Industry Minister Tony Clement is under fire for taking part in a promotional video for a private company trying to rustle up business in China.
Liberals and New Democrats are demanding Clement be fired for using his position to shill for a private enterprise.
And they asked the parliamentary ethics watchdog Thursday to investigate whether the minister broke conflict-of-interest rules or ministerial conduct guidelines.
But the government maintained Clement has done nothing wrong — he was simply trying to help a company in his riding, as all MPs have a duty to do.
Clement took part in a 2008 promotional video for Lord & Partners Ltd., a company that produces environmentally friendly cleaning products. The company is based in Clement's Ontario riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka.
Watch the 2008 promotional video that Conservative MP Tony Clement appeared in.
In the video, Clement identifies himself as the minister of health, as he was at the time, and extends greetings to the people of China "on behalf of myself and the government of Canada."
As industry minister, Clement subsequently appointed the producer of the video, longtime supporter George Young, to the Canadian Tourism Commission. Moreover, Lord & Partners this year received three federal contracts, worth a total of $41,000.
Clement called 'Slap Chop guy'
In the House of Commons, New Democrat Pat Martin suggested Clement is the parliamentary equivalent of infomercial star "Vince, the Slap Chop guy."
"Celebrity endorsements are not part of a cabinet minister's job description," Martin said.
"In fact, they are a blatant conflict of interest. The minister for status of women [Helena Guergis] got fired for a lot less."
Liberal MP Wayne Easter accused Clement of having broken the conflict-of-interest code, Treasury Board communications rules and the prime minister's code of ministerial conduct.
"Unbelievably, the industry minister used his ministerial title to huckster for his friend's ad in a foreign land… Do rules mean nothing for the Conservatives and their friends?"
Government defends Clement
Harper was not in the Commons but his parliamentary secretary, Pierre Poilievre, stood by Clement, one of the prime minister's most seasoned ministers.
Poilievre said Clement was not involved in awarding any federal contracts to Lord & Partners. He said the company owner has never contributed to the Conservative party and that Clement did not gain financially in any way by helping to promote the company.
Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas said Clement was simply doing his duty. "MPs and ministers are supposed to promote Canada, Canadian industries and Canadian companies on the international stage," he said.
Soudas said there's no difference between Clement's video promo and trade missions led by former Liberal prime ministers who introduced delegations of Canadian companies to foreign governments.
Clement was not in the Commons, either. But a spokeswoman for the minister said the video is "clearly not a conflict."
"Just because this company is from Parry Sound-Muskoka does not mean it cannot seek help from its MP to enter new markets," said Lynn Meahan.
But Martin said ministers are specifically barred from using their position to promote anyone's private interests. And he said it's an "abuse of public office" to promote one company over others who may offer similar products.
"This gives the impression to anybody who watches it that this company has the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval of the Government of Canada," he said. Martin said Clement should be kicked out of cabinet at least until the ethics commissioner completes an investigation.