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Democracy Watch calls for ethics investigations of federal Cabinet minister and former B.C. Premier for conflicts of interest with investigation of pollution by Teck Resources’ mines
August 21, 2023
Energy and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson has financial and other interests connected to Teck, and John Horgan became a director of a Teck company the day he resigned. Investigation needed into whether they tried to influence government decisions about investigation of contamination of water systems caused by Teck mines, or tried to further Teck’s interests in any other way.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, August 21, 2023
OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it sent last Thursday to the federal Ethics Commissioner’s office calling for an investigation and ruling on whether Energy and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson has violated the federal Conflict of Interest Act (the “COIA”) by participating in or trying to influence the Government of Canada’s decision about requesting an investigation by the International Joint Commission (IJC) of contamination of water systems by mines owned and operated by Teck Resources Ltd., or by furthering Teck’s interests in any other way.
Democracy Watch also released the letter it sent last Thursday to the B.C. Conflict of Interest Commissioner calling for an investigation and ruling on whether former B.C. Premier John Horgan violated the B.C. Members’ Conflict of Interest Act (the “MCOIA”) by trying to influence the B.C. government’s position on the IJC investigation after he started negotiating his director position with Teck months before he resigned as an MLA on March 31, 2023. The B.C. government, and Teck, both oppose the investigation.
As the letters detail, the Trudeau Cabinet has been actively considering for the past couple of years whether to request an investigation by the IJC of contamination of water systems in B.C., Montana and Idaho by runoff from mines operated by Teck Resources Ltd. and its subsidiaries, including by selenium. In October 2021, the US Department of State formally requested that Canada agree to a joint referral of the matter to the IJC. That request has been endorsed U.S. President Joe Biden, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the state governments of Montana and Idaho.
As the letters also detail, both the COIA and MCOIA prohibit politicians from participating in or attempting to influence a decision that applies to a company when a politician has an apparent conflict of interest, and from using insider information to further their interests. The COIA also prohibits giving preferential treatment.
As the letter to the federal Ethics Commissioner details, Minister Wilkinson’s past roles as minister and parliamentary secretary since December 2015 have always been in the areas of resources and the environment, and he is a senior Trudeau Cabinet minister from B.C., the home of Teck’s mines. His conflict of interest is based on the fact that:
1. Teck has lobbied him directly on mining issues six times in the past year;
2. His spouse has investments in financial institutions (BlackRock Inc., RBC and TD) that are among the top 25 institutional investors in Teck, and;
3. He was CEO of BioteQ when it had a Teck contract to clean up selenium contamination before he became an MP.
Former B.C. Premier John Horgan led the B.C. government to oppose the investigation into contamination by Teck’s mines, and his conflict of interest is based on the fact that:
1. He was lobbied directly by Teck on mining issues in October 2022;
2. Teck was registered to lobby B.C. MLAs until Mr. Horgan resigned at the end of March 2023 and joined the board of Elk Valley Resources;
3. Horgan claims, but has not proven, that the process that led to joining the board of Teck’s Elk Valley Resources company began only in Dec. 2022, and;
4. B.C. Environment Minister Heyman has said that his best recollection is that he has not communicated with Mr. Horgan about the IJC investigation issue, but has not proven that there were no communications.
“Given the conflicts of interest both Minister Wilkinson and former Premier Horgan have concerning Teck, a full investigation is warranted by the commissioners to ensure they haven’t done anything to try to stop the investigation of water contamination caused by Teck’s mines,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.
The Trudeau Cabinet is currently choosing the next Ethics Commissioner through a secretive process. As a result, whoever is handpicked as the Commissioner should not rule on Democracy Watch’s complaint as they would be biased in favour of the Cabinet.