Trudeau says it was ‘unacceptable’ for Toronto MP to hire sister with public funds

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it is “unacceptable” that Toronto MP Yasmin Ratansi hired her sister to work in her constituency office, a job paid for with taxpayer dollars and over which she resigned from the Liberal caucus on Monday night.

The federal Liberals are again facing questions about potentially unethical behaviour following Ratansi’s resignation, a move Conservative ethics critic Michael Barrett says is not enough.

He argues she should instead give up her seat as a member of Parliament altogether.

“Following the news that Trudeau Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi was wrongfully employing her sister with taxpayer dollars, and deliberately hiding this information from Canadians, Conservatives are calling for her immediate resignation,” Barrett said in a statement.

“Liberal MP Yasmin 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.”

In a statement posted to her Facebook page Monday night, Ratansi — who represents the riding of Don Valley East — said she advised the Prime Minister’s Office and the Speaker of the House of Commons that she was resigning from the caucus.

She said that last week she referred questions to the ethics commissioner about her decision to hire her sister as a staff member at her Toronto constituency office, meaning she was being paid with taxpayer dollars.

Ratansi claimed she had made an “error in judgement.”

“I have remedied the situation, but this does not excuse the error I made,” she said, apologizing to her constituents and saying she would be making no further comment on the matter until the ethics commissioner reviews the case.

But according to a CBC News report, staffers at the constituency office described Ratansi as trying to cover up the ties to her sister, using a fake name and telling some staff to keep the matter quiet.

It’s far from the first time a member of the Liberal caucus has either resigned or faced investigation over accusations of unethical or improper behaviour since the government came to power in 2015.

COMMENTARY: Ethical behaviour should not be negotiable

Trudeau is under investigation by the ethics commissioner for the third time over his failure to recuse himself from discussions over a plan to give a deal to administer a now-cancelled student service grant program to WE Charity, which has financial ties to his family.

Former finance minister Bill Morneau resigned amid the WE Charity scandal and is also under investigation for his failure to recuse himself from those talks given his family’s own financial ties to the group. He was absolved of separate accusations of breaking ethics rules over a trip to visit WE facilities.

However, Morneau was found to have broken federal elections law leading up to the 2019 campaign in a decision issued in September 2020 by Commissioner of Canada Elections Yves Côté.

He was ordered to pay a $300 fine.

Trudeau was previously found to have broken federal ethics rules through his political interference in the SNC-Lavalin affair last year, and for vacationing on the Aga Khan’s private island in 2017.

Several members of the Liberal caucus have also resigned under ethical clouds.

Marwan Tabbara quit the Liberal caucus earlier this year after being charged with assault and breaking-and-entering, as well as criminal harassment. He continues to sit as an Independent MP.

Former Liberal MP Raj Grewal is also facing criminal charges related to breach of trust and fraud. RCMP allege he broke the law by failing to disclose $6 million in funds he received while serving as a member of Parliament for Brampton East between 2015 and 2019.

Grewal first said in November 2018 he would resign his seat, then changed course and refused to do so, saying he would instead only quit the Liberal caucus. He did not seek re-election in the 2019 campaign.

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