Ethics watchdog says Guergis broke conflict rules
Published Thursday, July 14, 2011 9:06PM EDT
Former parliamentarian Helena Guergis broke conflict-of-interest rules when she sent a letter to municipal politicians in her riding in 2009, the federal ethics watchdog concludes in a new report.
Guergis was the Member of Parliament for the Ontario riding of Simcoe-Grey for nearly seven years, until her defeat in the recent election.
In September 2009, Guergis wrote a letter to the warden and council of Simcoe County, asking that they consider a proposal from a local businessman who owned a green technology company.
The businessman, Jim Wright, was hoping to pitch a waste-management project to the Simcoe County council.
At the same time, Wright had also been talking about potential future business opportunities with Rahim Jaffer, who is married to Guergis.
Guergis claims that Wright and her husband both indicated they were no longer in talks before she wrote the letter.
But an investigation by Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson has found that the two parties were in communication with one another when she sent the correspondence to the Simcoe County council.
"I determined that Mr. Jaffer was building a business relationship with Mr. Wright during the period when Ms. Guergis prepared and sent the letter to Simcoe County officials," Dawson writes in her final report, which was released on Thursday.
"I also found that Mr. Jaffer had a private interest in relation to the letter, as the work that he did relating to Mr. Wright, Wright Tech and its related marketing firm, Green Rite Solutions Inc., was carried out in the expectation that Mr. Jaffer would at some point receive a financial benefit."
As a result, Dawson has concluded that Guergis violated two sections of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of Parliament -- one of which prohibits parliamentarians from acting in any way that would benefit themselves or their family members and another that bans MPs from influencing the decisions of others to achieve the same ends.
"Ms. Guergis was aware of some of the initial business interactions between her husband and Mr. Wright and his companies that raised conflict of interest concerns and therefore she should not have written the letter," Dawson writes.
Dawson formally launched her inquiry in June of last year, after completing a preliminary investigation.
Neither Guergis nor Jaffer hold a seat in Parliament any longer.
The 42-year-old Guergis ran as an independent in the recent election, losing her seat to rookie Conservative MP Kellie Leitch.
Prior to being expelled from the Conservative caucus in April of last year, Guergis had served as a junior minister in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government.
Jaffer, 39, served as the MP for the Alberta riding of Edmonton-Strathcona for 11 years. He was defeated in the October 2008 federal election and did not run for Parliament again.
Guergis and Jaffer have a young son, who was born last December.
With files from The Canadian Press