Given the government’s delayed response to concerns around the Village of Pinehouse, and the then-Minister of Government Relations’ personal relationship with members of village council, the NDP is calling on the Conflict of Interest Commissioner to take another look into the Minister’s acceptance of gifts from Pinehouse officials.
“The Minister is trying to spin that she had no idea that her accommodations for trips to Pinehouse were paid for by the Village and didn’t know that the person she thought paid for her trips is on Village council and the coordinator of the housing program. The fact that the trips were paid for by her personal friend who served as a councillor for the Village and housing coordinator when housing was her portfolio at the time doesn’t pass the smell test,” said Cathy Sproule. “We’re also concerned that shortly after these trips, she was responsible for investigating serious governance issues that the residents of Pinehouse had raised yet declared no conflict of interest.”
In July 2016, 34 concerned citizens wrote a letter to the Minister asking for help fixing the Local Authority FOI Act so issues around multiple infractions of provincial legislation and serious financial irregularities with the Village could be brought to light. The Minister responded three months later, committing to “schedule a meeting with the Village council at the earliest opportunity to assist them in complying with the provisions of [The Local Authority FOI Act].”
There was, however, no known follow-up until last December when the current Minister of Government Relations announced that the province would finally investigate. This came after the provincial information and privacy commissioner had found the Village to be in contravention of the Act thirteen times.
“The people of Pinehouse deserve the transparency and openness that they were seeking five years ago, as there are still many unanswered questions around conflict of interest and the delay in response from the government,” Sproule said. “The next step has to be for the Conflict of Interest Commissioner to take a deeper look into this.”