Monday, April 12, 2010

Harper Minister Gail Shea in conflict of interest

This story about Fisheries Minister Gail Shea deserves more attention: "Shea caught up in turbine conflict." Here is the conflict as set out in that Chronicle Herald report today:
On Jan. 12, Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced in Trenton that the Wind Energy Institute of Canada, in North Cape, P.E.I., would receive $10-20 million from the federal Clean Energy Fund for a nine-megawatt wind farm.

The institute is headed by Shea’s son-in-law, Scott Harper. The size of the investment will mean a significant expansion of the wind farm and research facility, which will be of benefit to her family — a clear conflict of interest.

As political minister for the island, and the MP for the riding where the money will be invested, Shea’s office would normally be closely involved in promoting such a project.
Shea claims that she went to the Ethics Commissioner for advice and here's what Shea's director of communications is saying about the advice received:
"The advice from the commissioner was that the minister not be involved in the file," he said. "That is why minister MacKay’s office was designated as the lead. Staff was aware of the file but didn’t play an active role. Minister MacKay’s office was the regional lead during his tenure as ACOA Minister."
The advice from the commissioner may have been that Shea was not to be involved in the file, and she may or may not have been involved in that particular funding decision that benefited the son-in-law's wind institute. But there is no public record of her recusal from the matter, as she should have done under the Act:

The Conflict of Interest Act requires any minister to formally recuse herself from any such decision and "make a public declaration of the recusal that provides sufficient detail to identify the conflict of interest that was avoided."

But there is no record of a recusal on the summary statement Shea filed with Dawson’s office.

Shea has been involved in advocating for a new energy cable connection to New Brunswick that would enable PEI's wind energy exporting. She has been on hand for a number of wind energy funding announcements. Has her office been involved in advocating for those? So isn't the big picture here that the Minister has not recused herself from the wind file, writ large, in PEI over the last few years? With the effect of all of that Island wind development enhancing her family's interest, through her son-in-law, in that Wind Energy Institute, a research and energy production interest?