Boissonnault cleared in preliminary ethics probe of his business dealings

Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Canada's ethics commissioner will not be investigating claims that Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault broke conflict of interest rules and a preliminary probe turned up no evidence the minister acted improperly, according to a letter obtained by CBC News.

"I no longer have concerns that you may have contravened your obligations under the Act and will take no further action at this time," says the June 25 letter from Ethics Commissioner Konrad von Finckenstein to Boissonnault.

Boissonnault faced questions after Global News published September 2022 text messages between the employment minister's former business partner at Global Health Imports (GHI), Stephen Anderson, and Malvina Ghaoui, the principal of the U.S.-based company The Ghaoui Group.

Boissonnault co-founded the PPE company GHI and currently holds shares in GHI through his holding company. Cabinet ministers are not allowed to engage in managing or operating a business or commercial activity.

The texts referred to the involvement of someone named "Randy" in a discussion about a wire transfer of roughly $500,000 to secure a large shipment of nitrile gloves.

That led to near-daily questioning from the Conservatives about the identity of the "other Randy" — and whether Boissonnault had broken the law by being involved in the daily operations of the company more than ten months after being sworn in to cabinet.

Boissonnault denied the allegations, telling the House of Commons in June that he has "had no role in this company since being elected in 2021."

He also told the ethics committee that he didn't know the last name of the other Randy.

"That person is not me," he said.

'No evidence' to support allegations, commissioner says

But the letter from the commissioner says that Boissonnault submitted call logs and texts from three of his personal devices for the day in question — September 8, 2022 — and the information provided supported Boissonnault's statement that he did not have any correspondence with Anderson.

"Other than the name 'Randy' being used in text messages from Mr. Anderson to Malvina Ghaoui, messages which according to the published excerpts were neither addressed nor copied to you, I do not have any information before me to support the allegation that you were involved in managing or operating GHI on September 8, 2022," said the letter from von Finckenstein.

The letter also said that Boissonnault confirmed with the ethics commissioner that he stopped working with GHI when he was elected in 2021, and provided documentation indicating that his resignation as director was noted in the company's corporate minutes in October 2021.

The Conservative opposition had been calling for the identity of the "other Randy" to be made public, but the person's last name has never been released.

Michael Barrett, the Conservative Party's ethics critic, said the party's MPs won't drop their inquiries just because the ethics commissioner has decided not pursue a further investigation.

"After nine years of this scandal-plagued government under Justin Trudeau, who has twice been personally found guilty of breaking ethics laws, it's clear that they're not worth the corruption or the coverups. The ethics commissioner's decision not to investigate does not exonerate Minister Boissonnault so long as important questions remain unanswered," Barrett said.

Barrett said Boissonnault and his former business partner should have been more forthcoming with a Commons committee that wants to probe this matter further.

"The refusal by the co-owner to release phone records and documents to a parliamentary committee has only further raised suspicions," he said.

"The Liberals could clear the air, but they are instead using every tool to hide the truth. They blocked the other 'Randy' from testifying and refuse to answer simple questions, including the identity of who the elusive other Randy is."

Publicly available records don't list anyone named "Randy" as having worked for GHI, other than Boissonnault.

Anderson is set to appear in front of the House of Commons ethics committee during the week of July 15 to answer questions about these text messages, and Boissonnault's previous work with the company.