Industry Minister Christian Paradis was in conflict of interest when he helped former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer secure a meeting with departmental officials, the Ethics Commissioner has ruled.
Mr. Paradis was minister of public works when he gave special treatment to Mr. Jaffer and his company Green Power Generation. The Quebec Tory directed his staff to pressure officials in the deputy minister’s office to meet his former colleague, ethics watchdog Mary Dawson said in a report Thursday.
Ms. Dawson found that Mr. Paradis contravened Section 7 of the Conflict of Interest Act, which prohibits public office holders from making decisions that would place them in a conflict of interest. But she added there was no evidence Mr. Paradis tried to influence the outcome of the meeting, so he wasn’t in breach of section 9 of the act.
“Although I found that Mr. Paradis contravened the Conflict of Interest Act, I believe his inclination to direct that a meeting for his former caucus colleague be arranged is easy to understand: it is natural to want to help someone one knows,” Ms. Dawson said in the report.
Mr. Jaffer and his wife, the former Tory MP Helena Guergis, were embroiled in a series of allegations of unregistered lobbying and favouritism. In Mr. Jaffer’s case, police slapped on drug charges against the former Conservative MP, which were later dropped.
Ms. Guergis, however, resigned as minister for the status of women and was ejected from the Conservative caucus. Although she was quickly cleared of any wrongdoing by the RCMP, the party rejected her pleas to return to the fold. The Prime Minister was accused of having a double standard, given that other MPs who faced allegations of wrongdoing, including former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier, were allowed to remain in caucus.
The Official Opposition now says it wants Stephen Harper to deliver on his promise to clean up Ottawa – even when it’s his minister who is at fault.
“Is he going to stand by his minister and say this old pals backroom politics is the way they do business? Or is he going to make an example of his minister?” NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus told The Globe.
“The Conservatives think there are one set of rules for them and another set of rules for everybody else,” Mr. Angus added. “There are serious dollars tried to this portfolio and this minister should definitely have known better.”
Former MP Marlene Jennings complained to the Ethics Commissioner, prompting the investigation in 2010. At the time, Mr. Paradis issued a statement arguing that the Quebec Liberal’s allegations were “entirely bogus.”
Later, the minister admitted Mr. Jaffer called him in August of 2009 to discuss a proposal to install solar panels atop federal government buildings. In spite of the ongoing investigation against him and widespread criticism from opposition parties, Mr. Paradis was promoted to the high profile Industry portfolio by Prime Minister Stephen Harper after the May federal election.
Mr. Paradis and the Prime Minister’s office did not immediately return calls for comment on the Ethics Commissioner’s report.