Day: July 10, 2019

Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld Broke Ethics Rules Promoting Husband’s Ottawa City Council Bid: Watchdog

Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld is shown in a photo from her Facebook page.

A Liberal MP violated conflict-of-interest rules while promoting her husband’s bid for a seat on Ottawa city council but should not face punishment, the federal ethics watchdog says.

In a report released Wednesday, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion ruled that Ottawa West-Nepean MP Anita Vandenbeld attempted to use her position to influence voters to “further the private interests of her spouse” during last year’s municipal campaign. 

However, Dion concluded the matter amounted to “an error in judgment made in good faith.”

Vandenbeld came under scrutiny in October after her voice was featured in a robocall asking constituents to support her husband, Don Dransfield, who was running in the city’s Bay Ward. Dransfield was ultimately not elected as a councillor, a job that comes with a salary of more than $100,000 per year.

“As your federal MP, I’m looking for a municipal counterpart who is going to fight as hard for the people of our community as I do,” Vandenbeld could be heard saying in the recording.

Listen to a recording of the robocall, posted online by CBC reporter Laura Osman:

 

She also canvassed door-to-door and sent letters to constituents that identified her as the local MP and asked them to support her husband’s campaign.

In October, Conservative ethics critic Peter Kent called on the commissioner to investigate if Vandenbeld violated conflict rules, saying at the time that “using one’s influence as an elected Member to help a family member is both morally and ethically wrong.”

Vandenbeld and her lawyers argued that she did not believe running for public office is a “private interest” to be advanced. Dion concluded since the position of city councillor comes with a six-figure salary and benefits over four years, it “clearly constitutes a private interest.”

Vandenbeld also said her status as an MP was invoked in the letter and robocalls because, in what she described as a “misinformation” campaign, a rival candidate of her husband’s was claiming to have her support.

“Whatever the motivation for writing a letter to voters and recording an [interactive voice response] message, in my view, the purpose of Ms. Vandenbeld’s actions was the same in either case, and this was to ensure that voters made the connection between the candidacy of her spouse and an endorsement by the local Member of Parliament,” Dion wrote in the report.

Dion also expressed concerns about how Vandenbeld used social media to promote her husband’s bid.

“While Ms. Vandenbeld described these accounts as purely partisan, I found it may not be so clear to members of the public that her social media accounts, which mention her title, link to her Member’s website and contain posts relating to her role as a Member, were not parliamentary accounts,” he wrote. “Members should be mindful of this when deciding what materials to post on such accounts.”

While Dransfield’s election loss ultimately meant “no private interests were furthered,” the commissioner found Vandenbeld violated a section of the Conflict of Interest Code for MPs about “attempting” to use the position to advance private interests.

But the commissioner noted that Vandenbeld made “significant efforts to comply with the rules that she had considered” by ensuring no parliamentary resources were used in the campaign and that staffers volunteering on Dransfield’s campaign did so outside of work hours.

MP accepts commissioner’s findings

Dion also gave her credit for ceasing campaign activities and seeking his advice after questions arose about her participation.

“I therefore recommend that no sanction be imposed,” he wrote at the end of the nearly 20-page report.

In a statement to HuffPost Canada, Vandenbeld said she accepts the commissioner’s findings.

“I believe that I was being open and transparent by identifying myself and my relationship while asking people to consider voting for Don. Many other MPs have supported their spouses in the past,” she said.

“In all my years of encouraging democratic participation, I continue to believe that those who put themselves forward to seek election to public office, from all parties, do so out of a desire to serve and to make a better world, not out of a private financial interest.”

Watch: Vandenbeld, other MPs pay tribute to late MP Paul Dewar

 

Vandenbeld expressed hope that the report will help clarify what is permissible for MPs in other campaigns.

“I have always set a high standard for myself with regard to my integrity and conduct as a Member of Parliament, and I want to reassure my constituents that I will always continue to do so.”

Vandenbeld, first elected in 2015, is seeking re-election this fall.

@repost Domestic Contracts

Via Family Law Mediation

source https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/anita-vandenbeld-ethics-conflict_ca_5d263129e4b0583e482b3147

By The Wall of Law July 10, 2019 Off

Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld Broke Ethics Rules Promoting Husband’s Ottawa City Council Bid: Watchdog

Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld is shown in a photo from her Facebook page.

A Liberal MP violated conflict-of-interest rules while promoting her husband’s bid for a seat on Ottawa city council but should not face punishment, the federal ethics watchdog says.

