Ottawa, May 30, 2019
Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion has found that Mr. Jim Smolik, a former Assistant Chief Commissioner and Acting Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Grain Commission (Commission), contravened his post-employment obligations under the Conflict of Interest Act.
Today, an examination report from Commissioner Dion was submitted to the Prime Minister.
Commissioner Dion found that Mr. Smolik contravened two of the Conflict of Interest Act's post-employment provisions—section 33 and subsection 35(2)—by taking improper advantage of his previous office and by making representations to the Commission on behalf of his new employer.
Mr. Smolik left the Commission and joined Cargill Limited as Head of Corporate Affairs Canada in November 2016. Evidence shows that Mr. Smolik, within a few weeks after leaving public office, engaged in a series of actions aimed at helping Cargill resolve an urgent dust emission issue at its Sarnia, Ontario, grain terminal. Cargill was seeking permission from the Commission to apply white mineral oil to grain at the terminal to suppress dust. Mr. Smolik took advantage of previously established relationships to obtain internal Commission notes for his employer, and used social interactions with Commission staff to facilitate official interactions on his employer's behalf.
Commissioner Dion found that Mr. Smolik contravened section 33 of the Act, noting in his report: "In my view, Mr. Smolik […] exploited his previous public office to facilitate his and Cargill's access to Commission staff and to shepherd Cargill on a very specific course of action […]. I find that in doing so, Mr. Smolik acted in a manner that clearly took improper advantage of his previous position of public office."
He also found that Mr. Smolik made representations to the Commission during his one-year cooling-off period in contravention of subsection 35(2) of the Act: "I find that Mr. Smolik's July 20, 2017 application requesting an exemption pursuant to section 117 of the Canada Grain Act was a representation made during his cooling-off period, on behalf of Cargill to the Commission, an entity with which Mr. Smolik had had direct and significant official dealings during his last year in public office."
"Achieving a culture of ethics and integrity is necessary for the effective functioning of democracies. The regimes I administer—the Conflict of Interest Act and the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons—ensure private interests are not put before the public interest when decisions are made by public officials. Their decisions must be guided by the public interest." – Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion
"Our Office administers the conflict of interest regimes with rigour and consistency in order to help hold public officials to account." – Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion
"Investigations are not only an important part of our Office's enforcement role, they can add to its educational role. Investigation reports also promote awareness and understanding of the rules under the Conflict of Interest Act. I hope current and former public office holders will consider the Smolik Report when contemplating their own post-employment activities." – Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion
Section 33 of the Conflict of Interest Act prohibits former public office holders from acting in such a manner as to take improper advantage of their previous public office. This rule applies for an indefinite period.
Subsection 35(2) of the Conflict of Interest Act prohibits former reporting public office holders from making representations for or on behalf of any other person or entity to any department, organization, board, commission or tribunal with which they had direct and significant official dealings during their last year in public office. This rule applies for a cooling-off period of one year following a former reporting public office holder's last day in office. The cooling-off period is two years for former ministers and ministers of state.
At the conclusion of an examination, the Commissioner is required by the Act to provide a report to the Prime Minister. It is up to the Prime Minister to decide on any further potential action.
Commissioner Dion mentioned the Smolik Report, although not by name, during his May 16 appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, saying it would soon be released: "One of [our four current investigations] is not in the public domain, but the report will be issued in a couple of weeks […]."
The Smolik examination was launched by Commissioner Dion's predecessor in November 2017 and is the last such examination to be reported on.
The Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner was created under the Federal Accountability Act. The Commissioner applies the Conflict of Interest Act for public office holders and the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons.
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