Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc, who is fighting cancer, benefited from the use of a private aircraft operated by New Brunswick-based J.D. Irving Ltd. last month to travel to a medical facility in Montreal, records show.
The free flight that originated in Moncton for the Liberal MP for Beauséjour and his wife was preapproved by Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion.
According to a recent filing on the commissioner’s website, the trip involved a “non-commercial chartered or private aircraft” and was necessary to participate in a medical consultation.
“Minister LeBlanc has been undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Under his doctor’s direction, Minister LeBlanc needed to attend a hospital in Montreal. Given his immune system is compromised, his doctors determined that he could not travel commercial,” said Shannon Zimmerman, who is the director of issues management in Mr. LeBlanc’s office.
After joining the Liberal government’s cabinet in 2015, Mr. LeBlanc set up a “conflict of interest screen” to prevent him from participating in any government decisions that could directly affect James D. Irving, who is the president and chief executive officer of J.D. Irving Limited, given their long-time friendship. Mr. Irving is part of the Irving family conglomerate that has interests in numerous industrial sectors including shipbuilding, oil refineries and lumber.
A spokeswoman for Irving reiterated the flight was approved ahead of time. “This is a personal medical matter and we wish Minister LeBlanc all the best with his treatments,” Mary Keith said.
Hematologist and medical oncologist Nicholas Finn wrote a letter on June 12 stating that being in “active chemotherapy treatment,” Mr. LeBlanc “should avoid commercial aircraft when he is required to travel for medical consultations.”
The flight provided by Irving occurred on June 13, according to the filing with the Ethics Commissioner.
On June 18, the 51-year-old Mr. LeBlanc posted a video on social media in which he said that doctors were satisfied with the results of the first three rounds of cancer treatments that he had received. The posting showed that Mr. LeBlanc had lost all of his hair.
“They are very encouraged. They hope that the treatments conclude during the summer,” he said.
Mr. LeBlanc is dealing with rare version of the cancer that has never been treated in New Brunswick.
He took a leave of absence in April from his cabinet position, revealing that he consulted his doctor after the onset of flu-like symptoms, only to be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“His doctors are pleased with the progress of the treatments, and the minister will be running in the upcoming federal election. As this is a private medical issue, we will not be commenting further,” Ms. Zimmerman said.
He had previously been diagnosed in 2017 with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and declared in complete remission in 2018.
The Ethics Commissioner ruled last year that Mr. LeBlanc violated the country’s ethics act when he awarded a lucrative clam licence to an Indigenous business group that had a family connection. Mr. Dion said that Mr. LeBlanc, who was the fisheries minister at the time, was in a conflict of interest when he approved a multimillion-dollar Arctic surf clam licence for the Five Nations Clam Co. because a first cousin of his wife was involved in the winning bid.
“A first cousin of Mr. LeBlanc’s spouse, Mr. Gilles Thériault, could have benefited financially from an Arctic surf clam licence being awarded to the Five Nations Clam Co.,” Mr. Dion said. “Mr. Thériault would have served as the company’s general manager if the process to grant it the licence had been completed.”