UPDATE 1-Canada Liberal boss defends ethics after pipeline furor

Thu Oct 15, 2015 11:03am EDT
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(Recasts with Liberal defense of record, word on Energy East pipeline)

By Randall Palmer

MONTREAL Oct 15 (Reuters) - Canadian election front runner Justin Trudeau defended the ethics of his Liberal team on Thursday after his campaign co-chair was forced to resign over controversial advice to an energy company on how to lobby a Liberal government.

The campaign official, Dan Gagnier, had sent an email on Monday to TransCanada Corp in his private capacity as a consultant, advising it on how to win approval for projects, including the Energy East oil pipeline.

When news of the email emerged on Wednesday, the Trudeau campaign at first said Gagnier had done nothing wrong. By evening it sent out a notice that Gagnier had resigned, but blamed Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party for "mean-spirited politics."

At a campaign stop in Montreal, Trudeau said Gagnier had recognized his actions were inappropriate.

"I personally hold extremely high ethical standards not just for myself but for people surrounding me, and that's why we took, within 24 hours, a decision that Mr. Gagnier accepted and chose to step down from this campaign," Trudeau said.

It was clear the Liberals were trying to limit damage from the incident rather than continuing to defend Gagnier's actions in the remaining days before the Oct. 19 election.

It had the potential to dent the momentum of the party, which has established a clear polling lead. A Nanos survey released on Thursday put the Liberals at 37.1 percent, approaching levels needed to win a majority mandate.   Continued...