that he has written a “letter of concern” to Ratansi giving her 30 days to respond.
At a news conference on Nov. 10, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Ratansi’s behaviour is unacceptable and he expects a thorough follow-up by the House of Commons administration.
“We need to know that there are strong rules in place to ensure that [MPs] behave properly,” he said.
Meanwhile, Barrett also raised concerns this week after the Commons ethics committee learned that records related to ongoing investigations of Trudeau and his family members’ speaking fees in relation to the WE Charity scandal had been destroyed.
Barrett said Trudeau’s talent agency, Speakers’ Spotlight, destroyed five years of records on speaking fees dated between the years 2008-2013, which the committee had requested before Parliament was prorogued. Since July, the committee has been seeking details on about $1.3 million in corporate sponsorship fees paid to Trudeau and his wife, Sophie, since 2008.
“Speakers’ Spotlight has destroyed all the records of speaking engagements for the individuals named in the motion, the prime minister and his spouse, for any period outside of seven years,” Barrett said in a video on Twitter on Nov.9. “Interestingly, this committee ordered those documents in the previous session.”