Conservative Senator Pierre-Hughes Boisvenu says the Senate ethics officer told him last year he couldn't keep his girlfriend on his office payroll, but he did nothing about it for six months.
Boisvenu unexpectedly opened up to reporters Tuesday about the details of his relationship with former aide Isabelle Lapointe, and the difficult breakdown of his marriage.
He had been forced to admit last month that he had carried on a relationship with Lapointe. Boisvenu, who often takes on the role of French spokesman for the Conservatives on law-and-order issues, said the affair began after he hired Lapointe.
The senator now says the ethics officer told him last spring that the relationship constituted a potential conflict of interest and that Boisvenu should either end it or fire the woman. But the senator did not take immediate action.
"During the months that followed, it was the subject of a discussion between her and I," Boisvenu said.
"We got to the fall, the end of the fall of 2012, and said OK, we have to end this relationship or if the relationship continues she has to work elsewhere. When the issue became known publicly, that accelerated things."
The Senate ethics officer's office would not comment on the Boisvenu case. But spokeswoman Louise Dalphy said "the office does not have a policing function."
While Boisvenu's marriage was falling apart, he lived with Lapointe near Ottawa for three months while collecting a minor accommodation stipend. He later repaid the $900 to guard against any suggestion of impropriety.
Boisvenu concedes the ethics officer's advice was "relatively clear," but that his personal situation was in flux.
"It was a relationship that came and went, like the one with my wife, because I was completely torn between the two," Boisvenu said.
Lapointe eventually left his employ to work elsewhere in the Senate on March 11. Boisvenu said it was a difficult decision.
"It's like the motivation at work, the energy in the office has completely disappeared," he said.
"My assistant, she was the heart of the office ... really the glue, I mean, between my political assistant and the office. When that disappeared...everything crushed, crumbled."