ALBERTA’S Ethics Commissioner Neil Wilkinson in a report released on Thursday found that although Edmonton-Manning MLA Peter Sandhu breached the Conflicts of Interest Act when he failed to disclose six court actions against his homebuilding company, NewView Homes Ltd., there “was no underlying motive and no deliberate effort to mislead.”
Wilkinson noted that all the cases were settled shortly after he filed his annual member disclosure report. He accepted the Sandhu’s explanation that he had not disclosed the actions because he considered them settled, and had received legal advice that the lawsuits were nearing settlement. Lawyer James Heelan represented Sandhu
“I find there was no malfeasance on the part of Member Sandhu in any of these instances; there was no deliberate attempt to conceal actions for some underlying reason. Mr. Heelan characterized the Member Sandhu’s behaviour as “an oversight,” but I find it was a mistake,” the report states.
It notes: “Whether by oversight or mistake, I conclude Member Sandhu’s six failures to disclose were each an individual breach of the Act. Member Sandhu indicates he ‘has learned his lesson.’ I have no doubt this is true.”
Wilkinson said Sandhu had done the “right and honourable thing” by bringing the matter to him. He said that was a mitigating factor and ruled no sanction was warranted.
In September, Wilkinson’s investigation was broadened in September after opposition MLAs called for a review of Sandhu’s conduct following a CBC report that he had persistently lobbied senior executives within Service Alberta to change Alberta’s Builders’ Lien Act, which could benefit his business.
Wilkinson ruled Sandhu’s “actions may have been ill-advised, but they were not improper.”
He found that while Sandhu’s persistence “created an appearance of conflict of interest … it did not amount to an improper use of his office.
He said: “Had his persistence been directed at encouraging government officials to take action which only affected NewView Homes, there would be no doubt that he would be in breach of section 3 of the Act. But that is not the case and there is therefore no actual breach.”
SANDHU told Asian Journal on Thursday that he felt “very good” at being cleared of conflict of interest charges. “When allegations are made and you go through a long process and finally when it’s over, you feel good,” he added.
Progressive Conservative government whip Steve Young said in a statement that “caucus will consider any request by MLA Sandhu to be reinstated in caucus.”
Sandhu told this newspaper that he would be sending a request likely on Friday to re-join the Progressive Conservative caucus.
He pointed out that he had withdrawn himself from the caucus last May because of the probe. At the time, he said in a statement to the media that he was confident he would be exonerated.
Sandhu was re-elected as an MLA for Edmonton-Manning in April 2012. He was born in Manawan, Punjab, and immigrated to Canada in 1979.