Ottawa MP broke rules endorsing husband for council

Canada’s ethics commissioner says Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld shouldn’t have made robocalls encouraging voters to elect her husband to Ottawa city council last fall.

Some Bay ward residents complained to the commissioner’s office after receiving calls from the Ottawa West–Nepean MP in mid-October, days before the election.

In the recorded message, Vandenbeld asked residents to vote for her husband, Don Dransfield, to represent the same general area of the city. Dransfield lost the Oct. 22 election to Theresa Kavanagh.

In a ruling released Wednesday, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said Vandenbeld broke a section of the House of Commons conflict of interest code that deals with using influence or insider information to further a private interest.

“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.

According to Dion, Vandenbeld did not breach a different section of the code about furthering a family member’s private interests because Dransfield didn’t win.

‘Made in good faith’

In October, Vandenbeld suggested the rules apply only to promoting a family company or getting a family member a government contract, not running for public office.

In the report, Dion said Vandenbeld “made significant efforts to comply with the rules that she had considered,” such as not using parliamentary resources for the municipal campaign and stopping immediately after hearing from the commissioner.

“Even though Ms. Vandenbeld contravened the Code, the report notes that her non-compliance was an error of judgment made in good faith,” the news release said.

For that reason, Dion is not recommending sanctions against Vandenbeld.

In a statement to CBC News Wednesday, Vandenbeld said she believes she was being open and transparent in the robocalls, identifying herself and her relationship with Dransfield.

“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 wrote.

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