The NDP says it is working with the ethics commissioner and intends to file a formal disclosure report on a $1,895 rocking chair given to NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s wife in exchange for posting about the item on her Instagram account.
On Dec. 10, Singh’s wife posted an image of the Grand Jackson Rocker by Canadian furniture company Monte Design on her Instagram account, mentioning the company. The party said Singh would repay the cost of the chair after CBC reported it was given to him and his wife as a gift.
On Sunday, Singh published an image on his Instagram page of himself sitting in the same chair cuddling his newborn daughter, with the furniture company tagged in the image.
“The chair was given to Gurkiran with an expectation that she would promote it on social media. There was no expectation that Jagmeet would post about it,” NDP spokesperson Mélanie Richer said in a statement to CBC News.
“We are working with the ethics commissioner, as we always do, to ensure that any gifts received by Jagmeet or Gurkiran are declared and that we are in compliance with the Act.
“That being said, while they’re extremely grateful, they’ve realized their error and will be paying for the gift.”
According to the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, neither MPs nor “any member of a member’s family” can accept gifts that “might reasonably be seen to have been given to influence the member in the exercise of a duty or function of his or her office.”
Some token gifts with a value under $200 are permitted, with conditions, but gifts over that amount have to be reported to the office of Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion within 60 days, “detailing the nature of the gifts or other benefits, their source and the circumstances under which they were given.”
Failing to do that can result in a fine of up to $500.
‘The ethics rules are clear’
Democracy watch co-founder Duff Conacher said expensive gifts given to politicians or their family members break the rules and should be investigated by Dion’s office.
“Particularly in a minority government situation, the opposition leaders and MPs have more influence over government policy decisions,” he said. “And the ethics rules are clear for every federal politician, that it’s not just gifts and people trying to influence you, but also anyone trying to influence your family and the prohibition on accepting gifts extends to members of your family.”
Lori Turnbull, director of the School of Public Administration and an associate professor of Political Science at Dalhousie University, told CBC that while Singh may not have violated the law, promoting a private company is a little “odd.”
“It’s the tagging of the company that seems a little odd to me in the sense that, clearly, Singh wants the company to know that … ‘Hey, here’s your rocking chair that you gave my wife, thank you,” she said.
The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on Singh but said “Liberal MPs will continue to work with the commissioner to ensure compliance with the rules in place.” The Green Party would only say that it has never accepted gifts in exchange for promotion on social media. The Bloc Quebecois declined to comment. The Conservatives did not provide comment in time for publication.