Campbell cleared on conflict

To no-one’s great surprise, Conflict of Interest Commissioner HAD Oliver has decided premier Gordon Campbell was not in breach of the Member’s Conflict of Interest Act in owning Alcan shares.
But Oliver says the row suggests MLAs should avoid the type of portfolio Campbell was in.
NDP Energy critic John Horgan had asked the commissioner for a ruling because Campbell, through an RRSP fund, held an unspecified number of shares in Alcan at a time the province was in negotiations with the company that led to the LTEPA+ deal with BC Hydro.
Oliver said one of the assets listed by Campbell in making the disclosure required of all MLAs was the Independence Canadian Equity Portfolio operated by Cannacord.
He explained the ICEP invested in “high quality blue chip Canadian equities” with long term growth in mind.
“The decision to buy or sell any particular stock rests with the chief portfolio manager without reference to or input by individual stock holders,” he noted.
Oliver also ran through the history of this particular disclosure by Campbell.
The saga began on September 15 last year when the premier’s initial disclosure statement was submitted to the commissioner’s office. The stocks and shares listed included one called ALCON INCE. In subsequent discussion, commission staff and Campbell realized this was a typo and it should have read ALCAN INC.
On November 10 Campbell’s executive assistant submitted a Statement of Material Change, signed by the premier, to Oliver. This updated information also showed Campbell’s wife had acquired shares in Alcan on November 2. A final disclosure statement with the up-to-date information was filed the week of November 27.
On the negotiations between Alcan and the province of the modernization project agreement, Oliver noted the government members primarily responsible were Economic Development minister Colin Hansen and Energy minister Richard Neufeld.
“Premier Campbell was not involved in any direct negotiation,” he added.
He said the agreement was publicly announced in August and an order in council relating to the agreement was signed by Hansen and Campbell on October 19. But the final signature of the Lieutenant Governor was delayed until a formal letter had been received by Alcan approving the agreement. It was signed off on November 10.
On the Alcan shares, Oliver said “None of these transactions were made at the request of premier Campbell – he neither knew of the purchases or of the sales or of the fact that the portfolio managers were holding Alcan shares among the many stocks in the managed portfolio,” the commissioner said, adding the maximum number of shares held at any one time was probably less than 80.
Oliver said Campbell was unaware of any Alcan holdings until either November 10 or 27.
While finding no breach, Oliver said he was grateful to Horgan for raising the issue and giving him an opportunity to look at the difference between a standard mutual fund and these discretionary portfolios.
He had concluded that while perfectly “proper and lawful”, the latter opened up MLAs to allegations of apparent conflict and therefore they should “consider the wisdom” of investing in the latter.