Boissonnault’s business associates to testify before ethics committee

Click to play video: 'Ethics committee questions Boissonnault over texts'
Ethics committee questions Boissonnault over texts
RELATED: Ethics Commissioner Konrad von Finckenstein is looking into the business dealings of Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages Minister Randy Boissonnault. Krista Hessey reports – Jun 4, 2024

The parliamentary ethics committee unanimously passed a motion to have cabinet minister Randy Boissonnault’s business associates testify in an extended meeting on Tuesday.

The motion calls for Stephen Anderson, who co-owns a Global Health Imports (GHI) with Boissonnault, and Kirsten Poon, a lobbyist with ties to the minister, to appear before the committee for an hour. The hearing date has yet to be set.

The motion also requests Anderson and Boissonnault produce “all of their phone records, text messages, iMessages, and all instant messages and call logs from all applications from September 8, 2022” within the next week.

The motion, brought forward by Conservative MP Michael Barrett on June 4, was the subject of much debate over the past few days. After a marathon of meetings on Tuesday, Liberal, NDP, Conservative, and Bloc Québécois members passed the motion, which had been amended several times, in a vote of 10 to 0.

Story continues below advertisement

The central question the committee seeks to answer is who the “Randy” referenced in text messages revealed by Global News last week is.

Boissonnault has repeatedly denied he is the “Randy” in the text exchange between Anderson and Malvina Ghaoui, owner of The Ghaoui Group, a California-based personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement company.

On Sept. 8, 2022, Anderson and Ghaoui had been discussing an approximately $500,000 deposit Ghaoui Group was to wire GHI for a large shipment of nitrile gloves. Anderson forwarded Ghaoui a message allegedly from “Randy,” pressuring her to send the deposit as soon as possible.

In response to questions from Global News, Anderson said he worked with another Randy at GHI, but wouldn’t provide a surname for the employee.

Credit: (Left) Instagram/Stephen Anderson, (Right) The Canadian Press/Justin Tang

Initially, the motion called for “the other Randy” to testify before the committee, along with Ghaoui. However, it was amended on Monday to exclude both from appearing as witnesses. Liberal MPs argued that “Randy” is a common name and they can’t call someone to testify without a surname.

Story continues below advertisement

Committee members debated whether civilians should testify and what phone records should be turned over. Liberal members expressed concern that the committee would be going too far by forcing two private civilians to testify and instead preferred phone and text message records be handed over.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

“Are we going to drag private citizens into this committee who have nothing to do with the Conflict of Interest Act, who have nothing to do with the Lobbying Code, to shame them publicly? For what?” Liberal MP Iqra Khalid said.

Liberal MP Darren Fisher argued that the committee should stay out of it and allow the ethics commissioner’s office to look into Boissonnault.

“I think that it’s important to let the commissioner do the work he’s been tasked with doing on our behalf,” Fisher said.

NDP and Conservative members argued that witness testimonies are needed to determine who the “other Randy” may be, or as NDP Michael Green called him, “Alibi Randy.”

“Where we’re at right now is trying to find out who this Randy is, the person I affectionately call ‘the Alibi Randy,’” Green said.

Green stated he is “very comfortable” calling in witnesses who can give opening statements and answer questions to provide clarity to the matter.

Conservative MP Larry Brock said the committee needed to “clear this up.”

Story continues below advertisement

“Our role as parliamentarians is to ask the tough questions,” Brock said.

The deal discussed in the texts is the subject of a civil lawsuit by The Ghaoui Group alleging Anderson and two of his employees committed fraud. Boissonnault is not named in the lawsuit. Anderson and the two employees have denied the allegations of fraud and the case is currently before the courts.

In September 2022, Boissonnault was minister of tourism and associate minister of finance. He has since been promoted to minister of employment.

Boissonnault continues to own a 50 per cent stake in GHI, according to corporate records. His shares are held by a numbered company, 2256956 Alberta Ltd. Anderson owns the other half of the company.

Boissonnault has said he resigned from GHI after he won back his Edmonton Centre seat in September 2021 and has had nothing to do with the business since.

Story continues below advertisement

The Conflict of Interest Act allows public officeholders to own companies but prohibits them from operating or managing businesses while in office.

Canada’s ethics commissioner Konrad von Finckenstein has launched a preliminary review that may or may not lead to a formal investigation.

“Some of these reviews may lead to investigations if the Commissioner has reasonable grounds to investigate. When an investigation is not found to be warranted, the case file is closed,” wrote Michael Wrobel, a spokesperson for the ethics commissioner’s office.

Alice Hansen, Boissonnault’s director of communications, said the minister has shared personal and government phone records with the ethics commissioner, as well as the minister’s full schedule, for that day. Boissonnault was at a cabinet retreat in Vancouver at the time.

Hansen refused to share the schedule with Global News, saying they are “of secret security classification” and, therefore, his office cannot share it with the media.

The text exchange referenced a “partner call” in which Anderson, Randy and another GHI employee discussed GHI’s business deal with The Ghaoui Group. According to the texts obtained by Global News, the call occurred around 12:40 p.m. PST.

Hansen said the minister’s phone records show that Boissonnault had no phone calls between 11:12 a.m. PST and 5:37 p.m. PST.

Global News has not independently verified Boissonnault’s call records.


Sponsored content