A Liberal-appointed director to a controversial green ‘slush fund’ gave nearly $400,000 in grants to a Québec company in which he had a direct interest.
“We all declared conflicts of interest — well, not everyone,” testified Guy Ouimet at the Commons industry committee.
According to True North, Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) allocated tens of millions of dollars to firms in which its board members are financially vested.
Among the alleged culprits include director Guy Ouimet, who served on the Project Review Committee while working on the board of Lithion Technologies.
Ouimet voted to award $393,805 in grants to the Québec company from a pool of $20 million, reported Blacklock’s Reporter. On August 29, 2018, the board also approved $3,842,000 in funding for Lithion — less than two months after the company’s incorporation.
Conservative MP Michael Barrett questioned the director on whether he awarded pandemic relief grants to the company at the expense of taxpayers.
“Were you in attendance at those meetings? You didn’t leave the room for the decision on Covid payments, is that correct?” asked Barrett.
Ouimet replied “Yes” to both questions.
“You voted in both cases to award the money to a company you have an interest in, is that correct?” asked Barrett. “Yes,” said the director.
“This kind of insider dealing, and corruption is very problematic for Canadians,” said the Conservative MP.
Under its current agreement with the Department of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development (ISED), the green fund has $1 billion to distribute to clean tech enterprises between 2021 and 2026 — increasing in successive amounts before maxing at $320 million by 2025/2026.
But after a whistleblower complaint exposed the alleged scandal in March, the federal government lost "confidence" in the fund’s senior management and kiboshed future SDTC funding on September 26.
They uncovered that other board members had given money to companies in which they had direct interest, including SDTC Chair Annette Verschuren. She resigned on November 20 after awarding a $217,000 grant to her money-losing battery company NRStor Incorporated.
Verschuren did not recuse herself from the vote and claimed to have acted on the legal opinion of her lawyer.
Records from the funding meetings are not public, according to True North, so it remains unclear which committee members, if any, recused themselves.
“Since my appointment to the board I have periodically declared all real, apparent and potential conflicts,” testified Ouimet. “I have acted in good faith,” he said.
“There is no way reasonable people would find these are reasonable actions,” claimed Barrett. “It is unbelievable we have hundreds of thousands of dollars being paid.”
“To say this is an organization that has rigorous ethical standards that have been followed is absolutely egregious,” he added.