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Erica Honoway (left), Andrew Scheer, and Jill Scheer, at a Canadian Blood Services event. Photo sourced from Facebook.Handout

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says his predecessor’s decision to hire his sister-in-law does not meet Mr. O’Toole’s ethical standards.

On Monday, The Globe and Mail reported that Saskatchewan MP and former Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer employs his sister-in-law, Erica Honoway, in his Regina constituency office; his wife, Jill Scheer, is employed by her sister’s company, Erica Honoway Interiors.

Mr. Scheer has not explained his decision to use his taxpayer-funded office budget to hire his wife’s sister, but his office said both Ms. Scheer 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 now 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 told a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday.

While noting that Mr. Scheer followed the rules, Mr. O’Toole said he would speak with Mr. Scheer on Tuesday to talk about his “expectations which exceed that.”

Mr. Scheer’s parliamentary assistant, Kenzie Potter said in a statement Monday that “the Scheers pro-actively sought, and received, approval from the Ethics Commissioner’s Office for Ms. Scheer’s employment” and that the Commissioner was aware that Ms. Honoway was employed by Mr. Scheer and that she would be Ms. Scheer’s boss.

Citing confidentiality rules, the Commissioner’s Office said it couldn’t confirm Ms. Potter’s statement.

Despite repeated requests, his office has not said how long Ms. Honoway has worked for him. Ms. Potter said in a statement Monday that the “House of Commons' Administration cleared this staffing.” However, on Tuesday, New Brunswick Liberal MP Ginette Petitpas Taylor said the issue would be raised at the Board of Internal Economy which oversees House governance and controls the spending rules that MPs have to follow.

“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.

The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Thursday. The Conservatives have also asked that the board review the case of former Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi. She resigned from caucus last week after the CBC reported that she hired her sister to work in her constituency office.

Mr. Scheer is subject to the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, which is enforced by Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion, as well as the House of Commons Members By-Law, which was created by the Board of Internal Economy.

Mr. Scheer was speaker of the House of Commons and chair of that committee when the latest rules governing MPs – including their hiring practices – were approved. While they forbid the hiring of siblings they do not prevent MPs from hiring brothers-in-law or sisters-in-law. Similarly, the conflict of interest code prevents MPs from furthering their own private interests or those of their family, but in-laws are not included in that definition of family.

- More to come ...

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