A member of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s staff resigned hours after his boss was accused on Thursday of breaking parliamentary rules by using his MP letterhead to raise funds for a Conservative party campaign.
The employee responsible resigned and the minister accepted it, Kenney’s spokesman Alykhan Velshi said in an email.
Kenney has taken responsibility and has apologized for his former employee’s actions, he said.
Using parliamentary or government resources for partisan activities is completely unacceptable, Velshi added.
The NDP said Kenney’s office mistakenly sent a letter to New Democrat MP Linda Duncan asking for money for a “Conservative Ethnic Paid Media Strategy.”
The letter says the party needs “an additional $200,000 of financial commitment” from various Conservative riding associations to make the campaign successful.
“Given the current political environment, we hope to have commitments by March 11, 2011,” the letter states.
The attached campaign outline appears to lay bare Conservative plans for a spring election, referring to a $378,000 “pre-writ” ethnic media buy beginning March 15 and lasting for two weeks.
The letter is signed by Kasra Nejatian, director of multicultural affairs in Kenney’s office.
New Democrat Pat Martin calls the letter a partisan “shakedown” by the immigration minister that demands his resignation.
Martin said the Conservative government “flagrantly, in the most cavalier way, abuse all the rules surrounding offices and letterhead and parliamentary tools and equipment to shake down money for an advertising campaign.”
He alleged the violation is particularly egregious because of who’s involved: “The minister of immigration using his office for purely partisan purposes to target very specific ridings with high ethnic population.”
Kenney has been credited with building support for the Conservatives among ethnic communities, most recently when the party won the Toronto-area by-election in Vaughan.
Kenney is one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s most trusted lieutenants, and is widely touted as a possible leadership successor.
Martin believes the minister should resign.
He noted that Helena Guergis lost her cabinet post and was kicked out of the Conservative caucus because her husband, former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer, used a government-issue Blackberry from her office.
“Well this is far and away more offensive than that,” said the New Democrat.
Martin said Kenny is “abusing his office, abusing his privileges for a clearly a political motive.”