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Helena Guergis fined for failure to report mortgage

Embattled former cabinet minister Helena Guergis is being fined by the federal ethics watchdog for failing to report a six-figure mortgage on an Ottawa home.

Ethics commissioner Mary Dawson has slapped a $100 fine on the MP because she missed deadlines for disclosing a mortgage she incurred to buy an $890,000 Rockcliffe-area house last November.

Ms. Guergis, whose bad year began with an outburst at the Charlottetown airport this February, has also been hurt by fallout over the alleged lobbying activities of her husband, former MP Rahim Jaffer. She was pushed to resign from the Harper cabinet last month for reasons the governing Conservatives still refuse to make explicit.

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The Conflict of Interest Act requires MPs to report new liabilities such as a mortgage within 30 days, but Ms. Guergis says it slipped her mind.

"I simply forgot and I accept responsibility for this oversight," she told CTV's Power Play in an e-mail. "I have already made arrangements to pay the fine - within the 30 days I was provided to do so."

She is not the first high-profile MP or political staffer to run afoul of the Ethics Commissioner's reporting rules in the last year. Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Sandra Buckler, a former Prime Minister's Office spokeswoman, have both incurred fines for falling short of the disclosure code.

Ms. Guergis, who's been booted from Tory caucus and barred for running for the party again, pointed out Thursday that Ms. Dawson is not conducting an inquiry into her mortgage, which news reports in April had speculated might have been acquired with no money down.

The Simcoe-Grey MP dismissed the allegation, saying there was a significant down payment of "over 30 per cent" on the house purchase. She also pleaded for privacy on her mortgage.

"Unless you plan to make public all other MP's mortgages and the percentages they put down on securing their mortgages, I hope you will give me the same respect of privacy that all other MPs and Canadians have when it comes to these type of financial transactions," she wrote to CTV.

Ms. Guergis relayed a note from a Scotiabank official who said the bank does not offer mortgages equivalent to 100 per cent of a house purchase price. The official suggested the mortgage might have been registered for a higher amount than needed to allow for future borrowing.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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