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Tabling of an Inquiry Report regarding the Minister of Economy and Innovation

June 2nd 2021 - The President of the National Assembly today tabled an Inquiry Report by the Ethics Commissioner with regard to Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy and Innovation and MNA for Terrebonne, (hereinafter “the Minister”). The inquiry was conducted at the request of Vincent Marissal, MNA for Rosemont.

The Commissioner had already submitted an Inquiry Report to the President of the National Assembly on December 6, 2020 about the Minister’s interests in ImmerVision Inc. (hereinafter “ImmerVision”) and White Star Capital’s first fund.  In that report the Commissioner concluded that the Minister had violated section 46 of the Code of Ethics and Conduct of the Members of the National Assembly (hereinafter “the Code”) and that he was still in violation of it in relation to those two enterprises. She ordered the Minister to regularize his situation.

Conclusion of the inquiry

In this inquiry the Commissioner concludes that the Minister is still in violation of section 46 of the Code. The evidence shows that the Minister still has interests in White Star Capital and ImmerVision, and that both those enterprises are parties to contracts with the Government.

When the legislator enshrined ethical values and principles in the Code, the intent was to underline the importance for elected officials to always act as expected. The immense privilege of representing citizens comes with a duty to act in an exemplary way. When a Minister refuses to comply with a legislative provision, he or she is acting in opposition to the Code’s objective and his or her duties. Citizens cannot change the way laws apply to them. How could it be otherwise for their representatives?

Obeying the prevailing laws is an integral part of respecting and protecting our democratic institutions. Even worse, there is a real risk that ongoing violations of the Code give the impression that elected officials are not subject to the law like the rest of the population and are allowed to deviate from their own Code of Conduct. Unfortunately, that contributes to undermining the public’s trust in its elected representatives and democratic institutions as a whole, especially in a context where it is crucially important that everyone obey the rules.

Against that backdrop, the Commissioner recommends that the National Assembly impose the only sanction provided in the Code which, apart from the loss of his seat (ruled out because disproportionate at this stage), is designed to halt an ongoing violation. That is the “suspension of the Member’s right to sit in the National Assembly, together with a suspension of any indemnity or allowance,” until one of the following occurs:

1. The Minister disposes of his interests in ImmerVision and White Star Capital

2. The Minister resigns from the Cabinet and, as an MNA, places his interests in the enterprises in question in this inquiry in a blind management agreement or a blind trust pursuant to section 18 of the Code

If the Minister himself fails to comply, only the National Assembly can stop this dangerous precedent caused by his deliberate refusal to apply the principles of the Code. The Commissioner is responsible for recommending the sanction, but only the National Assembly has the power to sanction the conduct of one of its members. Only the National Assembly can sanction violations of the Code, thus ensuring that it applies to everyone equally.

The issue here is not determine whether section 46 of the Code is obsolete, too restrictive or even unfair to a minister who is an investor. The Commissioner points out that “this inquiry addressed the following question: Can we choose not to comply with a law that applies to us? Under the rule of law, the answer to that question must always be no. That applies even more strongly in the case of an MNA who acts as a legislator.”

Useful links

Inquiry Report (French only)

Report Summary

Code of Ethics and Conduct of the Members of the National Assembly

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Source and information

Anne-Sophie St-Gelais
Communications and Institutional Relations Advisor
Ethics Commissioner

Anne-Sophie.St-GelaisNash@ced-qc.ca
418 643-1277

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