Canada industry minister broke ethics rules: probe

Fri Mar 23, 2012 2:39am 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, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood by Paradis.

"I have reviewed the findings of the report and it's clear to me the minister did not act with ill intentions nor did substantial harm of any kind occur," he told a news conference in Bangkok on Friday during an official visit to Thailand.

"The appropriate thing in this case is for the minister to learn and act with greater caution in the future," he said.

Paradis, the first Conservative minister to have been formally investigated for breaking ethics rules, issued a statement in which he made no mention of resigning although the main opposition party said the announcement put him in a difficult position.

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.   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