Ethics law forbids ex-minister Philpott from paid work for First Nation

Jane Philpott’s new job runs afoul of the Conflict of Interest Act

The federal ethics law has put a crimp in Jane Philpott’s plan to put her experience as a former minister of health and Indigenous services to work for the benefit of a northern Ontario First Nation.

Just two weeks ago, Philpott announced that she was taking on a new role as special health adviser to the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which comprises 49 remote communities in northwestern Ontario.

But now she says her work for NAN will have to be strictly voluntary.

That’s because her new job ran afoul of the Conflict of Interest Act, which stipulates that former ministers must adhere to a two-year “cooling off period,” in which they must not work for, contract with or serve on the board of directors of any entity with which they had “direct and significant dealings” during their last year as a minister.

Philpott, who failed in her bid to win re-election as an Independent on Oct. 21, resigned from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet last March over the SNC-Lavalin affair. In the previous 12 months, she had served as Indigenous services minister and, briefly, as president of the Treasury Board.

Prior to that, she also served as Trudeau’s health minister.

Throughout her time as a minister, she had extensive dealings with NAN, including signing onto a charter committing the federal government to work with the First Nation and the province on transforming the way health care is delivered in NAN communities.

The Conflict of Interest Act allows ethics commissioner Mario Dion to waive or shorten a former minister’s cooling off period if he deems it to be in the public interest but Philpott says he refused her request for a waiver.

Dion’s office declined to comment.

“Ultimately, it was my decision in the end to say, because of my role as both minister health and minister of Indigenous services, that I had been acquainted enough with Nishnawbe Aski Nation in those roles that … it would not be appropriate at this stage for me to take any remuneration from them,” Philpott said in an interview.

Volunteering her services ”allows me to continue to work with them and not to worry about the conflict issue.”

ALSO READ: Jane Philpott resigns from Trudeau cabinet

Philpott said she’s not sure the cooling off period, imposed with the creation of the Act in 2006, was intended to apply in situations like her planned work for NAN.

“I think it was probably thinking more of for-profit corporations benefiting from the participation or the future work of a previous office holder. So, this is a little bit different circumstance.”

NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler is also not convinced that the cooling-off provision — aimed at ensuring a former minister doesn’t profit from, or help an outside entity to profit from, inside knowledge about government operations and policy — was meant to apply in a case like this.

“She was never planning to profit from this venture,” he said in an interview.

“I think it’s just recognizing the severe conditions and the challenges that exist in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation when it comes to access to quality health care and it’s her commitment to follow through on the work we started when she was a minister.

“We’re not in this to make any money. We’re just trying to fix some long-standing problems.”

Fiddler said NAN would have preferred to hire Philpott’s services full time and will now have to develop a new work plan for her that will involve a more limited time commitment.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

First downtown parklet patio installed on 1st Avenue

Social distancing regulations will determine the total seat count

LSS students make video to commemorate 2020 musical

The LSS production of Newsies was cancelled due to COVID-19

Local handyman crafts emergency float from recycled materials

Pieter Stegeman built Air-Float-One to keep himself busy during the pandemic

Tent Island closed due to neglect and abuse from campers

Illegal campfires common on Penelakut Tribe reserve land

QUIZ: Do you know the truth?

In what has been described as a post-truth era, how much do you know about truth and lies?

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Missing teen visiting Courtenay found safe

She had last been seen going for a walk on Aug. 6

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

Fitness non-profit challenges citizens to invent a game to be physically active

The campaign was launched after a study showed only 4.8 per cent of children and youths in Canada met required standards of the 24-hour movement guidelines

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Most Read