Still on the defensive over the resignation of his campaign co-chair, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said he did not mind that Dan Gagnier worked for TransCanada Corp. until he started to provide advice on federal issues.
Mr. Trudeau said he showed leadership by dealing with the matter quickly, even as his rivals argue that Mr. Gagnier was representative of the ongoing ethical challenges of the Liberal Party.
Mr. Gagnier resigned as co-chair on Wednesday, following revelations that he advised TransCanada on the best ways to lobby the federal government after the Oct. 19 election. The Liberals are currently leading the polls, and Mr. Gagnier had been one of the Liberal Leader's top five advisers, gaining inside knowledge on Mr. Trudeau's team and thinking.
"We always made sure that Mr. Gagnier was not involved in the campaign on discussions of energy policy," Mr. Trudeau said at a stop at a retirement home in Mississauga. "When we learned that he had engaged in inappropriate behaviour, by mixing the two roles, he assumed responsibility for what he did and stepped away from the campaign."
The Liberals are arguing that faced with a controversy, Mr. Trudeau did a better job than Conservative Leader Stephen Harper in overseeing the speedy departure of Mr. Gagnier from his team.
In addition, the Liberal Party said a senior member of NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair's team, Brad Lavigne, was registered until late September to lobby in Ontario for the Canadian Fuels Association. Still, there is no evidence that Mr. Lavigne did what Mr. Gagnier is accused of doing, namely helping his clients lobby the winner of the next election.
In addition, the NDP said that Mr. Lavigne fully left the consulting business in May, when he joined the NDP campaign.
Mr. Harper said his campaign staff and volunteers are not giving advice to potential corporate clients during this campaign. He also drew attention to the fact that the Liberals are the only party accused of this.
"We have a very strict code of ethics within the Conservative Party," the Tory Leader said during a campaign stop in the Quebec City area where the Conservatives hope to win more seats.
"Frankly there is no other party in this election that is accused of the things the Liberal Party and Mr. Gagnier have done," Mr. Harper said. "It is about the old culture of the sponsorship scandal; it's not about anybody else, it's about the Liberal Party."
Mr. Trudeau said he was happy to have Mr. Gagnier on his team, explaining that he liked to get advice from people with different backgrounds and professional experiences.
"There are rules and regulations overseeing political campaigns, and we have ensured every step of the way that we have followed all those rules. More than that, when this inappropriate e-mail came to light, we took immediate action and Mr. Gagnier took responsibility for his actions and stepped away from the campaign," he said.
A veteran of politics with high-level experience in the private sector, Mr. Gagnier stood out among the senior Liberals who advise Mr. Trudeau on a daily basis. Mr. Gagnier is in his late 60s and his time in Ottawa goes back to the 1970s, while Mr. Trudeau's other close advisers are in their 30s and 40s, many with young children at home and few ties to past Liberal governments in Ottawa. As the Liberal Leader since 2013, Mr. Trudeau has benefited from the fact a majority of his team had no ties to the Liberal scandals of the past, or the Martin/Chrétien internal wars.
One of the main qualities that Mr. Gagnier brought to the team, according to his former colleagues, was the calming influence of someone who had seen it all and was able to pass along bits of wisdom.
TransCanada said it hired Mr. Gagnier last spring primarily to guide the firm "on how best to communicate the benefits of the [Energy East] project to Canadians." His downfall started on Monday, when he sent a note to officials at the firm about the potential scenarios after the Oct. 19 election, including ways to lobby federal officials on its development and pipeline projects.
His involvement became public on Wednesday, when his e-mail to the firm was leaked to the media.