Rickford had energy company investments when he was federal natural resources minister – loopholes in Ontario’s ethics law allows such investments, in secret
Rickford cited a climate-change denial blog when defending $231 million cost of dismantling Ontario’s renewable energy sector
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, December 9, 2019
OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it sent to Greg Rickford, Ontario’s Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, calling on him to disclose whether he has investments in energy and mining companies. When he was federal natural resources minister, Rickford had investments in an elite hedge fund that held shares in the energy companies he oversaw.
In his 2018 Public Disclosure Statement in the Integrity Commissioner’s Public Registry, Minister Rickford said he had received “Director’s Fees” from Noront Resources Ltd., a Canadian mining company that holds 72% of all claims in northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire area. Minister Rickford was on the board of Noront in 2017.
Minister Rickford recently cited a climate-change denying blog when defending the $231-million cost to taxpayers of dismantling Ontario’s renewable energy sector by cancelling 758 government contracts. Ontario’s Auditor General recently concluded that the Ford government’s climate change emissions plan will fail, and “did not use best practices.”
Democracy Watch also called on Premier Ford and all his ministers and Cabinet staff to disclose any secret investments they hold in all mutual funds and other securities, as the public has a right to know all their financial conflicts of interest.
Ontario’s government ethics law has a huge loophole that allows Cabinet ministers, Cabinet staff, and MPPs to own shares in a mutual fund in secret, even if the fund invests in companies the minister and/or their staff oversee (See subsection 21(4), para. 9 of the Members’ Integrity Act and subsection 11(2), para. 1 of O.Reg. 382/07 under the Public Service of Ontario Act). The federal government’s ethics law has the same loophole.
“Energy and mines minister Greg Rickford needs to clear the air about whether he is still secretly invested in energy and mining companies, as he was on the board of an Ontario mining company, and he owned energy company stocks when he was federal natural resources ministers, and he recently cited a climate-change denying blog when defending dismantling Ontario’s renewable energy industry at a cost to taxpayers of $231 million,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Premier Ford, his Cabinet ministers, and Cabinet staff must also all come clean about whether they have secret investments in companies – the public has a right to know even though a huge loophole in Ontario’s government ethics law allows them to have secret investments.”
“Like Premier Ford’s trust, any ministers’ so-called blind trust doesn’t do anything to prevent them from helping the companies they are invested in because they know that they own the investments, and they choose their own trustee, and they receive annual updates from the trustee,” said Conacher. “To have an effective government ethics system, politicians, their staff and top government officials must be prohibited from having investments in businesses in any way, and if they can’t sell their investments for any reason they must be prohibited from participating in any decision-making process that affects their investments in any way.”
Democracy Watch recently sent a letter to Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake calling on him to confirm with a clear, strong, public statements that key rules set out in the Preamble of the Act are enforceable. The rules require all MPPs to perform their duties and arrange their private affairs “in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of each member” and to “to act with integrity and impartiality that will bear the closest scrutiny.”
Democracy Watch’s letter also called on Commissioner Wake to issue a clear, strong, public statement calling on the Ontario legislature to change the Act to ban so-called blind trusts because they are a charade (as the Parker Commission recommended in 1987), and to close a huge loophole that means the Act doesn’t apply to 99% of the decisions of MPPs and allows them, the Premier and Cabinet ministers to take part in decisions even when they will profit from the decision.
“Ontario’s ethics law for politicians has huge loopholes that must be closed or it will continue to be almost impossible to be in a conflict of interest that violates the law,” said Conacher.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign