Former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer used taxpayer money to employ his sister when he was deputy speaker and speaker of the House of Commons. When the House changed spending rules for MPs, she left his office and later worked for a Conservative senator.
Mr. Scheer’s sister, Anne Marie Grabetz, worked for Mr. Scheer from 2008 to 2012, his office told The Globe and Mail on Tuesday.
Her job coincided with Mr. Scheer’s employment of his wife’s sister, Erica Honoway. On Monday, The Globe reported that Mr. Scheer employed Ms. Honoway and that his wife, Jill Scheer, was employed by Ms. Honoway. On Tuesday, Mr. Scheer’s office said Ms. Honoway has worked for him since 2007, but her employment was terminated Tuesday.
As speaker of the House of Commons, Mr. Scheer oversaw the approval and implementation of an update to the House of Commons Members By-Law. The House governance committee, called the Board of Internal Economy, approved the new rules in 2011 and they came into force in April, 2012. The new rules banned MPs from hiring siblings, but they did not ban MPs from using their office budgets to hire their in-laws.
“As an elected official, I understand expectations on me are high. Whenever there has ever been a question of following the letter and the spirit of the rules, I checked with the Ethics Commissioner first,” Mr. Scheer said in a statement Tuesday.
“I understand that in this case, following the rules may not have been enough. Even the perception of a conflict concerns me. As such, I have met with Erica and I have ended her employment in my office.”
The former Conservative leader released the statement Tuesday after current leader, Erin O’Toole, told reporters that Mr. Scheer’s decision to hire his sister-in-law did not meet Mr. O’Toole’s ethical standards.
Mr. O’Toole spoke to reporters in Ottawa before The Globe reported that Mr. Scheer had also employed his sister.
On Monday, Mr. Scheer’s office said both Ms. Scheer’s and Ms. Honoway’s jobs were cleared by the relevant oversight bodies. While the circumstances may have followed the rules, his party’s leader is part of a growing number of MPs who say Mr. Scheer’s decisions don’t meet voter expectations.
“Canadians want and deserve better and I am going to expect that from my team,” Mr. O’Toole said.
He said he would speak with Mr. Scheer about his expectations.
Not long after Ms. Grabetz left Mr. Scheer’s office in 2012, she went to work for Saskatchewan Senator Denise Batters. Ms. Batters has been a strong supporter of Mr. Scheer. She endorsed him in the 2017 Conservative leadership race and defended him against attacks after the Conservatives' 2019 federal election loss. Ms. Batters was appointed to the Senate in January, 2013.
In a statement to The Globe, Ms. Batters said she hired Ms. Grabetz as her special assistant in March, 2013. “Her contract ended in March, 2018, following maternity leave,” Ms. Batters said, noting that Ms. Grabetz had two university degrees and “previous office and Parliament Hill experience.”
Ms. Batters described Ms. Grabetz as “a great communicator, personable, professional and organized.”
“She left my office to pursue another opportunity outside Ottawa,” Ms. Batters said.
According to newspaper birth notices, the year before Mr. Scheer hired Ms. Grabetz, she gave birth to her first child in New York State in December, 2007. While she was employed by Mr. Scheer, she gave birth to a second child in New York in 2009.
Mr. Scheer’s parliamentary assistant Kenzie Potter told The Globe in a statement that, despite the time spent south of the border, Ms. Grabetz “lived in Ottawa while she worked for Mr. Scheer.” Ms. Grabetz did not respond to requests from The Globe to clarify where she lived.
Ms. Grabetz gave birth to two more children in New York State while working for Ms. Batters, according to two newspaper birth notices. Lana Fawcett Helman, a spokesperson for Ms. Batters, said Ms. Grabetz worked full-time and “did not work remotely.”
On Tuesday, New Brunswick Liberal MP Ginette Petitpas Taylor said Mr. Scheer’s hiring of Ms. Honoway would be raised at the Board of Internal Economy.
“This is very concerning, and will be raised at the Board of Internal Economy of the House of Commons,” Ms. Petitpas Taylor said in a post on Twitter. She is a member of that board.
Its next meeting is scheduled for Thursday. The Conservatives have also asked that the board review the case of former Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi, now sitting as an independent. She resigned from caucus last week after the CBC reported that she hired her sister to work in her constituency office.
With reports from Campbell Clark, Rick Cash and Janice Dickson.
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