Canada industry minister broke ethics rules: probe

Thu Mar 22, 2012 4:15pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Industry Minister Christian Paradis, who must approve all major foreign takeover bids and also runs the sensitive telecommunications file, broke conflict-of-interest rules by doing a favor for an ex-colleague, Canada's ethics watchdog said on Thursday.

The decision is an embarrassment for the Conservative government, which came to power in early 2006 promising to boost accountability in Ottawa.

Paradis, the first Conservative minister to have been formally investigated for breaking ethics rules, made clear he would not be resigning.

Although the main opposition party said the announcement put Paradis in a difficult position, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has often stood by ministers who land in trouble.

Paradis, who last week announced rules for foreign investment in the telecommunications sector, now has to decide whether to approve Glencore International's C$6.1 billion ($6.1 billion) takeover bid for Canadian grain handler Viterra.

Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson said, after an investigation, that when Paradis was public works minister in 2009, he violated the Conflict of Interest Act by telling bureaucrats to set up a meeting with a former Conservative legislator who wanted to do business with Ottawa.

"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," Dawson said in a statement.

"However, I believe that facilitating access to decision-makers or those who may influence them is captured by the act's prohibition against providing preferential treatment. Ministers are in a position of power and have a special responsibility to ensure that that power is exercised fairly," Dawson added.   Continued...

Canada's Industry Minister Christian Paradis speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 15, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie