Democracy Watch spokesman Duff Conacher says there’s an easy way for Saskatchewan MLA Bill Boyd to clear the air about a business presentation he made in China — release the video.
Conacher, the co-founder of a watchdog group that examines ethics in government, has been looking at Boyd’s involvement in a Chinese immigration scheme — a venture highlighted in a CBC iTeam investigation earlier this week.
CBC discovered that in March, Boyd went to China looking for investors for the Modern Hi-Efficiency Agriculture Corporation. Boyd told CBC he’s the chairman of the company.
He said he told a seminar in Beijing that he was appearing as a farmer — not a representative of the government.
At that event, Boyd and his associate told a group of Chinese nationals that an investment in Modern Hi-Efficiency could be their ticket to permanent residence in Canada.
On a website and on posters promoting the seminar, Boyd was presented as Saskatchewan’s minister of the economy — though he resigned that position in August 2016.
A government of Saskatchewan logo was prominently featured on the promotional material. In addition, the promoters posted online that the Ministry of the Economy was actually involved in creating the project.
All MLAs should demand release of video: Conacher
Conacher says the seminar in China was videotaped, so Boyd should release it.
“In order to follow the rules and the ethical conduct Boyd simply has to be open and honest about this situation fully which includes disclosing an unedited version of that videotape,” he said.
Conacher said every member of the legislature, including the Premier, should be demanding Boyd release that video.
The case has already prompted Premier Brad Wall to raise concerns about the government possibly being misrepresented.
NDP calls for RCMP, border agency to investigate
Earlier in the day on Friday, the Saskatchewan NDP Opposition said it has formally asked the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to investigate Boyd’s China dealings.
“It appears based on the information we know so far — and I’m sure, hopefully, there’ll be more information forthcoming — that there potentially is some misrepresentation and some fraud that occurred,” said Sarauer.
Boyd says he’ll release conflict of interest report
Earlier this week, Boyd also called for an investigation into his actions related to this company. He asked the conflict of interest commissioner to review.
“I am confident there was no conflict of interest,” Boyd wrote. “However, in order to provide assurance there was no conflict of interest, I have already asked the Conflict of Interest Commissioner for an opinion on this matter.”
The commissioner is attempting to complete the investigation before September 1. That’s the day Boyd officially retires from politics. Boyd announced his retirement a few days ago.
By law, the commission only has to provide the report to Boyd, and Boyd is not obligated to publicly release it. However late in the day, through the Premier’s office, Boyd confirmed that he will release the entire report when it’s complete.
The NDP has also requested an investigation by the commissioner.
People want ‘to get to the bottom of this’: Sarauer
Sarauer said Friday she wants the RCMP and CBSA to investigate because both authorities have more power to collect information about Boyd’s dealings than the provincial conflict of interest commissioner.
‘Saskatchewan people want to get to the bottom of this.’
– Nicole Sarauer, interim leader of the NDP
It would also ensure the investigation is independent, she said.
“Saskatchewan people want to get to the bottom of this,” said Sarauer.
Many issues to investigate says expert
Democracy Watch’s Conacher says the conflict of interest commissioner has many issues to consider.
He says the law forbids politicians, ministers or even MLAs, from using insider information to benefit themselves or others.
He says the fact that Boyd, a former minister responsible for immigration, was involved in an immigration scheme raises serious questions.
“As a minister you would learn inside information that the public wouldn’t have and that would include: Who are the real decision makers in the program? What are the real details of how the criteria is applied? And what gets you the greatest benefit for this particular investor immigrant program?” Conacher said.
“And if you’re giving advice based on what you know, then you are using that information to further private interests of you associates.”
Boyd said after CBC approached him about his involvement in the company, he ensured that efforts were made “to contact the people who attended the seminar to clarify that I’m not now or at that time the minister of the economy and also that the government of Saskatchewan has not endorsed this investment opportunity.”
And in an email to CBC, Boyd wrote “I’m also making attempts to contact any websites that can be found to ensure they make similar clarifications.”
Online material still refers to Boyd as minister
And yet, as of late Friday, the website run by the Chinese promoter and organizer of the event still refers to Boyd as Saskatchewan’s minister of the economy.
Conacher asks Boyd: “If it was so important to clear it up why would you let it sit there?”
He points out that the first principle of the MLA’s code of conduct says this: “Members of this Assembly must carry out their official duties and arrange their private financial affairs in a manner that protects the public interest and enhances public confidence and trust in government and in high standards of ethical conduct in public office.”
He said in his view the apparent ethical violations here require politicians to speak out.
“Every member should answer questions about ethics situations as opposed to dodging them because dodging them would not enhance the public confidence and trust in government.”
Through the Premier’s office, Boyd now says he will release the full report of the conflict of interest commissioner #skpoli