Robinson's Scottish trip defended

 Jul 16, 2004

Canadian Press

Ottawa — NDP Leader Jack Layton has defended Svend Robinson's recent taxpayer-funded trip to Scotland, saying it was approved by the Canadian government.

Mr. Robinson joined a group of eight Canadian politicians attending a session in Edinburgh last week of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

“He had been elected to co-chair the committee on human rights there and was discharging his responsibilities,” Mr. Layton said Friday.

“It was approved by the government. ... It's part of the strategy for ensuring Canada is represented.”

Mr. Robinson is no longer an MP, having stepped away from politics before the June 28 election after admitting to stealing an expensive ring. He has since been charged, and his lawyer says he plans to plead guilty.

Mr. Layton noted that two other former MPs also went on the junket, one of them ex-Montreal Liberal MP Clifford Lincoln.

Part of the mandate of the OSCE is to encourage new democracies in eastern Europe to develop anti-corruption policies and promote integrity in government.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has condemned the participation of the former MPs, saying it is unacceptable for them to take free trips at taxpayer expense when they are no longer in Parliament.

Mr. Robinson has admitted pocketing a ring valued at $64,000 at an auction earlier this year in what he characterized as “an act of utter irrationality.”

His lawyer said last week that he plans to take full responsibility for a criminal charge of theft over $5,000.