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

Emily Harris (centre) started the in-person Monarch Moms meet-up groups in July, when it was much easier to physical distance in outdoor spaces. Harris started the group as a source of connection for women navigating the ups and downs of having a baby during a pandemic. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Victoria new mom group navigates challenges of motherhood in a pandemic

Monarch Moms meet once a week for physically-distanced connection

The Takaya inspired sculpture currently in Kent Laforme’s outdoor studio. The 25,000-pound piece of Vancouver Island marble could be installed on Cattle Point. (Kevin Murdoch Photo)
Stone Takaya sculpture could soon ‘howl’ at Cattle Point

Oak Bay inviting public suggestions for 25,000-pound marble sculpture

Joanne Smith has been visiting Goldstream Provincial Park since she moved to Langford two years ago. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Visitors flock to Goldstream Provincial Park for 2020 salmon run

‘I wanted to come here before I move back to Australia,’ says visitor

Police closed McNeill Avenue after a workplace death Oct. 20, 2020. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Tree-pruning community gathers in Oak Bay after tragic death

Crews met in solidarity at site of Tuesday incident

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, B.C., on October 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. Liberal Leader maintains confidence as campaign tests party identity

Liberal campaign has been disrupted by controversy

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Members of the Sipekne’katik First Nation load lobster traps on the wharf in Saulnierville, N.S., after launching its own self-regulated fishery on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Vancouver Island First Nations back Nova Scotia’s Indigenous lobster fishermen

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council calls for action before lives are lost

Skiers line up to start the Royal LePage Comox Valley Snow to Surf Adventure Relay Race. Photo by Tim Penney
Popular Comox Valley adventure race cancelled for 2021

COVID forces Comox Valley Royal LePage Snow to Surf Adventure Relay Race cancellation again

Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)
B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

Most Read