Credits: REUTERS/Chris Wattie
OTTAWA - New Democrat MP Pat Martin is in the eye of a new controversy over efforts to raise money for his personal legal costs related to a defamation lawsuit against him.
Conservative MP Erin O'Toole has written to the federal ethics commissioner to ask her to investigate whether Martin's fundraising through www.patmartindefencefund.ca breaks the Conflict of Interest Code.
"I would like you to investigate whether the monies donated to the Pat Martin Legal Defence Fund are gifts under the Code," O'Toole asks Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson. "As you are aware, even if a gift is reported to you, it may still be prohibited because it could reasonably be seen to influence the member."
O'Toole also says he's concerned because Martin isn't publicly disclosing the sources of the donations collected through his website.
Edmonton-based RackNine Inc. sued Martin for $5 million after he accused the company of trying to "defraud the electoral system" through so-called deceptive robocalls on behalf of the Tories in the 2011 election - comments for which he later apologized.
The Winnipeg MP has been collecting donations online since September and some media reports indicate he's received a $10,000 donation from his former carpenters' union.
However, Martin told QMI Agency in an e-mail that the defamation case was settled out of court Feb. 4, adding that his agreement with RackNine prevents him from revealing any other details.
Martin indicated he'd be willing to talk about the Tory ethics complaint, but then his party stepped in and issued a terse statement.
"The Pat Martin Legal Defence Fund is managed by a number of trustees of which Mr. Martin is not one," NDP deputy national director Chantal Vallerand said in an e-mail. "Prior to setting up the fund, the ethics commissioner, Revenue Canada and Elections Canada were all consulted to ensure there would be no conflicts."
NDP officials refused to answer questions about whether the fund would cover Martin's settlement costs or why the fundraising site doesn't mention his settlement.
The fund's trustees did not respond to a request for more information.
Martin has often created problems for himself through his outbursts.
In 2010 he launched an anti-Christian barb at the group Youth for Christ, saying it would be "luring in young prospects" through a massive, new recreation centre for downtown Winnipeg.
Martin later retreated and promised to help see the centre built.
Last December he complained via Twitter about "rat-faced whores" among the Conservatives, leading him to quit making online postings.