OTTAWA – A Conservative MP who wants to run in a different riding in 2015 appears to be using her taxpayer-funded privileges and supplies to mail voters in the new constituency, a move that is rankling local party members.
Some residents in Burlington and Oakville, Ont., say they recently received materials from Eve Adams, even though their current MP is Transport Minister Lisa Raitt.
Adams says she has broken no House of Commons rules, and is entitled as an MP to mail materials outside of her riding.
But Adams is fighting local chiropractor Natalia Lishchyna for the Conservative nomination in Oakville-North Burlington, a newly created riding that technically won’t exist until the next election.
That has raised questions about whether she is using her resources to help secure a nomination.
“My reaction was, ‘Who is she?’ I know who my MP is. I’m in Burlington. I looked it up, and Ms. Adams is in Mississauga,” said local resident Simon Taylor, who is not connected to either of the camps.
“I thought to myself, ‘Why am I getting letters from her?'”
Julian DiBattista, a riding association president from Hamilton, wrote a letter of complaint Friday to Conservative party brass after his partner in neighbouring Burlington, Ont., received a letter from Adams.
In the letter, DiBattista invoked the high-profile controversy surrounding three formerly Conservative senators whose disallowed expense claims led to their suspension last year from the upper chamber.
“As a taxpayer, I was incensed when I heard that Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin were using resources provided at my expense for their personal gain,” DiBattista wrote.
“In this situation I am just as disturbed by the misuse of government resources to campaign for elected office.”
The Canadian Press has seen copies of two different flyers featuring the title, “Eve Adams, Member of Parliament,” under the House of Commons crest. Only the Commons envelope indicates that Adams represents the non-adjacent riding of Mississauga-Brampton North.
The flyer was mailed without a postage stamp, which indicates it was sent using taxpayer funds under an MP’s mailing privileges — a practice known in political circles as “franking.”
MPs are entitled to send mail postage-free, but House of Commons rules prohibit any of their parliamentary resources from being used for electoral campaigning.
“I have spent the last three years working hard in Ottawa to represent you and your family’s views, meeting with and listening to our community and working hard to build a stronger Canada,” writes Adam, who moved to the area less than two years ago.
Another flyer starts by saying that “my family and I live in Oakville, and we know first-hand that every dollar matters.”
In both cases, there is a mail-back portion for the recipient to send back comments and respond to a brief questionnaire.
“Most importantly, you will always be able to count on my support, when you need something from Ottawa,” Adams writes.
Adams says that she has the right as an MP to use her House of Commons resources to send materials outside of her riding.
“People do mail across the country, and that absolutely is something that members of Parliament are encouraged to do and to communicate with Canadians on a wide variety of issues,” Adams said.
But the Commons internal economy committee has addressed the issue of MPs mailing into opposition ridings, ruling in 2010 that certain pamphlets can only be mailed within one’s own riding.
That decision did not, however, cover all the different types of correspondence MPs can send.
The nomination race in Oakville-North Burlington, which hasn’t even officially started yet, has turned ugly in recent weeks with recriminations being lobbed by both sides.
Adams’ team says she’s being smeared by supporters of Lishchyna — particularly campaign manager John Mykytyshyn, an outspoken Ontario organizer who has faced controversies in the past.
Adams was recently prevented from speaking when she turned up at a board meeting of the Oakville-North Burlington Conservative riding association, and she says others have also been turned away. The board is mostly composed of Lishchyna supporters.
“An outsider who proudly calls himself ‘The Knife’ is behind a first-time candidate who doesn’t have what it takes,” Stephen Sparling, a supporter of Adams, wrote in an email Friday.
Sparling continued: “If we want to build a strong, inclusive and positive Conservative riding association and appeal to voters, we need to run open and transparent meetings that welcome long-time and new members, not consistently exclude them.”
Doug Varty, a supporter of Lishchyna’s who also sits on the riding association’s board, said he’s concerned that Adams is using her privileges as an MP to unfair advantage.
The Conservative party has promised to ensure open and fair nominations across the country, regardless of whether an incumbent MP is running.
“Obviously fundraising is a big issue within a nomination contest … it’s a financial advantage and a misrepresentation,” Varty said.
“She’s not our member of Parliament, (but) she’s sort of portraying that she’s our member and will help us with our problems.”
It is not clear which mailing lists Adams used to contact constituents in the riding.