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Tories grill Liberals in question period about minister’s ties to lobbyist, PPE company

Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault faced heated remarks from Conservative MPs in the House of Commons Thursday about Global News’ reporting into his business activities.

Tory MP Michael Barrett, who is a member of the ethics committee, asked Boissonnault why he is receiving “outstanding” payments from a lobbying firm owned by a longtime business associate and former employee, according to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner’s registry.

“The minister was caught cashing checks from a lobbying firm that was lobbying his own government,” Barrett said. “His own ministry!”

Earlier this week, Global News published two investigations that found the Edmonton Centre MP had ties to a lobbyist who went on to help her client win $110 million in federal grants and a personal protective equipment company that was awarded $8.2 million in provincial and municipal contracts.

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The lobbyist, Kirsten Poon, who owns the consulting firm Navis Group, met with high-level political staff across the federal government, including Finance Canada, where Boissonnault was also associate minister.

“Minister Boissonnault has not been involved with any of Ms. Poon’s lobbying activities,” said Alice Hansen, Boissonnault’s director of communications, “and all necessary steps have been taken to avoid any conflict of interest.”

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Hansen pointed out that the federal funds “were not awarded by any departments reporting to Minister Boissonnault and he had no part in any of the approval processes for those grants.”

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While Boissonnault did not respond to comments directed at him in the House of Commons, his office told Global News in a previous statement that the funds Boissonnault received from Poon’s firm are long-delayed payments from his consulting work in 2020 and 2021, while he was out of office.

Boissonnault’s office told Global News the minister has followed conflict-of-interest and lobbying rules.

“Minister Boissonnault always met all of his conflict of interest and ethics obligations as a public office holder,” Hansen stated.

House leader Steven MacKinnon responded to the barrage of questions, stating that Boissonnault “has always followed the very strict ethics rules that apply to elected officials.”

“The minister has always conducted himself in an ethical manner that follows the spirit and letter of those rules,” MacKinnon said.

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In the ethics committee on Tuesday, Barrett gave notice that he will make a motion requesting a study into the events Global News’ reporting revealed. The motion will ask Boissonnault, Poon and Global Health Imports (GHI) co-founder Stephen Anderson to appear before the committee to answer questions.

Boissonnault and Anderson formed GHI, a medical supply company, early on in the pandemic. Boissonnault was out of office at the time, having lost his Edmonton Centre seat in the 2019 election.

According to business registry documents obtained by Global News, Boissonnault remained listed as director of GHI for 16 months after he was re-elected and appointed to cabinet in 2021.

Business registry documents also indicate he remains a co-owner of the company.

GHI went on to win at least $8.2 million in municipal and provincial contracts. It also got into legal trouble, losing six lawsuits by default. Alberta courts have ordered GHI to pay more than $7.8 million to its suppliers and buyers.

In a statement to Global News, Boissonnault said he has had no role at the company since he was elected and receives no income from it.

Boissonnault’s office said the minister informed Anderson that Boissonnault was resigning in September 2021, believing that Anderson would update the business registries, which didn’t happen. His lawyer submitted the paperwork to remove him as director in both the federal and provincial registries in March 2023.

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