Conservative questions Fredericton Liberal MP's recruitment tactics

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Conservative questions Fredericton Liberal MP's recruitment tactics

Conservative questions Fredericton Liberal MP's recruitment tactics

A Conservative MP says Fredericton Liberal MP Matt DeCourcey may have breached House of Commons rules by seemingly using his taxpayer-funded newsletter to recruit campaign volunteers.

DeCourcey's spring 2018 newsletter includes photos of a Liberal-organized door-knocking campaign in February and an invitation for people looking to "volunteer with our team" to contact his MP office.

House of Commons rules prevent MPs from using their newsletters, known as "householders," to make "solicitations of membership to a political party" or "requests for re-election support."

It's not clear from the text whether people responding to the newsletter would become Liberal party members or campaign volunteers, but Conservative MP John Brassard asserted that's likely what would happen.

"It sounds like he's stepping up to the line, particularly on the aspect of volunteers. One could argue whether that was data mining or not — gaining information from people to help out for partisan activities," said Brassard, the party's ethics critic.

Rules clear

He said it's hard to imagine what else DeCourcey would be recruiting volunteers for.

"Actively engaging people to suggest that they could volunteer? Volunteer for what? The campaign?" he said.

"We're all told and it's very clear to all of us we're not to use householders … for purely partisan purposes, and that could include recruitment of volunteers for an election campaign."

DeCourcey's office did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. CBC News requested an interview over three separate days.

Members of parliament have an office budget that includes money for communicating with constituents about their activities.

The householders, mailed four times a year, are often used to promote a member's position on issues, but they are supposed to avoid explicit promotion of their parties.

'Days of action'

DeCourcey's new householder doesn't mention the Liberal Party of Canada but it discusses several federal Trudeau government policies and initiatives, including the recent budget.

It also includes almost a full page on DeCourcey's recent "Days of Action." On three days in February, he and Liberal Party volunteers knocked on doors in his Fredericton riding, one of dozens of such campaign-style blitzes organized by the party across the country.

The days of action are coordinated by the party and are explicitly designed to prepare the MP and volunteers for the next federal election in 2019.

DeCourcey's householder includes five photos of the rookie MP and Liberal volunteers. Provincial Liberal candidate Cindy Miles, running in Fredericton West-Hanwell in the Sept. 24 election, appears in two of the photos.

"If you would like to volunteer with our team, then please contact our office to let us know!" says a short text under the photos.

Was a line crossed? 

Brassard says there's nothing wrong with DeCourcey's day of action itself.

"That's fine," he said. "I knock on doors when it's a non-election year."

But using photos of the event to invite volunteers to contact his office to join the "team" may cross the line.

"We've see this in other areas where the Liberal party will data-mine on a lot of this stuff just to get the names of potential supporters to be used either for volunteer purposes or campaign purposes," he said.

"You're not asking a pointed question like 'would you like to volunteer' if you're not intending on using that information for volunteers, either for an election campaign or perhaps for other partisan purposes."

An MP that violates the rules can be ordered by a House of Commons committee to "rectify the situation," according to the House website. Serious breaches can be sent to another committee for possible disciplinary action.