After Liberal MP Raj Grewal invited an employer to attend receptions in India during the prime minister’s trip in February, the federal ethics watchdog is opening a formal investigation into
“I have determined that an inquiry under the (Conflict of Interest) Code is warranted,” Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said in a “confidential” letter to NDP MP Charlie Angus on Thursday, obtained by the National Post. “I am commencing an inquiry and have so informed Mr. Grewal. Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention.”
Angus made a formal complaint to Dion at the end of March, after it came to light that Grewal’s office had invited his current employer, to whom he provides “legal services,” to receptions in India attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, members of the cabinet and senior government officials. The business relationship itself began after Grewal became an MP, and was disclosed with the ethics commissioner at the time.
Grewal had confirmed to the Post in March that his office sent invitations to employer Yusuf Yenilmez, the CEO of a Greater Toronto Area construction company, Zgemi Inc. Yenilmez corroborated that, saying he had called the office ahead of the trip to “make sure my name was on the list.” Both of them said that Yenilmez would have had access to events anyway because he was travelling with the Canada-India Business Council.
The prime minister’s office, which at the time was still dealing with the fall-out of the presence of attempted murderer Jaspal Atwal at one of the same receptions, refused to comment on the record. The PMO had been asserting that Atwal got invited through Liberal MP Randeep Sarai, which raised questions about how much the PM’s own staff were vetting party guests.
Sarai and Grewal described the invitations in a similar way, saying they collected the names of anyone in their riding who was interested in attending the events, then gave lists to the Canadian High Commission in India.
That Grewal did not recuse himself from assisting a current employer with the invitation process raised concerns for opposition parties. Angus’s formal complaint in March said this appeared to be a “very egregious abuse” of conflict-of-interest rules. The Conservatives also complained to Dion, with MP Stephanie Kusie initiating a similar process a day later.
Dion’s response to Angus Thursday said his decision to formally investigate came after a careful review of “written representations” from Grewal as well as “public documents.”