Conservative MP Harold Albrecht said he’s often invited to four or more receptions on the Hill in a single evening. He said he has no problem with one of the commissioner’s suggestions – that a list of all Parliament Hill receptions for MPs be posted publicly – provided MPs aren’t on the hook to file new reports.
"To have it almost implied that it was somehow influencing you or buying your support of that particular group is rather simplistic," Mr. Albrecht said.
Liberal House Leader Marc Garneau agrees the rules need an update, but said a $30 reporting rule would be unmanageable.
"It starts to get down to a level where you’re sort of asking yourself, ‘How much was this food worth?’ and ‘How much was this scotch worth?’" he said.
There are two sets of ethics rules. A conflict of interest code governs MPs and includes the $500 threshold for disclosing gifts. A second set of rules for about 1,100 public office holders – including cabinet ministers, their senior staff and senior public servants – is included in the Conflict of Interest Act and requires the disclosure of gifts worth $200 or more. The act requires gifts above $1,000 to be forfeited to the government. No upper limit exists for MPs.
Joe Preston, the Conservative chair of the procedure and house affairs committee studying the rules, said a survey has been sent to all MPs asking for their suggestions. He said the concerns of Ms. Dawson and others will be studied in depth this fall before a decision is made on whether to make changes.
Some MPs are already disclosing dinner invitations. For instance, Conservative MP Stella Ambler declared that she attended a Health Institute dinner earlier this month in Ottawa at the invitation of a Merck Pharmaceuticals lobbyist. Other MPs have declared receiving tickets to special events in their area, such as the Juno Awards, the Grey Cup or the Grand Prix.
Ms. Dawson admits a $30 disclosure rule may not be the answer, but says more transparency is needed about what goes on in the evenings on Parliament Hill. She says she’s been told that some industry events give door prizes to MPs.
"There’s sort of a little bit of mystery over the Parliament Buildings and they’re not too keen on publicizing what goes on in there," she said. "So I’m really just saying from the snippets that I hear, there seems to be a little bit more going on over there than you’d expect from the amount that’s reported to me."
Members of Parliament receive gifts from organizations and individuals, many of which are forfeited to Her Majesty in right of Canada. Here’s a selection of items from public statements of gifts received since June, 2009:
Stephen Harper received an electric guitar and case handcrafted by the Wild Honey Guitar Company by Erick & Lisa Hanson of Thunder Bay.
Benjamin Harper received a Gibson Robot electric guitar from Nickleback at a luncheon at 24 Sussex Dr. on April 11, 2010.
On March 20, 2010, Leo Housakos, Senator for Wellington, Que., offered Mr. Harper a bass guitar with a personalized inscription from Gene Simmons.
John Duncan received an Inuit sculpture on Aug. 18, 2010, from the Makivik Corporation.
Mr. Harper received a silver falcon statue on a silver base with red, green and blue crystals from the Prime Minister of Kuwait.
Edward Fast received a Tiffany & Co. watch from the Sultan of Brunei on Feb. 14, 2012.
Laureen Harper received a Tiffany & Co. sterling silver pendant necklace on Jan. 27 from the National Hockey League Players’ Association.
Ms. Harper received a diamond and sapphire necklace, earrings, bracelet and ring from the King of Saudi Arabia at the G20 Summit in Toronto on June 25, 2010.
Jim Flaherty was invited to attend the Mike Weir Charity Golf Classic in Oakville, Ont., on July 20, 2009.
Judy Foote received four tickets to the Juno Awards from CTV on April 18, 2010.
Ralph Goodale received two tickets to the Grey Cup in Calgary on Nov. 29, 2009, from Scotiabank.
John Baird received a 64gb Apple iPad from the government of the United Arab Emirates on Nov. 20, 2011.
Mr. Harper received a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 with his name inset with mother of pearl from the President of the Republic of Korea in March, 2012.
On May 26-27, 2011, on the occasion of the G8 Summit in Deauville, France, Ms. Harper received a Hermès beach towel and makeup bag from Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, spouse of then-French-president Nicolas Sarkozy. Mr. Flaherty received cosmetic items from Mr. Sarkozy in Cannes during a G20 meeting on Nov. 3, 2011.