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Ethics Committee Rejects Request for Whistleblower Testimony on Federal Green Fund

The House of Commons ethics committee has voted against inviting a whistleblower to testify on insider dealing at Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), a federal foundation that finances green technologies and was recently suspended following allegations of misconduct.

Conservative MP Michael Barrett on Nov. 22 had asked the ethics committee to invite the whistleblower who first reported mismanagement at the foundation to appear. Liberal and New Democrat MPs dismissed the motion by a 6 to 4 vote, as first covered by Blacklock’s Reporter.

Mr. Barrett said the committee in effect “voted to silence a whistleblower.”

“Whistleblowers are the only reason Canadians know this happened,” said Conservative MP Michael Barrett after the vote.

“To have members silence a whistleblower by refusing to allow them to come before the committee speaks to a government that is more interested in covering up their own corruption than being accountable to the Canadians who sent them here.”

According to a Sept. 26 “Fact Finding Exercise Report” commissioned by the Department of Industry, agency directors “did not recuse themselves” when distributing $38 million worth of subsidies to corporate friends, and were “not in full compliance with the contribution agreement made with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.”

The SDTC is a not-for-profit foundation that was established by the federal government in 2001, with a mission of supporting the growth and development of green tech companies. It is halfway through a five-year agreement with Ottawa to support businesses in the clean tech sector, having provided $1.5 billion for associated startups since its founding.

On Nov. 10, the foundation’s CEO Leah Lawrence resigned, citing a “malicious campaign” against her. Chair of the fund, Annette Verschuren, resigned shortly after on Nov. 20 after admitting she voted on a $217,000 grant to her own company, NRStor Inc.

Mr. Barrett said the SDTC was a “slush fund that’s being raided by insiders and the well-connected when we have people lined up in record numbers at food banks.”

“The information we have so far is not because of the robust practices of this organization or the stewardship of the Minister and his department,” said Mr. Barrett. “It’s because whistleblowers came forward.”

“What we know is not because of due diligence from the government. What we know is from a whistleblower kicking at the darkness until it bleeds daylight. That is why we know what we know.”

Conservative MP Damien Kurek said the rejection of the whistleblower hearings without comment was “unbelievable,” adding, “This appears to be a shameless effort by the Liberals to shut down a whistleblower from coming to this committee.”

In a Nov. 16 letter to Mr. Barrett, federal Ethics Commissioner Konrad von Finckenstein has said he will examine the conduct of soon-to-be former SDTC board chair Ms. Verschuren.

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