Trudeau government renews contract of ethics watchdog as she questions his fundraising efforts

The Trudeau government has renewed the mandate of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson, whose term was due to expire next month. The move comes as Dawson has announced plans to question Trudeau about his party's controversial cash-for-access fundraisers

Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd also renewed for another 6 months

Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson will serve for another six months after her term was renewed Friday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Conflict of Interest and Ethics watchdog Mary Dawson's appointment has once again been extended for another six months — just as she has announced plans to question Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about his party's controversial cash-for-access fundraising events.

According to a cabinet decision dated Friday, the government has prolonged Dawson's appointment to July 9, 2017 while the Liberal government tries to find her successor. Dawson's appointment had been scheduled to expire on Jan. 9.

Trudeau has come under fire for attending $1,500-a-head fundraising events, often held in the homes of wealthy Canadians.

In a letter made public Thursday, Dawson appeared to be particularly concerned by events involving business leaders with ties to China.

"While the information provided in support of the allegations is not sufficient to cause me to initiate an examination under the act at this time, your letter and media articles leave me with concerns in relation to Mr. Trudeau's interactions with individuals involved with the canola export agreement, Wealth One Bank, and Anbang Insurance Group," Dawson wrote in a letter to Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose.

"Consequently, I will follow up with Mr. Trudeau regarding his involvement with the fundraising events and with the three above noted matters. I will inform you of the outcome in due course."

Renewing her mandate for another six months gives Dawson time to probe the Liberal Party's cash-for-access fundraising events.

Democracy watch complaint

Dawson was initially appointed in 2007. She was reappointed to another three-year term in 2014, before being given another six months in July 2016.

The government has advertised for a successor to Dawson, with the deadline for applications now set for Jan. 9, 2017.

Duff Conacher, with Democracy Watch, has filed a complaint with Dawson's office "to try to stop the Trudeau cabinet" from appointing new ethics and lobbying watchdogs at the same time as their own fundraising events are under scrutiny.

The government also renewed the mandate of Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd, whose term was set to expire on Dec. 29. She will now serve until June 30, 2017.

Shepherd was first appointed Commissioner of Lobbying in 2008 and, like Dawson, has been reappointed on an interim basis twice since Trudeau came to power.

Applications for her job, which pays between $174,700 and $205,500, are also due by Jan. 9.

Lobbying commissioner Karen Shepherd's term was also renewed for six months. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

At the same time, the government appointed Ghislaine Saikaley as interim commissioner of official languages for six months, effective Saturday. Outgoing Commissioner Graham Fraser's term expired Friday and he had made it clear he wanted to move on. Saikaley has been serving as assistant commissioner.

The job comes with a salary of $314,100. Applications for Fraser's successor are also due by Jan. 9, 2017.

The government has also named an interim chief public health officer. Theresa Tam will serve for one year at a salary that ranges between $226,100 and $265,000. Tam has been serving as deputy chief public health officer.

Candidates for that job have until Feb. 12, 2017 to apply.


Elizabeth Thompson

Senior reporter

Award-winning reporter Elizabeth Thompson covers Parliament Hill. A veteran of the Montreal Gazette, Sun Media and iPolitics, she currently works with the CBC's Ottawa bureau, specializing in investigative reporting and data journalism. She can be reached at: elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca.