Chief of staff appointment raises conflict issues

Alberta Conservative MP Chris Warkentin is calling on the federal agriculture minister and his chief of staff to appear before the House of Commons' agriculture committee to answer questions about a possible conflict of interest. | File photo

Alberta Conservative MP Chris Warkentin is calling on the federal agriculture minister and his chief of staff to appear before the House of Commons’ agriculture committee to answer questions about a possible conflict of interest.

The committee was named last week and was scheduled to elect a chair at its first meeting Feb. 3.

Warkentin, a committee member who represents Grande Prairie-Mackenzie, said federal minister Lawrence MacAulay and his chief of staff, Mary Jean McFall, must answer questions about McFall’s appointment.

McFall unsuccessfully ran for the Liberals in last fall’s election and has a direct family connection to Canada’s largest egg producer, Burnbrae Farms.

According to some published estimates, the family owns $140 million worth of egg quota.

Warkentin said this could put McFall in direct conflict when it comes to discussions about supply management.

In particular, there is the compensation package announced by the previous Conservative government for supply-managed sectors affected by the Trans-Pacific Partnership, should it be ratified.

“We are asking for minister MacAulay, as well as Mary Jean McFall, to come to committee to explain how his new chief of staff will comply with ethics requirements,” Warkentin said.

No one from MacAulay’s office responded to a request for an interview.

In an email McFall sent to the Financial Post, she said she would meet with the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to make sure she avoids conflicts or the perception of conflict.

Warkentin said an appearance before the committee would reassure Canadians that McFall has indeed taken the required steps.

He agreed that it’s important for MacAulay to have people in his office with farming backgrounds, but this is an extraordinary case.

“I don’t know a single farm kid who has $140 million in assets,” he said. “There are very few people that should be restricted from having this type of job. I just think she happens to be one of them. I think the minister would be well served by someone who more closely represented the average family farm.”

All the House committees were named last week and are now electing chairs and getting down to business following the election. Key for the agriculture and transport committees will be the Canada Transportation Act review.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba are not represented on the agriculture committee, leaving Warkentin the lone prairie voice.

Other members include:

Liberals: Pierre Breton of the Shefford riding in Quebec, Francis Drouin of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell in Ontario, Pat Finnigan of Miramichi-Grand Lake in New Brunswick, Alaine Lockhart of Fundy Royal in New Brunswick, Lloyd Long field of Guelph in Ontario and Joe Peschisolido of Steveston-Richmond East in British Columbia.

Conservatives: Jacques Gourde of Levis-Lotbiniere in Quebec, Bev Shipley, a former chair, of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex in Ontario.

NDP: Ruth Ellen Brosseau of Berthier-Maskinonge in Quebec.

Trade committee

Former Conservative agriculture minister Gerry Ritz, from Battlefords-Lloydminster in Saskatchewan, was named to the international trade committee, along with his Prince Albert counterpart Randy Hoback and Dave Van Kesteren from Chatham-Kent-Leamington in Ontario.

Liberal members of the trade committee include former agriculture critic Mark Eyking of Sydney-Victoria in Nova Scotia, Sukh Dhaliwal of Surrey-Newton in B.C., Peter Fonseca of Mississauga East-Cooksville in Ontario, Linda Lapointe of Riviere-des-Mille-Iles in Quebec, Karen Ludwig of New Brunswick Southwest and Kyle Peterson of Newmarket-Aurora in Ontario.

The NDP member is Tracey Ramsey from the riding of Essex in Ontario.

Transport, infrastructure and communities

The Prairies are represented on the transportation, infrastructure and communities committee by Conservative Kelly Block from the Saskatchewan riding of Carlton Trail-Eagle Creek and the NDP’s Linda Duncan from Edmonton Strathcona.

The other Conservative members are Luc Berthold of Megantic-L’Erable in Quebec and Dianne L. Watts from South Surrey-White Rock in B.C.

Liberal members are Vance Badawey from Niagara Centre in Ontario, Sean Fraser of Central Nova in Nova Scotia, Ken Hardie of Fleetwood-Port Kells in B.C., Angelo Iacono of Alfred-Pellan in Quebec, Judy Sgro of Humber River-Black Creek in Ontario and Gagan Sikand of Mississauga-Streetsville in Ontario.

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