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Ottawa's ethics commissioner should review MP Jason Kenney's activities and ethics as PC candidate

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Screenshot of Jason Kenney's arrival at Aug. 1, 2016, news conference

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Who is paying for Jason Kenney's risible pickup-truck tour of Alberta?

Who is paying for his campaign to lead Alberta's Progressive Conservative Party and unite it with the Wildrose Party to, he says, ensure there won't be a second NDP majority government in Alberta?

Are the people making contributions to his campaign influenced by the fact he is a sitting member of Parliament, still a big name in a party that not so long ago was the government of Canada and could be the government of Canada again one day?

Do the rules of Parliament allow a sitting MP to accept donations for such an effort -- be they cash from U.S.-style "political action committees" set up specifically to finance the unite-the-right effort and to evade Alberta's election financing laws or a free bed from a homeowner in "Whitelock" Alberta?

Enquiring minds started to ask questions like these on social media as soon as Kenney was spotted yesterday sitting in his enormous Tory blue Dodge Ram pickup in a no-parking zone on the grounds of the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton applying his TV makeup in preparation for the 10 a.m. media launch of his "Unite Alberta Truck Tour."

Behind the scenes, though, both conservative and progressive circles in Alberta have been abuzz with the same concerns for days.

As for the tour, there's not all that much to tell. Kenney advised the media yesterday he was going to begin with a quick stop at Edmonton's Heritage Festival, another mass no-parking zone for those of us in the Hoi Polloi. No idea how that worked out.

After that, he was off to "Whitelock" -- which if it wasn't a glimpse of the hem of Kenney's Freudian slip, was at least evidence of how long it's been since he's really been an Albertan. The name of the town he presumably had in mind is Westlock, or maybe Whitcourt.

He says he plans to visit all 87 Alberta ridings. That's a long vacation for a guy who also intends to continue to accept the taxpayer's dime to represent the Calgary Midnapore riding, at least until the start of October.

When Twitter gadfly and gay activist Dave Beninger spotted Kenney idling in his truck in front of the Terrace Building yesterday, makeup brush in hand, he asked the candidate if he had time for a question. "He said he was too busy because he had a press conference, he slowly put his foundation brush down, took his truck out of park and sped off out of the 'authorized parking only' spot he had been parked in," Beninger wrote on Facebook.

To restate the problem, it's that in addition to being a candidate for the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party -- even though, officially, there is no race, there are no rules, there are no spending limits -- Kenney is also a sitting member of Parliament.

But this is not just a question of Kenney accepting a Parliamentary salary while he does another, completely unrelated job -- a luxury most of us working folks would not be afforded by our employers.

If Kenney is still an MP, any and all funds that are expended in his campaign for the leadership of the PC Party of Alberta should be disclosed as federal donations and examined for their propriety by Mary Dawson, Parliament's Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

We are not, after all, in a federal election writ period.

The expenses Dawson should examine include hall rentals, flights, ad-wrapped campaign vehicles, the professionally printed sign on Kenney’s new blue Ram pickup (and possibly the truck itself, since we know nothing of the details of its ownership), hotel rooms and in-home accommodations, brochures, his fancy new campaign website, professional photographers and communications staff on call and so on.

He can't really claim this is all a legitimate part of the PC leadership race because, as noted above, at the moment there is no PC leadership race, even though everyone knows there will be one soon. And once there is a race, one would think Kenney should resign from his position as an MP to run -- which, by the sound of it, he doesn't intend to do immediately.

Dawson might also want to look at Kenney's social media activities -- he is busy on Facebook and Twitter running for the leadership. His Twitter account declares him explicitly to be both an MP and a candidate in a race that hasn't started.

She should certainly look into Kenney's use of his House of Commons web page to redirect readers to the site he now uses to raise funds, identify supporters and campaign for the leadership of the PC Party. The link was eventually removed after the obvious misuse of the Parliamentary website was noted and harshly criticized.

Moreover, it seems to me that Dawson should extend any such investigation to the activities of Opposition Leader Rona Ambrose and other Alberta MPs who, it could be argued persuasively, are using Parliament's resources to campaign for Kenney. This group would include former prime minister Stephen Harper, who like Ambrose has endorsed Kenney's Alberta candidacy and travelled to at least one of his campaign events.

In summary, Jason Kenney is a member of Parliament. Everything he does is the action of a member of Parliament. The fact he is running, as an MP, for a political job in another jurisdiction requires a review of his ethics, and a review of his financial activities.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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