Conflict of Interest Act contravened in decision related to Arctic surf clam licence

Ottawa, September 12, 2018

In an examination report released today, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion found that former Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Dominic LeBlanc was in a conflict of interest in relation to his decision to pursue issuing an Arctic surf clam licence to the Five Nations Clam Company.

"A first cousin of Mr. LeBlanc's spouse, Mr. Gilles Thériault, could have benefitted financially from an Arctic surf clam licence being awarded to the Five Nations Clam Company," Commissioner Dion said. "Mr. Thériault would have served as the company's general manager if the process to grant it the licence had been completed."

Under the Conflict of Interest Act, public office holders are in a conflict of interest when they exercise an official power, duty or function that provides an opportunity to further their private interests or those of their relatives or friends or to improperly further another person's private interests. The Act defines relatives as persons related to the public office holder by birth, marriage, common-law partnership, adoption or affinity.

"As Minister, Mr. LeBlanc was exercising an official power when he decided to pursue issuing the licence to the Five Nations Clam Company, and his decision provided an opportunity to further Mr. Thériault's private interests," Commissioner Dion said.

He found that Mr. LeBlanc contravened subsection 6(1) of the Act, which prohibits public office holders from making a decision that would place them in a conflict of interest, and section 21, which requires them to recuse themselves from any discussion, decision, debate or vote on any matter in respect of which they would be in a conflict of interest.

"If a public office holder is aware of a potential opportunity to further the private interests of a relative through the exercise of an official power, duty or function, the public office holder must be vigilant in avoiding such conflicts of interest," Commissioner Dion said.

The LeBlanc Report is available here.

The Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner was created under the Federal Accountability Act. The Commissioner applies the Conflict of Interest Act for public office holders and the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons. These two regimes seek to prevent conflicts between the public duties of elected and appointed officials and private interests.

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