OTTAWA — NDP MP Charlie Angus is criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for shooting an end-of-year fundraising video in his office on Parliament Hill, in violation of rules that prevent MPs from using parliamentary resources to raise money.
The video, posted to Trudeau’s Facebook page on Dec. 28, shows the prime minister in his Centre Block office, flanked by two Canadian flags. “You are at the heart of this movement for positive politics — and you know what’s at stake,” he says, addressing his supporters. “That’s why I’m asking you to join tens of thousands of Canadians who have already donated this month by chipping in before our Dec. 31st deadline, so we can start 2019 strong.”
The post contains a link to the Liberal Party website, where supporters are asked to make donations.
The problem is that members of Parliament are governed by strict rules about keeping their parliamentary work separate from fundraising and campaigning. According to the members by-law of the board of internal economy, which governs the House of Commons, parliamentary premises like Centre Block can’t be used for partisan activities, including “solicitations of contributions and solicitations of membership to a political party” or for “activities related to a member’s re-election.”
Angus said filming a fundraising ad in the prime minister’s office was a “bush league” move from someone who should have known better. “He knows the rules. This is not rookie backbencher activity. This is the prime minister of the country,” he said. “He seems to believe that because he’s Justin Trudeau, prime minister, rules don’t apply.”
Angus said the rules are very clear, especially for something like a direct fundraising appeal, and he was surprised by the decision. “The prime minister has enormous resources to do his outreach, and the Liberal Party has enormous power and capacity to do fundraising,” he said. “It is such a direct financial ask. To me, it makes it seem that they don’t really care that rules are in place.”
In an email, Liberal Party spokesperson Braeden Caley said the video was filmed in the Centre Block office “due to Mr. Trudeau’s time constraints in his other important work as prime minister.” He said the party “is in the process of making an appropriate reimbursement” that will be complete by early next week, but didn’t say what the reimbursement will be.
The party ‘is in the process of making an appropriate reimbursement’
He also confirmed that the video was filmed using Liberal Party equipment, “not with parliamentary resources, equipment or expenditures.”
Caley argued that the Liberals are not the first to use Parliament Hill offices for partisan purposes, pointing to a 2015 pre-election ad featuring former prime minister Stephen Harper working at his desk. However, Conservative Party spokesperson Cory Hann confirmed that ad was filmed at the prime minister’s official residence at 24 Sussex Drive, which isn’t subject to the same rules.
Angus said he plans to send a letter to the board of internal economy asking for a review of the fundraising video. The Liberals hold a majority on the board, which consists of seven MPs from all three major parties, but Angus said even a “finger-scolding” could be worthwhile.
“They do have an obligation to ensure that all parliamentarians follow the rules.”