Ottawa·ELECTION 2018

Did an MP break rules by endorsing her husband for city council?

When Ottawa West-Nepean MP Anita Vandenbeld sent a robocall to her constituents asking them to vote for her husband in the upcoming municipal election, it raised a few eyebrows on social media. But did the unusual endorsement break any rules?

Code of conduct for MP prohibits using office to help private interests of family members

Anita Vandenbeld is the Liberal MP for Ottawa West-Nepean. Her robocall endorsing her husband in the upcoming municipal election raised some eyebrows. But did it break any rules? (CBC News)

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?

It's a question being raised after some residents of Bay ward received automated phone calls this week from Anita Vandenbeld, their Liberal MP.

Vandenbeld's robocall opens with her asking the listener to vote for her husband Don Dransfield, who's running for city council.

"As your federal MP," Vandenbeld says in the call, "I'm looking for a municipal counterpart to who's going to fight as hard for the people of the community as I do."

That message appeared to rub some people on social media the wrong way. 

Integrity commissioner 'considering' the matter

The call does seem to comply with Ottawa election rules, and the costs were paid for by Dransfield's campaign.

However, the conflict of interest code for members of the House of Commons states that an MP "shall not use his or her position as a member to influence a decision of another person so as to further the member's private interests or those of a member of his or her family."

The position of Ottawa city councillor comes with a $100,000 salary. 

When asked whether Vandenbeld's automated call broke any rules, a spokeswoman with the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner said the office was "considering" the matter.

As well, in its guidelines for MPs writing letters of recommendation, the ethics commissioner states that "in no case may [a member of parliament] provide a letter of support for a spouse, common-law partner or dependent child."

Vandenbeld says code doesn't apply

Vandenbeld, a member of the ethics committee, said the conflict of interest rules apply to things like advancing the interests of a family company or helping a family member secure a government contract.

She said she did not check with the ethics commissioner before sending out the robocall.

"In this case, we're talking about a public interest," she said. "We're talking about somebody who is running for elected office which is completely outside the code of conduct."

Dransfield's campaign website states that he runs his own consulting company, and Vandenbeld said he is "giving up all of his clients in order to run for council."

His decision to run is "not in my private interest, I can pretty much guarantee you that," she added.

"For people who are strong supporters of mine, knowing that I have faith in somebody — knowing that I am, in this case, directly linked to [a candidate] — can actually be helpful because there are many people who like the way I do politics," Vandenbeld said. 

"When there are couples in politics where both of them are public service oriented, both of them are politically ambitious ... it's very important that both of them be able to seek public office and be able to contribute fully."