Aglukkaq fundraiser should not have been held, Liberal ethics critic says
”It’s not very ministerial to host something like that on the eve of this conference”
OTTAWA — Avalon MP Scott Andrews, the Liberal critic for access to information, privacy and ethics, said a Jan. 28 fundraiser for Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq — complete with a northern guest list — shouldn’t have happened.
The $100-per-ticket fundraising event, advertised as “A Celebration for Our Champion,” was organized with help from the Ottawa West-Nepean Conservative association, MP John Baird’s riding, and was intended to raise money for Aglukkaq’s Nunavut Electoral District Association.
The cabinet minister has since been accused of breaching ethics rules by inviting guests who lobby her department for funding, although she has denied those accusations.
Aglukkaq’s agency, CanNor, hands out millions of dollars a year to northern businesses and governments, many of whom are represented at the Northern Lights trade show, which continues this week at the Ottawa Convention Centre.
Andrews said that earlier this week, his office was tipped off about the event and its potential conflict of interest.
”It’s not very ministerial to host something like that on the eve of this conference,” Andrews said. “This is something that shouldn’t take place when you’ve got stakeholders from all over the North, who shouldn’t be attending a fundraising event.”
Andrews said his office was made aware that one of the paying guests to the event was former Northwest Territories premier Nellie Cournoyea, currently CEO of the Inuvialuit Regional Corp., which receives funding through CanNor.
Andrews has since written to the federal conflict of interest and ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson, and asked her to investigate the Jan. 28 fundraiser. (See document embedded below.)
Dawson and her staff administer the conflict of interest code for MPs and the Conflict of Interest Act as it applies to public office holders.
Dawson’s website advises MPs not to “solicit funds from a company or organization with which the public office holder, their office or their department has had official dealings or anticipates doing so.”
But Aglukkaq’s office has denied breaking any rules, saying the allegations — first reported by CTV News — are inaccurate and that the minister did not receive any donations from guests who lobby her department.
When questioned about the fundraiser during Question Period Jan. 29, Aglukkaq responded that “the local riding association has taken great care before and after the events to follow those guidelines and only appropriate donations were accepted.”
Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna, who appears in the CTV news item and spoke at the Northern Lights trade show, did not attend the Conservative fundraiser, his press secretary said.
The fundraising event, held at the Westin Hotel, the “official hotel” for Northern Lights participants, was not part of the trade show program and occurred Jan. 28, on the evening prior to the conference’s Jan. 29 opening, at which Aglukkaq gave the keynote address.