Saturday, September 5, 2009

MacKay violates Conflict of Interest Act

Obviously a minister with such an imperfect memory is not to be trusted as defence minister. Imagine you were a board member of two companies and forgot that fact. Surely you would get regular letters notifying you of board meetings among other things.
The Chronicle Herald may have phrased their headline incorrectly but MacKay is at minimum guilty of violating the Conflict of Interest Act whether he is guilty of actual conflict of interest or not.

MacKay denies conflict of interest But defence minister admits he violated Conflict of Interest Act.
By STEPHEN MAHER Ottawa Bureau
OTTAWA — Peter MacKay denied Thursday that he was in a conflict of interest when he was a director of two family forestry companies while serving as a federal cabinet minister.
The defence minister and Central Nova MP acknowledged being in violation of the Conflict of Interest Act, which forbids ministers from serving on the boards of private companies, but he said that doesn’t necessarily mean he was in a conflict.
“As I have acknowledged, earlier this week I discovered I was not in compliance with section 15 of the act and took immediate steps to rectify the situation,” Mr. MacKay wrote in a letter emailed to The Chronicle Herald on Thursday. “A lack of compliance with section 15 does not, in itself, constitute a conflict of interest.”
Mr. MacKay objected to the headline on the front-page story: MacKay in Conflict of Interest.
“This headline is misleading, as it is simply not supported by the story you have published,” Mr. MacKay wrote. “Nothing in the story you have published establishes the existence of a conflict of interest.”
The Chronicle Herald learned this week that Mr. MacKay served as a director of Beaver Lumber and Lorne Resources, two companies owned by his father, former federal cabinet minister Elmer MacKay.
Through those two companies and private holdings, Elmer MacKay owns more than 8,000 hectares of Nova Scotia forest, mostly in Pictou County.
Peter MacKay resigned from the boards of both companies on Wednesday after he learned that he was in violation of the act. He said he had forgotten that he was an officer of either company as he had never received any compensation or owned any part of the businesses.
The Conflict of Interest Act for federal ministers forbids them from serving as directors or officers of corporations and from managing or operating businesses.
The violation came to light when The Chronicle Herald asked the office of Mary Dawson, the conflict of interest commissioner, about the situation. Her office called Mr. MacKay’s office and he immediately moved to withdraw from the companies.
Ms. Dawson “is looking into” Mr. MacKay’s violation, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
If Ms. Dawson launches an investigation, and if she finds that Mr. MacKay violated the act, she would file a report with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. She could also impose a monetary fine.
The story about Mr. MacKay’s violation of the act has received coverage from national media outlets, giving Mr. MacKay and the Tories a headache on a day when they didn’t need any bad news as political parties joust over the possibility of a fall election.
Liberal deputy leader Bob Rae declined to take any shots at Mr. MacKay when a CBC Radio reporter asked about the story on Thursday.
“That’s a matter for the conflict commissioner,” Mr. Rae said. “It’s not a matter for us. We have a process in the House for that. We take ministers at their word. We’re not going to make personal attacks on people.”
The Chronicle Herald looked into Mr. MacKay’s connection with the family businesses after he announced $7 million in federal funding last month for Nova Scotia woodlot owners.
Mr. MacKay said he had nothing to do with the decision to make the federal grant and nothing to do with the management of the family companies.
This summer, Mr. MacKay, his father and his brother Andrew received an award for sustainable forestry from a conservation group that said Andrew and Peter “assist their father in managing the family woodlands.”
Mr. MacKay said Wednesday he had no role in running the companies.
“My mistake, if anything, was not to have twigged to the fact that I should remove my name,” he said. “I guess it sounds hard to believe but I completely forgot because I didn’t have any involvement with it.”
Halifax MP Megan Leslie said she finds it tough to understand Mr. MacKay’s oversight because MPs and cabinet ministers have to go through a rigorous disclosure process.
“It must be quite the life to forget that you’re the director of certain companies,” the New Democrat said. “I forget how many student loans I have, but we have different lives, Peter and I.”

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