Liberal minister to testify over ties to lobbyist, PPE company

The Commona ethics committee will undertake an immediate study into Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault’s involvement with Global Health Imports (GHI), and payments received from Navis Group, a lobbying firm.

Liberal minister to testify over ties to lobbyist, PPE company
The Canadian Press / Spencer Colby
Remove Ads

A Parliamentary committee has ordered testimony from the federal ethics commissioner on the ties between a Liberal cabinet minister, lobbyist and medical supply company.

Last week, Global News learned Employment Minister Randy Boissannault established a personal protective equipment (PPE) company after losing reelection in 2019. It received $8.2 million in contracts for disinfectant wipes and isolation gowns.

He remained listed as a director for Global Health Imports (GHI) 16 months after a return to politics in 2021. Federal and provincial registries were not updated until 507 after his appointment to cabinet.

Minister Boissannault maintains he resigned from the board upon his reelection, but that did not happen.

Michael Wrobel, a spokesperson for the ethics commissioner’s office, told Global News that Boissonnault fulfilled his obligations under the Conflict of Interest Act. The minister’s office concurred in a separate statement.

“The office is aware that even after a reporting public office holder has resigned their directorship in a company, it can take some time for corporate registries to be updated to reflect that change,” said Wrobel. 

Conservative MP Michael Barrett asked Tuesday for the ethics committee to “undertake an immediate study” into Boissonnault’s involvement with GHI and payments received from Navis Group, a lobbying firm.

Conservative, NDP and Bloc Québécois MPs approved further inquiry into potential conflict of interest and lobbying law violations by the minister.

All Liberal MPs rejected the motion in a six to five vote.

Barrett, who tabled the motion, urged the lobbying and ethics commissioners to investigate the matter in a prior letter. Neither office can disclose an active investigation or confirm whether one is ongoing.

The minister, who maintains a 50% stake in the firm, reportedly receives no income from its operations. MPs can own a firm permitting they do not manage it directly or obtain federal contracts.

The GHI pandemic contracts came from provincial and municipal governments.

Industry professionals said a small startup securing government contracts of this size — over multinational corporations — was unusual.

GHI is currently subject to lawsuits in the province of Alberta for unfulfilled orders and delinquent bills. They lost six lawsuits by default and were ordered to pay more than $7.8 million in restitution to its suppliers and buyers. 

Minister Boissonnault is not named in any of the lawsuits, reported Global News.

Barrett has asked the committee to invite GHI co-founder Stephen Anderson and another director, Kirsten Poon, to testify before MPs. A date for the hearing has not yet been set.

Poon currently serves as a director for Xennex Venture Catalysts and 2256956 Alberta Ltd., Boissonnault’s two companies. They shut down daily operations after the minister took office.

On April 30, Global News published how Boissonnault's lobbying connections secured Navis Group $110 million in federal grants for the Edmonton International Airport.

Poon, who had no prior experience with federal lobbying before working for Xennex, transferred the company’s sole registered client, Edmonton Regional Airports Authority, to Navis Group, her lobbying firm.

When Boissonnault assumed his ministerial duties, Poon lobbied a policy adviser with the Prime Minister’s Office and advisers to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Boissonnault was the associate finance minister during Poon’s meetings with the department in March and June 2022.

Navis Group continues to send the minister checks stemming from his work as a private citizen for the United Nations Development Program in 2020 and 2021.

“Since you have been a minister have you received any payments from [the] Navis Group?” asked MP Barrett. “Yes,” replied Boissonnault, who would not disclose the figure.

“You have a duty to arrange your private affairs in a manner that prevents a conflict of interest,” said Barrett. “But in this case, you arranged your private affairs in the manner of a $110 million federal grant to a federally regulated organization with federal representatives on its board.”

“I have received funds into my business that were cleared by the Ethics Commissioner that happened while I was a private citizen,” the minister clarified. “All of those activities were while I was a private citizen.”

Payments included fees collected on contracts with local authorities and the Department of Transport, learned the Commons human resources committee.

“Minister, did you participate in funding announcements for this organization — from a company that you are still cashing checks from?” asked MP Barrett. “If there’s an announcement that’s happening in my province and I can go to it, I will go to it,” replied Boissannault.

The ethics committee will examine whether Poon’s connection to Boissonnault aided her work for the Edmonton Regional Airports Authority.

“Minister Boissonnault has not been involved with any of Ms. Poon’s lobbying activities since being elected,” clarified his office in a statement.

On Monday, Boissonnault told the human resources committee he had no “line authority” on Poon’s work, and is not required to notify the ethics commissioner of any conflicts of interest.

“A conflict of interest screen would not necessarily be required” in such a situation, said Wrobel.

Remove Ads
Remove Ads

  • By Tamara Ugolini

PETITION: Stop The Pay Hike

10,631 signatures
Goal: 15,000 Signatures

Add signature

Don't Get Censored

Big Tech is censoring us. Sign up so we can always stay in touch.

Remove Ads