Peter Goldring's pocket pen video camera keeps MPs talking

Every morning, Conservative MP Peter Goldring tucks an accessory into his suit pocket: a tiny video camera, commonly called a spy pen or camera pen. Goldring carries it everywhere, and last fall he advised other MPs to do the same to avoid "besmirchment."

Edmonton Tory MP carries pen-sized video camera ever since his roadside legal drama

See what Peter Goldring's camera pen catches

8 years ago
Duration 18:49
Conservative MP Peter Goldring tells the CBC's Julie Van Dusen why he carries a spy camera pen everywhere he goes.

Conservative MP Peter Goldring puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like any other politician.

But then he tucks an accessory into his suit pocket. As far as we can tell, it makes him unique on Parliament Hill.

It's a pen. But it's also a tiny video camera, commonly called a spy pen or camera pen.

"I have it with me at all times, so it's not just on Parliament Hill. And particularly after my instance, I particularly want to wear it when I'm driving," Goldring said.

He's referring to a charge he faced in 2011 for refusing a breathalyzer test when he was pulled over in his Alberta riding of Edmonton-East. 

Goldring said he had merely been asking police for more details. The judge agreed and he was acquitted, but his legal fees hit $50,000. Goldring believes he could have prevented that with proof of his conversation with police.

"Had I had protection like this, to be filming the police, my case wouldn't have gone to court, and instead I was put through a year and a half of very traumatic period of time," he said.

Not always on

Goldring had his spy pen with him recently at the House foreign affairs committee. The witnesses included Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson, then defence minister Rob Nicholson and then foreign affairs minister John Baird. Goldring said he never turned on his pen during the meeting.

"I'm wearing it, but in most instances it's not on. But I have it in my pocket for whatever use I want to use it for," Goldring said.

Asked if he lets people know when it is activated, he said, "I think that you'd want to have a reason for it, and possibly, most of the time let the person know."

Most of the time? 

"Yeah," he said, "because all the time you don't necessarily want to." 

Not enough to be 'honourable'

Goldring took the spy pen on a flight recently and keeps one in Ottawa and one in his Alberta constituency. He hasn't recorded with it often, but he's shown a few friends and colleagues how it works, and used it to record his interview with CBC News.

Goldring's camera raised eyebrows a few months ago in the midst of harassment allegations against two Liberal MPs when he said in a news release that the male MPs should have had "protection" in the form of body-worn video recording equipment to back up their story.

"It will not be good enough to simply say that your intentions were honourable and that you were just inviting a colleague to your apartment at two in the morning to play a game of Scrabble at the end of a day of playing sports and drinking," he wrote.

That would help "prevent besmirchment," he said.​

The release was quickly yanked by PMO, but it had already stirred up a flurry of criticism and ridicule on social media. Goldring doesn't want to talk about that. 

MPs ponder Goldring's gadget

Conservative MP Laurie Hawn sits with Goldring on the foreign affairs committee.

"He can do what he wants — it's a free country," he said.

New Democrat MP Paul Dewar, who also sits on the committee, said he's concerned about the camera.

"To have a member of Parliament with a spy cam in a pen, it's this weird James Bond thing going on," Dewar said.

Liberal MP Sean Casey calls it "completely bizarre."

Goldring has taken on interesting causes in the past, championing closer ties with the Caribbean islands of the Turks and Caicos, hoping to annex them into Canada as an 11th province, and he's called for total economic war on Russia.

The MP is on the verge of retiring from politics after 18 years. He is thinking of turning his attention to — you guessed it, selling spy pens. He says the $100 for the pen is a small price to pay for peace of mind. 

You just never know when you'll need one.

"I guess you can let your imagination run wild on it. Who knows," he said as he tucked his trusty pen into his pocket.