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Democracy Watch questions whether Ethics Commissioner’s senior lawyer is Liberal Cabinet Minister Dominic LeBlanc’s sister-in-law?

Again calls on Ethics Commissioner to delegate investigation of PMO/AG/SNC-Lavalin situation to a provincial ethics commissioner – Commissioner biased as Trudeau Cabinet chose him after secretive, dishonest process, and senior lawyer also has appearance of bias

Monday, April 8, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch raised questions about whether federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s senior lawyer, Martine Richard, is the sister of Jolène Richard, who is married to Trudeau Cabinet minister Dominic LeBlanc (see also here). Ms. Richard heads the Investigations and Legal Services division of the Ethics Commissioner’s office.

If so, in addition to this conflict of interest, Mr. Dion was chosen by the Trudeau Cabinet after a secretive, Cabinet-controlled process that failed to consult with opposition parties as required by the Parliament of Canada Act. As well, Mr. Dion also has a record 8 unethical and questionable actions when he was federal Integrity Commissioner.

If Ms. Richard has this connection with Minister LeBlanc, and given Mr. Dion’s current prolonged medical leave, Democracy Watch again called on Commissioner Dion to delegate to a provincial ethics commissioner (who has no ties to any political party) the investigation of its complaint concerning who tried to influence former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene and stop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC).

Democracy Watch filed the first complaint with Ethics Commissioner Dion about the PMO/Attorney General/SNC-Lavalin situation on February 8th, alleging that anyone covered by the federal Conflict of Interest Act, including the Prime Minister and PMO staff, who tried to pressure the Attorney General violated section 9 of the Act by using “his or her position as a public office holder to seek to influence a decision of another person so as to… improperly further another person’s private interests.”

Ethics Commissioner Dion sent Democracy Watch a letter on February 26th confirming his investigation of its complaint. Democracy Watch sent a second letter to Ethics Commissioner Dion on March 5th requesting that he expand the investigation into all 11 people whom Ms. Wilson-Raybould named in her testimony before the Justice Committee on February 27th.

“The federal Ethics Commissioner’s office is tainted by bias in favour of the Trudeau Cabinet, and must delegate the investigation of the SNC-Lavalin scandal to a provincial ethics commissioner who is fully independent of any political party,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Ethics Commissioner Dion should not be ruling on any situations involving Liberals as he was hand-picked by the Trudeau Cabinet through a secretive, very questionable process, has a senior lawyer with a family connection to a Cabinet minister, and has an unethical past enforcement record.”

Democracy Watch also called for an independent investigation of Ms. Richard’s family connection to Minister LeBlanc, and her actions and decisions in all investigations and situations since she joined the Ethics Commissioner’s office. It is unclear when Ms. Richard joined the office – although according to a newsletter on the website of her former employer, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, she started sometime in September-October 2013.

Incredibly, it seems that employees in the Ethics Commissioner’s office are exempt from the federal, government-wide Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and Policy on Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment, and the office seems to be exempt from the requirement to have an internal ethics code set out in section 6 of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.

However, the Ethics Commissioner’s office does have an internal code that, like the government-wide code, requires all employees to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, and to resolve any conflict of interest in the public interest (for example, by not participating in a decision-making process when they have an appearance of a conflict – p. 9). The code also prohibits employees from “granting preferential treatment or advantages to family, friends or any other person or entity” (p. 10). All federal ethics rules define “family” as including family by marriage.

Federal Integrity Commissioner Joe Friday should issue a public statement whether his office has the legal power to investigate Ms. Richard if she is related to Dominic LeBlanc, and if he does he should delegate the investigation to a provincial ethics commissioner given he has an appearance of bias as his former boss was current Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion.

If Ms. Richard, is Dominic LeBlanc’s sister-in-law, the key question is whether Ms. Richard has effectively removed herself from investigations and decisions that affect Trudeau Cabinet ministers, their staff and Liberal MPs since she started in the office, including the investigation of the SNC-Lavalin affair, and also past investigations including the one that led to the ruling finding Dominic LeBlanc guilty of handing out a surf clam licence to a company connected to a cousin of his wife? And an overall question is whether Ms. Richard can serve in such a position given her family relationship to Dominic LeBlanc?

“If Martine Richard has a family relationship with Liberal Cabinet minister Dominic LeBlanc, a fully independent investigation is needed into the actions and decisions of the Ethics Commissioner’s senior lawyer in all investigations and situations since she joined the office, along with a public ruling detailing whether and how she can actually remain in this job,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
[email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign and Stop Unfair Law Enforcement Campaign and Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign