The cabinet-appointed CEO of a “high performing” Crown agency failed to disclose financial dealings in the legal marijuana trade, the Office of the Ethics Commissioner yesterday disclosed. Ian McKay was ordered to immediately resign as director of a cannabis investment company. McKay did not reply to Blacklock’s request for comment.
Cabinet last March 12 appointed McKay as the $231,000-a year CEO of Invest in Canada Hub, a new federal agency assigned to attract foreign companies. McKay was an unsuccessful Liberal candidate for Parliament and national director of the Liberal Party from 2010 to 2013.
Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion yesterday in a Compliance Order said McKay failed to divulge his ties to the cannabis industry at the time of his appointment. McKay was a director of Nesta Holding Co. Ltd., described in company statements as a “cannabis-focused private equity firm”.
Cabinet legalized recreational marijuana seven months after McKay’s appointment to the federal agency. Nesta Holding Co. in a 2017 company announcement said: “The primary focus of Nesta Brand Co. will be to provide northern exposure to cannabis innovations and industry-leading products from around the globe, tailoring them for Canadian cannabis consumers.”
Commissioner Dion’s Compliance Order gave McKay 10 days to resign from the Nesta board. The order was dated January 15 but only disclosed yesterday. It states in full:
“Whereas on March 12, 2018 you were appointed chief executive officer of Invest in Canada Hub and became subject to the Conflict of Interest Act as a reporting public office holder;
“Whereas you were at the time of your appointment a director of Nesta Holding Co. Ltd., which is a prohibited activity pursuant to paragraph 15.1.c of the Act;
“Whereas you failed to disclose all of your activities within 60 days of your appointment pursuant to paragraph 22.2.d of the Act;
“Whereas you continue to be a director of Nesta Holding Co. as of the day of this order;
“And whereas pursuant to section 19 of the Act, compliance with the Act is a condition of your appointment as a public office holder, I therefore order you to resign from the board of directors of Nesta Holding Co. and to submit to my office within 10 days of the deemed date of service of this order, proof of receipt of your resignation from the chair of Nesta Holding Co. Ltd.’s board of directors.”
Blacklock’s attempted to contact McKay last night to determine if he would resign by today’s deadline. McKay did not respond.
Invest in Canada Hub has 13 staff at its Ottawa headquarters and a $23.2 million budget, projected to increase to $36 million this year according to a 2018-2019 Departmental Plan. “A highly skilled, high performing team will be recruited to provide world-class investor services and deliver on Invest in Canada’s important mandate,” wrote staff.
McKay previously served as a Liberal-appointed policy advisor and was a 2000 Liberal candidate in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast. He finished second to then-Canadian Alliance MP John Reynolds with 27 percent of the vote.