Freeland, Vance and several federal officials barred from official dealings with ex-ambassador

September 16, 2020
Freeland, Vance and several federal officials barred from official dealings with ex-ambassador

Canada’s ethics commissioner has ordered nine senior officials — including two Liberal cabinet ministers and the chief of the defence staff — to have no official dealings with Palantir executive David MacNaughton for one year after his office found the former ambassador and Liberal adviser broke the Conflict of Interest Act.

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said MacNaughton, who was named president of Palantir Technologies Canada more than a year ago, communicated with or arranged multiple meetings with several public office holders for the purpose of offering pro bono assistance on Palantir’s behalf.

While the offers did not result in any contracts being awarded to Palantir, the former ambassador to the U.S. “has acknowledged, with the benefit of hindsight, that these communications and meetings, to the extent they could have furthered the interests of Palantir, were contrary to [the act],” Dion wrote in his findings.

The act prohibits former public office holders from “acting in such a manner as to take improper advantage of their previous public office.”

Palantir Technologies is a controversial data mining software developer used by intelligence agencies, banks and some of the biggest companies in the world.

The nine officials include:

  • Chrystia Freeland, current deputy prime minister (and minister of intergovernmental affairs when MacNaughton’s communications with government officials took place)
  • Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff 
  • Navdeep Bains, minister of innovation, science and industry
  • Rick Theis, director of policy and cabinet affairs, Prime Minister’s Office
  • Ryan Dunn, chief of staff to Bains
  • Leslie Church, chief of staff to the minister of public services and procurement
  • Jody Thomas, deputy minister, Department of National Defence
  • Bill Matthews, deputy minister, public services and procurement
  • Simon Kennedy, deputy minister, innovation, science and economic development

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