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This article was published 26/3/2015 (878 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- The federal conflict of interest and ethics commissioner will investigate the lobbying activities of Vic Toews, a former Manitoba senior cabinet minister who is now a judge.
On March 13, Mary Dawson received a complaint from Winnipeg NDP MP Pat Martin about Toews' post-cabinet lobbying work for a lawyer representing Peguis First Nation, with whom Toews dealt with on a handful of issues while in cabinet.
On March 20, Dawson wrote back telling Martin she would launch a full investigation.
"In light of the information provided in your letter, related media reports and publicly available information, I am of the view that I have reasonable grounds to commence an examination," she wrote.
She said she had informed Toews of the investigation. A spokeswoman for Toews, who was appointed to the Court of Queen's Bench in Manitoba in March 2014, said Toews had "nothing to add."
The Conflict of Interest Act bars cabinet ministers for life from "taking improper advantage" of their previous cabinet position or knowledge they have because of that position. There is a specific two-year cooling-off period in which former ministers cannot work for or contract with any entities with which they had "direct and significant official dealings" in their final year in office.
Within two months of leaving cabinet, Toews was doing contract work for Jeffrey Rath, a lawyer representing Peguis on files such as the Kapyong Barracks land claim in Winnipeg and a joint venture between Peguis and the Manitoba Jockey Club for development at Assiniboia Downs.
As public safety minister, Toews dealt with Peguis on disaster financial assistance and flood-mitigation files in the year before he left office.
As the senior minister in Manitoba between February 2006 and July 2013, Toews was the lead government negotiator on the Kapyong file in a dispute that saw him wanting to dispose of the land to a Crown corporation developer. Treaty One First Nations in Manitoba said they weren't given proper consultation to acquire that land as part of their treaty land entitlements.
The dispute has been in the courts since 2007.
In November 2013, Toews registered as a lobbyist to represent Rath to the provincial government on a gaming matter, known to be a joint venture between Peguis and the Manitoba Jockey Club for the Assiniboia Downs project that included a new hotel and casino.
He met senior Manitoba government officials about that project. Invoices contained in court files from a lawsuit between Rath and Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson show Toews also met or spoke with Rath several times about Kapyong in the fall of 2013.
Martin said he is pleased Dawson is carrying out a full investigation.
Martin is now facing a complaint against him, which was forwarded to Dawson by Toews. Two days after Martin wrote to Dawson, Toews asked Dawson to investigate Martin for violating the Conflict of Interest Act provision that says if an MP has information about a public office holder possibly violating the act, he can't disclose that information to anyone other than the commissioner until after she has written her full report.
Toews attached a copy of the Free Press article about Martin's complaint.
Martin called it a "knee-jerk, tit-for-tat reaction" that stymied him. "I doubt it has any merit, but we will treat it seriously," Martin said.
He said the information he disclosed to Dawson in his complaint letter was from publicly available media reports, so he wasn't disclosing anything not already in the public realm. Dawson can compel ministers and others to provide documents and answer questions, but she has little at her disposal regarding penalties.
If she finds either Toews or Martin did violate the act, her only recourse is to disclose her findings.