Ethel returns fire
Admits to using government credit card for fur coat

by P.J. Harston
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 01/96) - The Western Arctic's MP will use a personal credit card for her own purchases from now on.

But not everyone is happy with Ethel Blondin-Andrew's explanation of how she used her government credit card.

"I did vacation in Hawaii and I paid for my airline tickets with cash. I also travelled to Mexico and I have a cancelled personal cheque to confirm my payment of these airline tickets," she said yesterday in the House of Commons.

"On the charge of purchasing a fur coat with a government credit card, I can only say that a deposit of $554.53 was required and that a credit-card imprint was needed. That expense was promptly reimbursed," she added.

Following her statements, Blondin-Andrew tabled documents in the Commons that support her explanations for the purchases.

"As a Northerner with much of my time spent in remote communities with no access to financial services, I have not had any previous need for a personal credit card," she said.

However, because of media reports detailing her use of government credit cards, she has since applied for and received a personal credit card.

"I have learned that it's very hard to live in the modern world without a credit card," Blondin-Andrew said yesterday in a telephone interview from Ottawa.

But Reform MP Ken Epp said he isn't satisfied her explanations. "We're going to now examine what this minister has tabled and hopefully we can put this to rest. If not, the pressure will continue," he said.

The prime minister said that Blondin-Andrew made some "small mistakes", but did nothing illegal, a claim backed up by the government's ethics commissioner, Howard Wilson.

Wilson investigated the allegations earlier this month and cleared Blondin-Andrew. He looked at additional documents this week and reached the same conclusion.