Martine Richard, the sister-in-law of Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc, is resigning from her role as interim ethics commissioner.
On Wednesday, her office said she would remain as senior general counsel in the office. Richard only served three weeks of a six-month stint as the interim ethics commissioner after a March 28 vote approved her for the role.
“Effective today, April 19, 2023, Martine Richard informed the Privy Council Office (PCO) that she will no longer serve as Interim Commissioner. The Office and Martine Richard will not respond to further questions on this subject,” she said.
Richard’s appointment came with criticism and questions, given her familial relationship with LeBlanc.
Before the temporary promotion — which drew criticism owing to familiar relations — Richard held the second most-senior position in the office, where she has worked since 2013, reported Global News.
During that period, her office said she had in place a “screen” to shield her from getting involved in a conflict of interest.
On March 27 and 28, LeBlanc recused himself from cabinet discussions on Richard’s appointment to the interim role.
LeBlanc said he never participated in the cabinet vote to appoint his sister-in-law as interim ethics commissioner. “I recused myself on March 28,” wrote LeBlanc. Records for the prime minister’s itinerary show cabinet met that day.
Blacklock’s Reporter alleged the PCO garbled his ethics filing. He only recused himself from the crucial vote a day after it happened.
“I am referring your questions to the Privy Council,” said a press secretary to LeBlanc. The Privy Council did not reply.
However, a PCO website notice of cabinet orders indicated LeBlanc’s sister-in-law received her appointment on March 27.
“How do you recuse the day after the Governor General approved the Order In Council?” tweeted Mario Dion, now-retired ethics commissioner.
On February 21, 2018, LeBlanc breached conflict-of-interest rules as fisheries minister when he approved a $24 million surf clam licence for a family member, which the ministry subsequently revoked.
“Public office holders are not expected to know the private affairs of each of their birth relatives, much less those of relatives by affinity,” said the ethics commissioner’s LeBlanc Report.
“However, when they are aware of an opportunity to further the private interests of a relative through the exercise of an official power, duty or function, they must be vigilant in taking appropriate action to avoid a conflict of interest.”
Evidence showed the minister met with his cousin Gilles Thériault privately to discuss business concerning the Five Nations Clam Company. They received the licence over eight other applicants, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.
“LeBlanc knew or reasonably should have known that Thériault as general manager would have received some form of compensation for his involvement if the licence was awarded,” wrote the commissioner. If not revoked, Thériault would have received a portion of licence revenues.
“LeBlanc told me neither he nor his spouse has a close, personal relationship with Theriault, and he has seen him at family gatherings fewer than ten times in the past 15 years,” wrote the commissioner.
LeBlanc told the Commons his wife had numerous cousins in New Brunswick and claimed no relatives stood to gain from the Five Nations Clam Company licence.