Top Canada minister faces second ethics probe

Tue Mar 27, 2012 4:52pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's industry minister, found guilty of an ethics violation last week, is being formally investigated for possible wrongdoing in a second case and faces opposition allegations of inappropriate behavior in a third.

Christian Paradis, who handles some of the government's most sensitive files, may be turning into a political problem for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose Conservatives came to power in early 2006 promising more accountability in government.

Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson said on Tuesday she was looking into allegations that Paradis - also the cabinet minister responsible for Quebec affairs - tried to move a government office into a building owned by an associate of his family in Quebec.

"There is an opened investigation on that," she told the House of Commons ethics committee when asked about the case.

Last Thursday, Dawson found Paradis had 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.

Hours before Dawson spoke on Tuesday, CTV News reported that Paradis had stayed at the exclusive hunting lodge of businessman Marcel Aubut in 2009. Aubut was lobbying the federal government at the time to help fund a C$400 million ($400 million) hockey arena in Quebec City.

"I wonder if we're going to need a whole special investigations unit just to keep Mr. Paradis on the straight and narrow," said Charlie Angus of the opposition New Democrats.

Paradis is in charge of deciding whether to allow increased foreign investment in big telecommunications companies and currently is weighing whether to let Swiss-based Glencore International Ltd buy Viterra Corp, Canada's biggest grain handler, for C$6.1 billion.   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