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Conflict of Interest Commissioner asked to investigate NDP minister’s actions

VICTORIA (June 28, 2022) – Documents reveal a potential conflict of interest on the part of the Minister of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship, Josie Osborne, after she granted a $15 million stewardship fund to MakeWay Charitable Society, formerly known as Tides Canada.

“We’ve learned Minister Osborne granted millions in funding to an ENGO that had recently purchased a property from the minister’s family,” said Lorne Doerkson, BC Liberal Critic for Land, Water and Resource Stewardship. “Concerningly, records show that a few days after the multi-million dollar property was sold to MakeWay Charitable Society, the same organization started lobbying the minister, only to be granted a $15 million stewardship fund a few months later. How are British Columbians able to have confidence that the purchase of the property did not play a role in the award of the $15 million fund or that MakeWay did not leverage this purchase to gain influence with the Minister’s Office? At the very least, people deserve clarity as to how the sale and granting of the fund came about. As a result, I have raised concerns with the Conflict of Interest Commissioner, calling for an investigation into the matter.”

Following MakeWay’s $2.3 million purchase of the property, listed on Osborne’s financial disclosure forms, the minister was lobbied by the society or their coalition members on 10 separate occasions between September 23, 2021, to May 16, 2022, according to the Lobbyist Registry. In April of this year, MakeWay was awarded a $15 million stewardship for watershed health from Osborne’s ministry. MakeWay is better known by its former name, Tides Canada, which funded multi-million dollar campaigns against Canadian natural resource projects.

The Official Opposition has written to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner about this potential conflict, asking specific questions on the matter. These questions include:

  1. Did the purchase of the property play a role in the award of the $15 million fund to MakeWay?
  2. Did the Minister have any communication with MakeWay before, during, or after the sale of the property regarding the award of the Watershed Fund Stewardship?
  3. What steps were taken to eliminate a real or perceived conflict of interest by the Minister?
  4. How can the public trust that, after the sale had concluded, MakeWay did not leverage this purchase to gain influence with the Minister’s Office?
  5. Did the Minister exercise her duties knowing that in doing so there was the opportunity to further her private interest?
  6. Is there a reasonable perception that the Minister’s ability to exercise her duties must have been affected by her private interest?
  7. Did the Minister, in exercising her duties, engage in activities that in any way constitute a contravention of the provisions of the Conflict of Interest Act?

“It is essential that British Columbians can trust their elected officials, and especially government ministers, to act in the best interest of the people they were elected to serve, free of conflict of interest. As such, this information about Minister Osborne raises some concerns,” said Doerkson. “Minister Osborne’s decision to grant such a large amount of public money to MakeWay, after they purchased property from her family, must be investigated by the Conflict of Interest Commissioner. The minister should explain her actions and demonstrate that she is holding herself to the high standard of conduct people expect from their government.”

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