Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Diane Finley speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

A nearly three-year ethics investigation has revealed cabinet-level discussions about the connection between public infrastructure projects and winning political support from Jewish voters in the Greater Toronto Area.

Federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson released a detailed, 46-page report on Tuesday that concludes the actions of Conservative minister Diane Finley were "improper" and violated the Conflict of Interest Act when she awarded federal money to an infrastructure project backed by a rabbi with close ties to prominent Conservative politicians, including the Prime Minister.

The investigation was launched in 2012 after The Globe and Mail reported that Ms. Finley, who was minister of human resources at the time, overruled federal public servants to award funding to the $1-million project to make a Jewish community centre in Markham, Ont., accessible for the disabled. The application for the funding was made by the Canadian Federation of Chabad Lubavitch.

Story continues below advertisement

Although the project was in Markham, it was the subject of an extensive lobbying campaign by Ottawa-area Jewish leader Rabbi Chaim Mendelsohn, who has described former Conservative minister John Baird as "a very dear friend."

The commissioner's report said public servants had rejected Mr. Mendelsohn's application to an accessibility fund because the project scored poorly on the program's criteria, but Ms. Finley overruled the department and placed it among the finalists for funding after Mr. Baird spoke to her about about it. It said then-environment minister Peter Kent, whose riding included the project, also advocated for the funding.

The report reveals that in 2011, Ms. Finley had a private conversation with Nigel Wright, who was then chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, just outside the cabinet room.

The report said that, according to Mr. Wright, the minister asked him whether the Markham proposal was important. Mr. Wright replied that the Prime Minister had asked him to "sort it out."

Ms. Finley replied that the project had not scored as well as other applications, but had elements that made it an appropriate candidate.

"According to Mr. Wright, he did not intend to suggest to Ms. Finley that funding should be approved for the Markham project, only that it was important that the matter be considered carefully and fairly," the report states.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair asked the Prime Minister on Tuesday to explain what he described as a "dirty insider deal involving his office, three cabinet ministers and a dear friend of the Conservative Party."

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Harper supported Ms. Finley, who is now Minister of Public Works.

"I had no specific knowledge of these applications nor any preference in what was chosen," he said, adding that Ms. Finley acted "in good faith."

The Conflict of Interest Act does not include sanctions for breaches of its key provisions. Its administrative penalties generally relate to failure to meet reporting deadlines.

"The commissioner believes that a public report is in itself a sanction," said Jocelyne Brisebois, a spokesperson for the office.

The commissioner's report suggests the internal debate took place as the Conservatives were seeking ways to secure the political support of Jewish voters in the Greater Toronto Area.

The project is in the riding of Thornhill, Ont., which is represented by Mr. Kent, who is still a Conservative MP. The report said he spoke to Mr. Wright about "political issues" involving the Greater Toronto Area Jewish community.

Story continues below advertisement

"Mr. Wright suggested that the Prime Minister was aware that there was a political issue raised by some members of the Greater Toronto Area Caucus regarding how one or more grant applications by groups within the Jewish community were being handled. Mr. Wright wrote, however, that he did not think that the Prime Minister was focused on any individual project or organization," the report states.

The report describes Mr. Mendelsohn as a "well-known" figure on Parliament Hill who advises the Prime Minister's Office on protocol related to Jewish customs, including a Hanukkah celebration at the Prime Minister's official residence. He accompanied the Prime Minister to Israel in January, 2014.

In a statement, Mr. Mendelsohn said the report makes clear "that neither I, nor anyone associated with Chabad-Lubavitch, conducted themselves in anything but a proper manner, both legally and ethically."

The commissioner notes in her report that some of the people she interviewed said they could not remember what occurred.

The government ultimately reversed its decision to fund the Markham project, although some money had already been spent.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau described the incident as "regrettable" and said it shows a lack of concern for issues of ethics or accountability.

Story continues below advertisement

"It also is consistent with the culture within this government that prefers to cut corners and play favourites in its approaches," he said. "And I think Canadians are growing extremely weary of the way this government behaves."

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies