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Conflict question still looms

Karen Mackenzie
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 10, 2007

NUNAVUT - If cabinet Minister David Simailak is in a conflict of interest it will be up to the public or MLAs to force an investigation.

Nunavut's integrity commissioner said last week that he had not yet determined whether there is a conflict of interest on the part of Simailak, minister of Finance and Economic Development.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

David Simailak: testified before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Accountability on Nov. 29. -

The minister is under scrutiny regarding Nunavut Business Credit Corporation (NBCC) loans to companies in which he has an interest.

When asked on Dec. 5 whether he believed there to be any conflict of interest, integrity commissioner Robert Stanbury said he's only privy to what is disclosed by the member, unless a review is requested by the public or the legislative assembly.

No review had been requested as of that time.

"I have not determined that there is or is not a conflict of interest on the part of Minister Simailak," Stanbury added in an e-mail to Nunavut News/North the following day.

The minister confirmed during hearings two weeks ago that he has interests in Qamaniqtuuaq Development Corp. and Ilagiiktut Ltd., which owns Kangiqliniq Developments Ltd.

All three companies were approved for $1 million loans by the NBCC, according to a list of recipients released during the hearings.

According to Stanbury, members of the legislative assembly must list all business interests in an annual public disclosure statement.

The Integrity Act calls for not only the private company to be listed, but also "any other corporation in which the private company has an interest."

But Simailak's 2007 disclosure statement, obtained from the legislative assembly last week, does not list Kangiqliniq Developments Ltd., a wholly-owned body of Ilagiiktut Ltd. Nor do his statements from 2004, 2005 or 2006.

In place of Kangiqliniq, Simailak listed Ikingutigiit Ltd. in 2004, 2005 and 2007. Ikingutigiit, however, is a building owned by Kangiqliniq in Rankin Inlet, according to a staff member in the Kangiqliniq office.

According a damning report by Canada's auditor general Sheila Fraser, loans to Kangiqliniq and its parent company Ilagiiktut Ltd. should not have both been approved, as they exceed the amount permitted to related companies under the NBCC Act.

Simailak has stated repeatedly that he did not know about the loans until Nov. 26, when a document listing NBCC's loans was released, as his business interests were placed in a trust when he became minister.

He had also temporarily stepped down as minister of Economic Development and Transportation prior to their approval, he said.

Although several family members have interests in the same company, "they too did not know about those loans until last week because they're just regular shareholders in the companies," he said.

"I put my shares in trust, that was the way that was set up by the first Nunavut government to ensure that the MLAs and especially ministers don't have any conflicts between their personal interests and their jobs," Simailak said. "There are partly ways to reduce the risk of conflicts even further and I've been in touch with the integrity commissioner to explore this further and will be working with him over the next weeks and months, and talking with my colleagues in the legislative assembly as well."

Neither Simailak nor Stanbury could be reached for further comment on Simailak's inaccurate disclosure statement by press time.