Ethics Commissioner calls for training after another Liberal MP breaches Conflict of Interest Act
The Canadian Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Mario Dion, has called for federal ministers and parliamentary secretaries to receive training after MP Greg Fergus became the latest high-profile Liberal to breach the Conflict of Interest Act. The ruling against Fergus found that he violated the act by writing a letter of support for a television channel's application to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for mandatory carriage. The breach was identified because parliamentary secretaries and cabinet ministers cannot write such letters.
Recommendations for ethics training
Commissioner Dion recommended that all federal ministers and parliamentary secretaries receive training from his office, which has previously offered training and educational sessions on a range of topics to all federal parties and to regulatees. Dion expressed concern that even after years of offering ethics training, senior government officials still "unaware of their obligations and mistakenly making assumptions."
MP Greg Fergus apologizes
In a statement, Fergus apologized for his "unintentional error" and thanked Dion for his report. Fergus said that his letter of support for Natyf Inc., an international Francophone broadcaster with a focus on diversity, was intended to ensure "Black Canadians see themselves reflected in Parliament." Fergus said he would redouble his efforts to ensure his obligations under the act are fully met in the future.
Liberal Party ethics violations
Trudeau's government has had a problematic relationship with the Conflict of Interest Act since he came to power. In 2016, Trudeau was found guilty of breaching the act when he vacationed on a private island owned by the Aga Khan. In 2019, during the SNC-Lavalin scandal, Dion's office found that Trudeau broke the act by pressuring then-justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to get her to grant a deferred prosecution agreement to the Quebec-based engineering firm. In 2018, Trudeau accepted two pairs of leather-covered sunglasses made by Fellow Earthlings eyewear, based in rural P.E.I., which retailed for between $300 and $500. Trudeau was fined $100 for failing to report the gift.
Commissioner Dion retires
In the same report, Commissioner Dion announced that due to ongoing health issues, he could no longer continue in his role as commissioner. His last day as Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner will be February 21. Dion expressed his gratitude for serving Parliament and Canadians in his role over the past five years and hoped that he had contributed to transparency and accountability in support of Canadian democracy.