Former International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda smokes a cigarette behind Centre Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 16, 2011.
Credits: REUTERS/CHRIS WATTIE
OTTAWA -- Former Conservative minister Bev Oda ordered an air purifier for her office -- at taxpayers' expense -- so she could smoke without detection, QMI Agency has learned.
Oda smoked regularly in her office at the Ministry of International Co-operation, according to highly placed sources in government.
"It was really terrible," one source said. "The smoke passed under the door. It reeked throughout the office. The staff could not do anything and was frustrated by it."
A staffer whose office was on the same floor of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), which Oda headed, tried to complain.
"It smelled strongly of smoke. I did not know where it came from exactly. I went to complain to management. They said they would investigate..."
The official Opposition did not take kindly to the implication that there is one law for Oda and another for the people.
"It is unacceptable that an elected official does not respect the same rules as citizens," NDP MP Helene Leblanc said.
Several sources have confirmed the presence of an air purifier in Oda's office.
An official at Oda's ministry, Luc Raymond, declined comment.
After a long silence on the phone, he referred QMI Agency to the Access to Information Act.
Daniel Paille of the Bloc Quebecois is outraged.
"If this is the case, she not only violated the law, she has increasingly used taxpayer money to do so. It's a double insult."
Oda's press secretary, Justin Broekema, denied the allegations.
To his knowledge, Oda never smoked in her office, neither she nor the department have ever purchased an air purifier, and no one has ever complained about a smell of smoke.
Oda, who has come under repeated fire for her free-spending ways with taxpayer dollars, did not return numerous calls.
In April, Oda was forced to apologize and refund the treasury after news broke she upgraded to a room at London's luxurious Savoy Hotel for three nights last year when her original five-star hotel wasn't up to snuff.
During the same trip, she billed taxpayers nearly $1,000 a day for a luxury car and driver and bought a $16 glass of orange juice.
In June, it came to light her staff had combed through five years worth of past travel and hospitality expenses to weed out all inappropriate spending. Oda then cut a cheque to taxpayers for an undisclosed amount.
In 2007, she had to pay back $2,200 after racking up more than $5,000 in limo rides during the 2006 Juno Awards in Halifax. CIDA's records show Oda has spent $16,000 in car rentals and limousines since 2007.
Last Tuesday, Oda announced her intention to leave politics on July 31. A day later, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that former associate minister of national defence Julian Fantino would immediately take over her portfolio as minister for international co-operation.
Oda was first named to the Conservative cabinet in 2006 -- the first Japanese-Canadian cabinet minister in this country's history.