In a report released Wednesday, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion ruled that Ottawa West-Nepean MP Anita Vandenbeld attempted to use her position to influence voters to “further the private interests of her spouse” during last year’s municipal campaign. 

However, Dion concluded the matter amounted to “an error in judgment made in good faith.”

Vandenbeld came under scrutiny in October after her voice was featured in a robocall asking constituents to support her husband, Don Dransfield, who was running in the city’s Bay Ward. Dransfield was ultimately not elected as a councillor, a job that comes with a salary of more than $100,000 per year.

“As your federal MP, I’m looking for a municipal counterpart who is going to fight as hard for the people of our community as I do,” Vandenbeld could be heard saying in the recording.

Listen to a recording of the robocall, posted online by CBC reporter Laura Osman:

 

She also canvassed door-to-door and sent letters to constituents that identified her as the local MP and asked them to support her husband’s campaign.

In October, Conservative ethics critic Peter Kent called on the commissioner to investigate if Vandenbeld violated conflict rules, saying at the time that “using one’s influence as an elected Member to help a family member is both morally and ethically wrong.”

Vandenbeld and her lawyers argued that she did not believe running for public office is a “private interest” to be advanced. Dion concluded since the position of city councillor comes with a six-figure salary and benefits over four years, it “clearly constitutes a private interest.”

Vandenbeld also said her status as an MP was invoked in the letter and robocalls because, in what she described as a “misinformation” campaign, a rival candidate of her husband’s was claiming to have her support.

“Whatever the motivation for writing a letter to voters and recording an [interactive voice response] message, in my view, the purpose of Ms. Vandenbeld’s actions was the same in either case, and this was to ensure that voters made the connection between the candidacy of her spouse and an endorsement by the local Member of Parliament,” Dion wrote in the report.

Dion also expressed concerns about how Vandenbeld used social media to promote her husband’s bid.

“While Ms. Vandenbeld described these accounts as purely partisan, I found it may not be so clear to members of the public that her social media accounts, which mention her title, link to her Member’s website and contain posts relating to her role as a Member, were not parliamentary accounts,” he wrote. “Members should be mindful of this when deciding what materials to post on such accounts.”

While Dransfield’s election loss ultimately meant “no private interests were furthered,” the commissioner found Vandenbeld violated a section of the Conflict of Interest Code for MPs about “attempting” to use the position to advance private interests.

But the commissioner noted that Vandenbeld made “significant efforts to comply with the rules that she had considered” by ensuring no parliamentary resources were used in the campaign and that staffers volunteering on Dransfield’s campaign did so outside of work hours.

MP accepts commissioner’s findings

Dion also gave her credit for ceasing campaign activities and seeking his advice after questions arose about her participation.

“I therefore recommend that no sanction be imposed,” he wrote at the end of the nearly 20-page report.

In a statement to HuffPost Canada, Vandenbeld said she accepts the commissioner’s findings.

“I believe that I was being open and transparent by identifying myself and my relationship while asking people to consider voting for Don. Many other MPs have supported their spouses in the past,” she said.

“In all my years of encouraging democratic participation, I continue to believe that those who put themselves forward to seek election to public office, from all parties, do so out of a desire to serve and to make a better world, not out of a private financial interest.”

Watch: Vandenbeld, other MPs pay tribute to late MP Paul Dewar

 

Vandenbeld expressed hope that the report will help clarify what is permissible for MPs in other campaigns.

“I have always set a high standard for myself with regard to my integrity and conduct as a Member of Parliament, and I want to reassure my constituents that I will always continue to do so.”

Vandenbeld, first elected in 2015, is seeking re-election this fall.

@repost Cost of Divorce In

Via Simple Divorce

source https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/anita-vandenbeld-ethics-conflict_ca_5d263129e4b0583e482b3147

By The Wall of Law July 10, 2019 Off

How Ontario Legal Aid Cuts Will Hurt Victims Of Domestic Violence, Families

Protestors gathered outside of the Ministry of the Attorney General on Tuesday to speak out against cuts to Legal Aid Ontario. 

Every Monday morning, women escaping abusive situations would line up at a crisis centre in Guelph to meet with a duty counsellor and get legal advice. 

The service was a partnership between Legal Aid Ontario and Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis that worked exceptionally well, until it was suddenly cancelled last Friday, said Sly Castaldi, executive director of the centre that provides shelter and support for women and their children experiencing abuse and sexual violence.

