OTTAWA – The federal ethics watchdog has cleared cabinet minister Christian Paradis for spending two nights at the hunting lodge of a Quebec businessman who was pushing for a new hockey arena in the province.
Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson released a report today clearing Paradis of any wrongdoing for his 2009 stay with Marcel Aubut.
Aubut, the former owner of the Quebec Nordiques hockey team, was engaged at the time in a concerted effort to raise money for a new $400-million arena for Quebec City in order to bolster efforts to bring an NHL franchise back to the city.
Dawson says she found no evidence Aubut was lobbying the federal government for help or seeking government funding, or that the government was involved in any discussions or decision-making on the subject.
She also says Paradis — who was industry minister and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s key Quebec lieutenant at the time — didn’t violate one section of the Conflict of Interest Act because he lacked any power to get the arena project off the ground.
While Dawson found Paradis did accept a gift by staying at the lodge, she says the link between the stay and any funding for a new arena was “too remote” to have violated another section of the Act.
Paradis previously had his knuckles rapped by Dawson when, as public works minister, he directed his officials to set up special meetings in 2009 with former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer to discuss a private project.
Dawson found Jaffer and his company were treated more favourably than other businessmen in a similar situation.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said Aubut was lobbying the federal government for help in paying for a new arena.