Monday March 9,2015 : RIPPLES FROM P.E.I.'S ABORTIVE E-GAMING VENTURE WIDEN (Update)
Conflict of interest commissioner steps down.
The row over the loss of a million dollars of taxpayer monies on an abortive e-gaming venture by the provincial government of Port Edward Island in Canada continued to create consequences this weekend, with the province’s conflict of interest commissioner, Neil Robinson, stepping down following allegations that he had improperly invested in a company associated with the venture.
Robinson said in a statement that he was stepping down because he had lost the confidence of the legislature, however his resignation follows moves by the Progressive Conservative Party to convene an emergency sitting to vote on his removal from office regarding his conduct.
Our readers will recall that the provincial government became involved in a scheme to create an online gambling licensing jurisdiction on First Nation land. However there are questions around the lack of transparency on the project and the loss of a million dollars in taxpayer money, which was loaned to the local tribal authority.
The project failed, and the money has not been recovered.
Furthermore, spin-offs from the affair have included questions regarding some government officials – including Robinson – who allegedly with inside information invested in a company associated with the project.
The Globe and Mail newspaper has been investigating these transactions as part of its wider reportage on the PEI scandal, and claims that lax scrutiny of government officials allowed them to invest in an online financial hub that, as only a few knew, was part of the planned e-gambling operation.
Robinson invested $15,000 in Capital Markets Technology, the newspaper reported over the weekend, and other investors included a lawyer who is a close friend of former premier Robert Ghiz and later advised on a phase of the deal; and the wife of Ghiz’s chief of staff.
The Globe’s earlier reports prompted the province’s new Liberal Premier, Wade MacLauchlan, to announce last week that he would strengthen PEI’s conflict-of-interest rules, amid Opposition calls for a judicial inquiry into the e-gaming revelations.
Robinson has been the conflict commissioner since 1999, a part-time position. He also works as a lawyer for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Robinson says that he did no wrong, and that he asked if the government was involved in financing the company and was assured it was not. Prior to resigning he had asked a legislative committee to give an opinion on his activities, but this was preempted by the Progressive Conservative Party initiative to have him removed from office.