OTTAWA—Former Conservative cabinet minister Vic Toews is under investigation for a possible conflict-of-interest violation in connection with dealings with a lawyer for a Manitoba First nation shortly after Toews left government.
Mary Dawson, the federal ethics watchdog, told NDP MP Pat Martin last week she believes there are “reasonable grounds” to dig into Toews’ activities in connection with Peguis First Nation after the former treasury board president stepped down from cabinet and federal politics in mid-2013.
Earlier this month, Martin wrote to Dawson to request an examination under the Conflict of Interest Act, which prohibits former federal office holders from doing work for any person or organization with which the office holder had “significant official dealings” before leaving government.
In her letter to Martin, Dawson notes that the NDP MP “referred to recent media reports” alleging a link between Toews and the Peguis First Nation. Martin also referred to media reports that Toews’ wife, Stacey Meek, received compensation for work for a lawyer that represented Peguis.
“Would the government not agree that it is time to tighten up on the post-employment rules for ministers and their spouses so that they cannot exploit the time they spent in public office for personal and private gain,” Martin asked in the Commons on March 13.
Based on Martin’s letter, media reports and publicly available information, an investigation is warranted under the conflict-of-interest statute, Dawson told Martin in a letter dated March 20.
Dawson also said that she received a complaint from Toews asking that the ethics commissioner investigate Martin under the conflict-of-interest law. Dawson said she would act on that complaint in due course.
Several weeks ago, Dawson ruled that Conservative cabinet minister Diane Finley violated conflict-of-interest rules when, after input from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office, she awarded $ 1 million to a Markham improvement project that had been rejected by federal officials.
Tribunal documents say that after Toews resigned his cabinet post in July 2013, he did not pay the remaining months of his lease at a Gatineau, Que., property totalling $ 3,900.
Landlord Raymond Desmarais pursued the matter with the tribunal and won in November 2013.
But Toews says he did not take note of the proceedings or the ruling until the beginning of this year when he realized his salary was to be garnisheed, saying he could not read the French-language documents that were sent to him last December.