Politics

New CETA envoy's background 'raises serious questions,' Conservative MP says

A Conservative member of Parliament is raising ethical concerns about the Liberal government's new special envoy for the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

Gerry Ritz points to Pierre Pettigrew's consulting work and directorships for natural resources firms

Justin Trudeau gets congratulated by Pierre Pettigrew after winning the nomination in the riding of Papineau in 2007. Pettigrew, a former Liberal minister for international trade, has been named a special envoy of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. (Peter McCabe/Canadian Press)

A Conservative member of Parliament is raising ethical concerns about the Liberal government's new special envoy for the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

Gerry Ritz, Conservative MP for Battlefords–Lloydminster and a former agriculture minister, wants the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to look into former international trade minister Pierre Pettigrew's business affiliations, according to a letter obtained by CBC News.

Ritz's won't get far with the request, however, as the commissioner's office says Pettigrew is not a reporting public office holder and therefore outside of the scope of the Conflict of Interest Act.

Last week, International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland announced Pettigrew will help shepherd CETA through the ratification process, connect with businesses in Europe and Canada and promote the deal once it's completed.

"He brings with him a lifetime of international experience and a profound dedication to public service," Freeland said at the time.

Resource company connections

But it's his dedication to various corporate boards that concerns Ritz.

In a letter to ethics commissioner Mary Dawson, dated Monday, the international trade critic points out Pettigrew is the executive adviser on international for Deloitte Canada, an advisory board member for Forbes Manhattan and consultant for Fura Emerald (which owns an emerald mining concession in Colombia) and Copper One, a mineral exploration company in Quebec.

International trade critic Gerry Ritz wants the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to look into former Liberal minister Pierre Pettigrew's affiliations. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

He also sits on the board of directors for Black Iron Inc., Sulliden Mining Capital, IC Potash Corporation and Brazil Potash Corporation.

"This appointment raises serious questions about what steps have been taken to ensure Mr. Pettigrew's new role does not conflict with his role serving on the boards of various corporations while serving in this position," reads the letter.

The former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister also has his own management company, and "it is very unclear what Pettigrew International does," Ritz writes.

'Ethical wall' suggested 

The Saskatchewan Conservative MP wrote to ask if Pettigrew should be considered a reporting public office holder. That would open him up to a long list of rules to follow under the Conflict of Interest Act, and he'd be subject to its public disclosure provisions. Reporting public office holders are also subject to prohibitions against outside activities and holding controlled assets.

Ritz goes on to suggest Dawson instruct Pettigrew to create an "ethical wall" to prevent him using his position for private gain.

A spokesperson for the conflict of interest office said Dawson "has verified that the position of envoy for Canada-EU does not fall within the definition of a reporting public office holder and therefore, Mr. Pettigrew is not subject to the Conflict of Interest Act."

A spokeswoman for Freeland's office said they consulted with the conflict of interest commissioner before Pettigrew's appointment and posted his affiliations online. 

Lauded by other Conservatives

"If Gerry Ritz truly supports ratification of this important trade deal, he would join prominent Conservatives like former foreign minister John Baird and former Mulroney minister Perrin Beatty, who both praised Mr. Pettigrew's appointment," Anne-Louise Chauvette wrote in an email.

She added that the negotiating stage of CETA deal is over, and Pettigrew's new job is more about promoting the agreement.

"Governments around the world and at every level of government in Canada have employed the expertise of business community leaders to fulfil specific mandates. For example, Jeff Immelt formally advises (U.S.) President (Barack) Obama as chair of the president's council on jobs and competitiveness, while also serving as chairman and CEO of GE," said Chauvette.

CETA still needs to be approved by the European Council — the heads of state or government for all 28 member states of the EU, plus the head of the European Commission and president of the EU.

If the deal is approved in Europe, it is expected Trudeau would travel to Brussels, where he would sign the deal the following week.

After the signing, a ratification vote in the EU Parliament could take place later this year or in early 2017. After the vote, 90 per cent of the deal would apply provisionally, according to Canadian officials.

The agreement will then still have to be passed by a vote in each individual member state's legislature before it is fully ratified.

Leaked EC committee meeting notes posted online by the website Politico earlier this month suggested that some  member countries were still suggesting amendments or reserving the right to request further changes to the deal.

But Pettigrew said in an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics last week that he's confident CETA will be completed.

Former Liberal minister of foreign affairs Pierre Pettigrew discusses his new role as CETA envoy and the prospects for getting the deal signed in October. 0:37

Clarifications

  • This story has been edited from an earlier version that incorrectly attributed the statement that 90 per cent of the deal will apply provisionally once passed by the EU Parliament. In fact, that statement was made by International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.
    Aug 29, 2016 4:27 PM ET