“Dealing with violence is hard to do in and of itself, it’s complicated,” Castaldi said. “We were able to remove a lot of barriers for women needing access to family law. This was a nice, safe environment where they didn’t have to worry about bumping into anyone. They didn’t have to go to the courthouse and wait for duty counsel — that can be very intimidating.” 

Sly Castaldi is executive director of Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis. She was notified that a legal aid service for her clients was going to be cancelled less than one business day before it was set to run.

Legal Aid Ontario sent a fax on Friday to Women in Crisis notifying them that the duty counsellor would no longer provide legal advice at their location, effective immediately. Castaldi was forced to cancel July and August appointments set weeks in advance. 

“It was devastating for our clients and now we’re figuring out what to do — who we are going to send them to,” she said. So far this year, the duty counsellor had helped vulnerable women, sometimes facing dangerous situations, at 122 appointments. 

The service cost the government agency less than $330 a week, according to duty counsel tariff rates. Legal Aid Ontario did not provide this information when asked by HuffPost Canada. 

First of all, we need to be clear on what this was. It was an advice clinic’ which was a duty counsel being available on site for 3 hours. We needed to free up the staff who were doing that work so that they can take on work elsewhere,” said spokesperson Graeme Burk in an email. “Legal Aid Ontario already offers these advice services through different channels, and will continue to do so.”

Burk pointed to a Guelph-based family law information centre at the courthouse, and call centre, and that legal aid continues to offer two hours of free advice to victims of domestic abuse, regardless of whether they qualify for legal aid. 

But for the women who relied on the duty counsellor, the change is devastating, Castaldi said. “Whenever public policy changes, you also have to remember that those who are most vulnerable are impacted first and foremost.”

Legal aid also cancelled a three-hour session Monday afternoons at the Legal Clinic of Guelph and Wellington County. Between the two locations, the duty counsellor would help a total of 12 to 16 people per week. That may not seem like a lot of clients to Legal Aid Ontario, but it was a success for the clinic, said Anthea Millikin, executive director and lawyer.

“We’d line up chairs in the lobby and people would take a number and line up early,” Millikin said.  “And (the duty counsellor) would make sure the last person was seen and heard. Certainly to us, it was very busy and well received. This is a huge loss.”

As legal aid grapples with a $75 million budget cut this year, it’s making changes to legal clinics and duty counsel services across the province, impacting family and criminal courts. It will have to find another $90 million in savings over the next two years.

At family courthouses, duty counsel lawyers have been instructed to assist only eligible clients at their first court appearance for 20 minutes. 

Many of these clients are parents up against children aid societies, and they usually have to go to court three or four times over the course of their case regarding supervision orders, negotiating access, returning children home and taking drug tests. 

It’s not always possible for duty counsel to give them advice, and then help them understand how to get a lawyer through legal aid in that amount of time, some experts say. 

These cuts to duty counsel mean that if the parent does not have a lawyer after the first court appearance, there will be no in-court assistance for the parent,” said Tammy Law, a family lawyer and president of the Ontario Association of Child Protection Lawyers. 

Tammy Law, family lawyer and president of the Ontario Association of Child Protection Lawyer, has been an outspoken opponent of legal aid cuts. She says the majority of vulnerable parents she represents require financial assistance.

 Law said the “erosion of duty counsel services” will result in more wrongful “dispositions” (the family law term for convictions) and miscarriages of justice. 

Mira Pilch, a child protection lawyer who has worked for the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, and then as duty counsel and in private practice, said the new restrictions trample on parents and children’s rights. 

“By basically putting up too many hurdles for parents to participate and advocate, you’re denying children the right to pursue a relationship,” she said.

Pilch recently stopped working as duty counsel when she learned changes were coming.

“I don’t know logistically how court will run without this constant flow of duty counsellors,” Pilch said, adding that on any weekday at the busiests family courthouses in the province there’s “wall-to-wall people” who need help. 

“They don’t know what judge they’re seeing, what the case is about, how to get an interpreter. It’s so crazy. All I was going to be doing is saying no to people and that’s very unpleasant when you know you can help them but you’re not allowed.” 

Legal Aid Ontario said for those eligible for legal aid, they anticipate no delays.

Also on HuffPost

@repost Marriage Separation

Via Divorce Alimony

source https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/legal-aid-domestic-violence-families_ca_5d263205e4b0583e482b3200

By The Wall of Law July 10, 2019 Off