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Trudeau Names Cabinet Member’s Relative as Ethics Commissioner

Justin Trudeau has named the close relative of one of his own cabinet ministers as the new interim Ethics Commissioner.

Martine Richard is the sister-in-law of Intergovernmental Affairs Minister (and ethics offender) Dominic Leblanc. 

Leblanc was found guilty of violating ethics rules in 2018 when, as Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, he granted a lucrative clam fishing license to a company run by his wife’s cousin. “Clam Scam” (as it came to be known) is only one of this Liberal Government’s myriad of ethical violations.

From the very beginning, the Trudeau Liberals have flouted Parliament’s conflict-of-interest rules. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first breached the Act when he accepted a quarter-of-a-million-dollar luxury vacation on the island of his friend the Aga Khan—this at the same time the Aga Khan was lobbying his government for a $15 million grant.

The Prime Minister would go on to be found guilty of the Act on two other occasions. First, in 2018, for accepting and failing to declare a gift valued over $200 (he accepted two pairs of sunglasses from a PEI firm valued at approximately $500). Then in 2019, during the SNC-Lavalin affair when he pressured then Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson Raybould to illegally interfere in the ongoing criminal prosecution of a Liberal donor (and then fired her when she refused). Even after he was found guilty, Trudeau refused at accept the ruling of the Ethics Commissioner.

Although Justin Trudeau was not found guilty of his role in the WE Charity Scandal—where his government gave nearly a billion dollars to a charity that had paid members of his family nearly half-a-million dollars—then Finance Minister Bill Morneau was. Morneau’s daughter worked for WE and he, himself, accepted a $41,000 vacation from WE.

In 2021, Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi was found guilty of violating the Act for employing her sister in her constituency office.

In the past few months two more Trudeau Ministers have been found guilty of ethics violations.

Back in December, Industry Minister Mary Ng broke ethics laws by awarding a $17,000 contract to a close friend’s firm.

In February, Greg Fergus Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the President of the Treasury Board breached the Act by lobbying on behalf of TV channel’s application to the CRTC. 

These are just the cases where Liberals been found guilty. Many more examples of questionable ethics and practices abound.

Outgoing Ethic’s commissioner Mario Dion (having completed more than two dozen ethics investigations of the Trudeau Cabinet alone) was blunt in his assessment of this Liberal Government:

“The Act has been there for 17 years for God’s sake,” fumed Dion in an interview. “So maybe the time has come to do something different so that we don’t keep repeating the same errors. After 17 years, maybe we should realize that something is not working.”

The Liberals appear to have done just that, finding a way to circumvent pesky ethics rules.

As Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre stated last week:

“For the Emergencies Act they named a Liberal Staffer as the “independent” commissioner. For the foreign interference rapporteur, they named the Prime Minister’s ski buddy and member of the Trudeau foundation [two of them, actually]. And now they needed someone to be the Ethics Commissioner, so they named a Liberal Minister’s sister-in-law to that position of “independent” Ethics Commissioner—this same minister who has already been found guilty of violating the law. Mr. Speaker, when is this Liberal Government going to run out of family and friends to appoint as “independent officers”?”

As Conservative Ethics critic asked in Question Period last week: “How can Canadians have confidence in the Officers of Parliament if these guys are stacking the deck?” 

Martine Richards has served in the office of the Ethics Commissioner for ten years, most recently as deputy. She may be a very honest and ethical person. But in politics perception is everything. This latest blunder cements the perception this Liberal Government is indifferent to ethics rules, at best, and, at worst, is at its very core, corrupt.