Sleaze probe turns up numerous contraventions

Simailak facing $5,000 fine for ethical breaches


David Simailak, the MLA for Baker Lake and ex-cabinet minister, must pay a $5,000 fine, issue a groveling apology to the people of Nunavut and submit to a reprimand from the legislative assembly, the Nunavut Integrity Commissioner, Norman Pickell, recommended in a report tabled Sept. 8.

Pickell found that Simailak, when he served as Nunavut's minister of finance and economic development, contravened Nunavut's Integrity Act on numerous occasions.

After his appointment to cabinet in 2004, Simailak set up a blind trust for his extensive business interests.

Under that blind trust agreement, Simailak's business interests were supposed to have been handled by Yellowknife accountant Gerald Avery, his trustee.

And Simailak was to receive no information, except under limited circumstances, about the management of his businesses.

But Pickell found that Simailak received a steady stream of emails – sent to his Government of Nunavut email address – from Warwick Wilkinson, the general manager of Piruqsaijiit Ltd., providing information about his businesses and requesting that he use his influence as a cabinet minister to help those businesses.

"Mr. Simailak told me that he never thought anyone would find out about the emails that were exchanged between himself and people like Mr. Wilkinson," Pickell said.

"I believe him. But Mr. Simailak has been caught receiving information about his business interests that he never should have received."

Among his findings, detailed in a 27-page report, Pickell found that Simailak:

  • improperly communicated with people, including Warwick Wilkinson, about business interests that were supposed to have been run without his knowledge inside a blind trust;
  • used improper influence to persuade Alex Campbell, the deputy minister of Economic Development and Transportation, to hire an old friend of Simailak's, John Todd, as a consultant;
  • improperly arranged – with the help of his executive assistant, Chris Lalande – a meeting between two of his business associates and officials with the Nunavut Housing Corp.;
  • held a directorship in a company many months after his appointment to cabinet.

The Integrity Act says MLAs may vote to accept or reject Pickell's report in its entirety, but may not change it. The assembly was expected to hold that vote on Wednesday, Sept. 17, after the Nunatsiaq News press time for this week.

If MLAs accept Pickell's recommendations, Simailak would be required to make a statement in the house "acknowledging his wrongful conduct, apologizing to his peers, his constituents and all of Nunavummiut," Pickell said.

And if he wants to stand as a candidate in the upcoming territorial election, he must send a letter of apology to every household in his constituency, with information on where they can get a copy of Pickell's report.

If Simailak doesn't do that, his seat will be declared vacant should he manage to get re-elected.

Simailak didn't have much to say when asked last week about Pickell's report.

"It's up the house to accept those recommendations. But whatever, that's entirely up to the house," Simailak said.

But he did say he's willing to make an apology. "If asked to do so I probably would," he said.

Simailak quit the Nunavut cabinet on Dec. 11, 2007, after Premier Paul Okalik asked for his resignation.

At that time, Simailak was already under fire for embarrassing revelations that he holds interests in two Rankin Inlet firms that received $2 million worth of loans from the Nunavut Business Credit Corp. in 2005, contravening territorial law.

He also holds an interest in a Baker Lake firm that just last year was on the verge of receiving a $1 million loan.

But Pickell's report is based on a new set of allegations that emerged after the NBCC scandal.

He reviewed those allegations this past July and August, after receiving a formal request July 7 from Iqaluit Centre MLA Hunter Tootoo, the chair of the assembly's standing committee on government operations and accountability.

In an affidavit, Tootoo alleged that Simailak contravened four different sections of the Integrity Act.

To support those allegations, Tootoo supplied Pickell with two thick binders containing documents that the standing committee obtained after issuing two subpoenas to the Government of Nunavut.

Those documents include numerous emails from Warwick Wilkinson, general manager of Piruqsaijiit Ltd., the management arm for a well-known family of Kivalliq businesses.

Before the 2004 election, Simailak served as president of three of those businesses, which Wilkinson helped run: Qamanittuaq Development Corp., Ilagiiktut Ltd., and Tapiriit Developments Ltd. In his job, Wilkinson reported to Simailak.

Qamanittuaq and Ilagiiktut, along with Ilagiiktut's wholly-owned subsidiary, Kangiqliniq Development Corp., own millions of dollars worth of office and apartment buildings in the Kivalliq region, most of which are leased to the Government of Nunavut.

Some of those leases, dating back to before 1999, were first awarded by the Government of the Northwest Territories with little or no competition.

And Pickell also found that Simailak put himself into a conflict of interest when he and Chris Lalande arranged meetings between Wilkinson, Ilagiiktut president David Oolooyuk and officials with the Nunavut Housing Corp. and the Department of Community Government Services.

After those meetings, held to talk about financial disputes between the GN and various companies in which Simailak held an interest, the housing corporation eventually issued a payment to some of those companies to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of expenses.

In another finding, Pickell found that Simailak, when he served as economic development minister, acted improperly when he directed his deputy minister, Alex Campbell, to hire John Todd, an old friend of Simailak's.

"Please give John a call regarding the prospect of him doing some contract work for the department. I'd like him to so some stuff on infrastructure/transportation related issues," Simailak said in an email he sent to Campbell on April 2, 2007.

"The mere attempt by Mr. Simailak to influence his deputy minister was wrong," Pickell said.

Lastly, Pickell found that Simailak committed a "technical" violation when he continued on as a director of The Land Store (1991) Ltd. for at least 11 months after becoming a cabinet minister.

But Pickell said that particular breach was "inadvertent."

This would not be the first time that Simailak has been found to be in contravention of the Integrity Act.

This past February, Simailak apologized to MLAs for failing to properly declare all his business interests, as required by the act, a finding made by Robert Stanbury, the former Integrity Commis­sioner.

Pickell did not revisit that issue in his report of last week.


With files from Chris Windeyer.

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