Three ministers from the Legault government head companies, which may conflict with their new duties.
The Ethics Commissioner may also ask them to part with it, failing which they may be barred from participating in Council of Ministers meetings.
According to the Quebec Business Register the business leaders are Christopher Skeet, Frans-Elain Durenso and Bernard Drainville.
Code of Ethics for Elected Officials “Member of the Executive Council […] Not to exercise the function of a director or manager of a legal person.
“All specific circumstances must be assessed on a case-by-case basis, and depending on the context”, however, states the office of the Commissioner for the Three Ministers.
Christopher Skeet, Minister Delegate for the Economy, is president of the private medical clinic Cos Medic, a family business that offers sampling and vaccination services that are reimbursable through patients’ private insurance.
The clinic’s majority shareholder is Fiduciary Saturnes. In 2021, in his declaration of interest, Mr. Skeet is listed as a trustee.
He owns rental properties with his wife listed on the website of a property management company owned by the trust.
Saying he was “very sensitive” to the situation, Mr Skeet undertook to “follow the recommendations that will be presented to him by the commissioner he will meet in the coming days”, referring to his association.
It’s the same story for France-Alain Durency, the minister in charge of housing who owns several real estate companies.
“If steps are taken to comply with the orders [de la Commissaire]It will be completed soon,” said his attaché
She is the first shareholder and director of a “real estate investment” company.
She was the first shareholder and president of NOMI Real Estate, and eventually the majority shareholder and sole director of the investment firm.
“Whiter Than White”
The Education Minister, Bernard Drainville, is president of a company for its communications contracts. She becomes “inactive” because the minister devotes himself entirely to “public service,” his appendix tells us.
“An opinion will be requested from the Ethics Commissioner to ensure it is whiter than whiter,” she adds.
– Francis Hallin and Philippe Langlois, in collaboration with Le Journal and Bureau d’Encute
What the Code of Ethics Says for Elected Officials
“A member of the Executive Council should be fully devoted to the performance of his duties. In particular, he must not act as a director or officer of a legal person, partnership or association.
A member of the Executive Board, if applicable, shall tender his resignation as a director or officer as soon as possible after taking oath. […] and cease any activity other than the exercise of its functions. In the meantime, he cannot participate in the meetings of the Executive Council, the Executive Council or the Ministerial Committee of the Treasury Board. »
Avoid forms of conflict of interest
Can you be a minister and join a private company? “It’s the $1,000 question, it’s never white, never black,” says Michel Seguin, a professor and ethics expert at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM).
“Anyone who occupies a high office should try not to have vested interests so that it does not distort his objectivity or it does not cause doubt among his fellow citizens,” the expert said.
The Ethics Commissioner must provide opinions on the situation and interests of each minister, whether they are at risk of potential conflict, bearing in mind the concept of conflict of interest.
“Everyone has interests, so this is not an analysis to be done at the corner of the table. But politicians often underestimate the impact of the appearance of a conflict of interest,” he continues.
People are also suspicious of elected officials, especially when a decision is not unanimous, the professor said.
A recent example
In the past many ministers had to sell their company or their shares. In the last legislature, Finance Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon was forced to dispose of his assets, notably in several companies.
“It was difficult for him,” Mr. Seguin recalled.
Mr Fitzgibbon was also reprimanded by the ethics commissioner and temporarily forced to step down as minister in 2021 while his situation is sorted out.
The minister was involved in a controversy. For example, he owns a stake in Quebec-invested White Star Funds. The government also lent $50 million to Lion Electric, one of whose directors was Michel Ringuet, then Mr Fitzgibbon’s trust agent.
The minister often gets frustrated with journalists’ questions about his business dealings.
“As an elected official, you have to be able to demonstrate your integrity, that’s part of your responsibilities,” Mr. Seguin said.