Conflict of interest law limits ex-Tory minister to new job – Brandon Sun

WINNIPEG — Former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Scott Fielding has turned his government experience into a job at one of Canada’s largest private consulting firms, raising inevitable questions about the potential for perceived conflicts of interest.

After leaving Premier Heather Stefanson’s government in June, the former Kirkfield Park MP and Winnipeg city councilor landed at KPMG as a transactions advisor.

Fielding will provide strategic advice to clients in Western Canada and nationally, with a focus on “economic development, infrastructure, finance, fiscal performance, organizational transformation and strategy,” an ad said. of KPMG in the business section of the Saturday Winnipeg Free Press.

Former Finance Minister Scott Fielding. (Winnipeg Free Press)

The former Minister of Natural Resources and Northern Development who was responsible for liquor and lotteries – and was ousted from finance in January – is subject to the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Conflict of Interest Act . It includes rules for former ministers and what they cannot do for a year after leaving office, with fines ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 for those who break them.

“Where a Minister acts on behalf of or advises the Government or Crown agency on a matter in which the Government or Crown agency has an interest, the Minister shall not, for a period one year from the date on which the Minister leaves office, to act for or on behalf of a person, partnership or unincorporated association or organization in relation to the matter”, indicates the law.

“Depending on what the minister has done and the new job involved, this may limit the activities the former minister can engage in,” said Conflict of Interest Commissioner Jeffrey Schnoor, who could comment generally on the legislation relating to former ministers but not specifically. on Fielding‘s new work.

“This article prohibits a minister from ‘switching sides’ on a specific issue for one year,” Schnoor explained.

Another section deals with former ministers who are going to work for someone with whom they had official relations in the year before they left, he said.

“In this case, the former minister is barred from participating in any dealings his employer may have with the Manitoba government for one year,” Schnoor said. “So in this case, a former minister could not advise a client on a contract with the Manitoba government.

Fielding did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

A Manitoba politics pundit said Fielding’s move to the consulting firm comes as no surprise, nor will there be any questions about potential or perceived conflicts.

“It is not surprising that KPMG would reach out to someone like Mr. Fielding, given his public sector experience at two levels of government that he has acquired during his years of public service and the relationships established by him,” said Paul Thomas. , professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba.

Fielding served as a city councilor from 2006 to 2014 and was elected to the Legislative Assembly as part of a Conservative majority government in 2016.

“All of this is to the great benefit of a consulting firm that is always on the lookout for new government contracts,” Thomas said.

At the same time, organizations such as Democracy Watch are calling for stricter conflict rules for elected officials before and after they leave office – prohibiting them from speaking to a potential future employer while they are still in office, said Thomas, “So people in their twilight years in public service – say, when Fielding was finance minister, weren’t having conversations maybe as part of an accompaniment to the continued use of KPMG,” said he declared.

“Given the cynical mood that exists today, people will be wary there,” Thomas said. “I don’t know for what percentage of the population this will set off the alarm bells and say this continues a pattern of people using insider knowledge and insider connections to advance their careers,” he said. he declares. “It tarnishes their reputation and their track record in public service if they trade for a lucrative paid job with a management consultancy then it will happen,” he said.

“On the other hand, he has to find a job somewhere. We don’t want to drive him out of the province. Presumably, he has talent and he has knowledge.

The question is determining the right interval for a cooling-off period for a former minister so that this person does not take advantage of the capital they have accumulated, Thomas said.

There is a lifetime ban in the conflict of interest legislation. One section prohibits all MPs and ministers from using “inside information” for personal gain or for the benefit of another person, Schnoor said. It prohibits the use of information that is not publicly available that they acquire in the exercise of their official powers, duties and functions for the benefit of themselves or someone else.

» Winnipeg Free Press

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