Minister calls NDP questions on conflict of interest 'drive-by smear and personal attack'
NDP asserts Minister Ken Cheveldayoff has conflicts and should disclose them publicly
Saskatchewan Minister of Central Services Ken Cheveldayoff is accusing the NDP of a "drive-by smear and a personal attack" after questions were raised about a potential conflict of interest by the Opposition on Tuesday.
NDP MLA David Forbes asked Cheveldayoff during question period about his personal stake in commercial real estate ventures, given his recent interest in reviewing the use of government-owned buildings.
Cheveldayoff called 660 government-owned buildings "too many" and said he wants to make sure that those buildings are getting the best use of taxpayer money.
Premier Scott Moe answered Forbes, saying, "questioning the ethics of someone in this assembly is most disturbing."
A subsequent question was answered by Jeremy Harrison, the minister of trade.
Minister 'can't take the heat': NDP
Forbes said the minister should have addressed the issue in the assembly.
"This is amazing, this is shocking that he wouldn't get up in the House and answer a simple question," Forbes said.
"He's the one who started thinking about selling off 660 publicly owned buildings and parcels of land in Saskatchewan and now he can't take the heat."
Cheveldayoff defends himself
Cheveldayoff faced reporters' questions and took aim at the NDP.
"It's not the first time that it's happened. I've had my vehicle brought up on the floor of the legislature. I've had [questions about] my RRSPs, the fact that I invest in labour-sponsored venture capital corporations in the province."
Cheveldayoff said he is not actively seeking to sell any government property and that he would not be the lead on any sales on behalf of the government. He said he would recuse himself from any conflict of interest or perceived conflicts.
Cheveldayoff said he abides by the guidelines of the conflict of interest commissioner.
On his conflict of interest disclosure, Cheveldayoff listed two companies — Millennium Property Group and Redev Properties — in which he is a shareholder and has a limited partnership. Both have holdings in Saskatchewan.
Cheveldayoff also lists himself as the 100 per cent owner of K & K Cheveldayoff Holdings and as a 50 per cent owner in a numbered company, 101132614 Saskatchewan Ltd.
Cheveldayoff said before he was elected he was involved in real estate and real estate development. He said he is now involved as a small partner in real estate operations.
"It has nothing to do with my job as minister of central services. I'm no different than any other member of the legislature," Cheveldayoff said.
"He does have some conflict of interest. He should disclose what his conflicts are," he said.
"I'm sorry he's offended but he's got to grow up and act like a minister."
Conflict of interest process
Under Saskatchewan's conflict of interest rules, Cheveldayoff does not have to disclose publicly what the companies he's involved in are, but he does need to disclose that to the conflict of interest commissioner.
Each MLA meets with the commissioner once a year to discuss the disclosure. The commissioner then prepares a summary and posts it online.
The commissioner, Ron Barclay, is an independent officer of the legislature.
"The conflict of interest commissioner has stated that members are conscious of their obligations under the legislation and always attempt to ensure they are not in breach of the legislation," the government said in a statement.
Last April, an expert on political ethics told CBC that the public has a right to know what the commissioner knows.
"If you're a minister and you have a numbered company, well, then the public needs to know what the numbered company is doing. And if it's a holding company, what the heck is it holding?" said Ian Stedman, a lawyer who specializes in political ethics at Osgoode Hall Law School.
"It's a black box of wonderful; I have no idea what's in it," Stedman said.