Posted on Sep 25, 2018
NDP ASKS FOR ETHICS INVESTIGATION INTO UCP INDIA TRIP
For immediate release
September 25, 2018
EDMONTON – NDP Caucus Chair Heather Sweet (Edmonton-Manning) has written to the Alberta’s Ethics Commissioner concerning the recent trip by UCP MLAs Jason Kenney, Devin Dreeshen and Prasad Panda to an Indian company, of which Mr. Panda owns shares in the same company.
“This appears to be the same old tired backroom politics the PCs used to practice,” says Heather Sweet, NDP Caucus chair. “There are questions regarding whether Mr. Panda derived any personal benefit from this trip. Mr. Kenney has repeatedly said this trip was taken in his capacity as Leader of the Opposition. This needs looking into.”
The NDP caucus has called for the Ethics Commissioner to look into whether the visit, especially aided by Mr. Kenney, would in any way advance a private interest for Mr. Panda. Last year, the Ethics Commissioner found UCP MLA Ric McIver was in breach of the Conflicts of Interest Act and fined him $500.
See letter below:
September 25, 2018
Marguerite Trussler, Q.C.
Office of the Ethics Commissioner
Suite 1250, 9925-109 St NW
Edmonton, AB T5K 2J8
Dear Commissioner Trussler:
I am writing to seek your determination of what I believe may be a real or perceived conflict of interest regarding the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Jason Kenney, Mr. Prasad Panda as the Opposition critic for Energy and Mr. Devin Dreeshen as the Opposition critic for Trade. The trip was privately financed however, it was stated many times Jason Kenney was attending in his capacity as Leader of the Opposition, for instance a tweet by the Official Twitter Account for the office of Jason Kenney, stated: “Jason [Kenney] has not represented himself as anything but opposition leader”.
(https://twitter.com/UniteAlberta/status/1042163135354830848) The trip involved a visit to a company in part owned by Mr. Panda.
As you have noted, concerning UCP MLA Ric McIver in a decision published January 4, 2017, Section 2.1 of the Act states:
A Member breaches this Act if the Member takes part in a decision in the course of carrying out the Member’s office or powers knowing that the decision might further a private interest of the Member, a person directly associated with the Member or the Member’s minor or adult child.
Section 3 of the Act reads:
A Member breaches this Act if the Member uses the Member’s office or powers to influence or to seek to influence a decision to be made by or o n behalf of the Crown to further a private interest of the Member, a person directly associated with the Member or the Member’s minor child. or to improperly further another person’s private interest
Mr. Kenney, Mr. Panda and Mr. Dreeshen travelled on private aircraft to the site of the Jamnagar Refinery owned by Reliance Industries, in Jamnagar, Gujarat, India. In Mr. Panda’s own disclosure with your office he states he owns shares in Reliance Industries Ltd. Mr. Panda has also stated he worked on this particular project. (https://twitter.com/MLA_Panda/status/1042786850350358530) Given that this is a secure location and required private plane travel, some arrangements were required. Did Mr. Panda use his connections to facilitate this visit to further his own private interests?
Mr. Panda’s potential to further his own private interest, demonstrated by the willingness of his own leader to visit a company he in part owns, is especially relevant given that today, during a radio appearance on NewsTalk 770, Mr. Kenney encouraged investment in this firm, stating “There are lots of potential ways of cooperating” and ““The largest refinery on earth produces 2% of the world’s gasoline. They import 2 million barrels per day of generally heavy crude from as far- what shocked me - it comes from as far away as the United States and they’re able to make a profit. I said would you be able to do that with Canadian bitumen and they said absolutely we’ve tested it, we want it”. Given Mr. Kenney’s involvement, does this promotion of investment into this particular firm violate Sections 3 of the Act, in particular the section on “another person’s private interest”? Does the amount of publicity Mr. Kenney has given this particular facility, both online and in radio interviews, constitute an increase in publicity and awareness? Does this provide a benefit to the company, and therefore a benefit to Mr. Panda?
We question whether Mr. Panda and Mr. Kenney’s conduct on this trip has met the standards set forth by the Legislative Assembly. I trust that you will investigate the potential for any conflict of interest and will rule on such accordingly.
Chair, Alberta NDP Caucus
 Ethics Commissioner. January 4 2017. http://www.ethicscommissioner.ab.ca/media/1729/ethics-commissioners-january-4-2017-investigation-report-on-allegations-involving-mla-ric-mcive