Pubdate: Sat, 16 Aug 2014
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Peter O'Neil
Page: A7


Sen. Larry Campbell, while acting within ethics guidelines, has put 
himself in a clear appearance of being in a conflict of interest by 
accepting a post as adviser to a Vancouver company breaking into the 
medical marijuana business, ethics experts say.

The former Vancouver mayor was named Tuesday to an "advisory board" 
for Vodis Innovative Pharmaceuticals Inc., along with ex-Conservative 
MP John Reynolds, once a high-profile ally of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Vodis, which is seeking Health Canada approval to market medical 
marijuana, said both were brought on because of their business 
expertise and not because of any real or perceived political influence.

"It's just because of (their) credibility," Vodis chief financial 
officer Brian Gusko said.

But three commentators on government ethics said the appointment of 
Campbell, who like all senators earns a base salary of $138,700, 
could make Canadians wonder if he has divided loyalties.

The fact the company has handpicked one of B.C.'s most influential 
Conservatives, as well as a Liberal appointee in Campbell, suggests 
it is trying to cover its bases in case there's a change of 
government in 2015, they said.

"This would appear to be the purchasing of access," Richard Leblanc, 
associate professor of law, governance and ethics at York University 
in Toronto, said. "It's an enormous conflict of interest."

Spokesmen for two ethics watchdog groups, Democracy Watch and 
Integrity B.C., said Campbell is acting within Senate rules, which 
they have criticized as too loose.

They said an argument can be made that it's ethical for senators and 
MPs to maintain an interest in family companies after their election 
or appointment, as long as they recuse themselves from votes that 
affect the interest of those investments.

But the Vodis appointment stands out because it is a new company that 
will require federal government approvals to proceed.

Campbell said he has been working for several months on contract to 
help Vodis get established, and said his main objective is to get the 
company a listing on the TSX.

He said his remuneration as a member of the advisory committee will 
be in the form of stock options to buy up to 250,000 Vodis shares at 
40 cents apiece - roughly the current price on the Canadian 
Securities Exchange, which services primarily junior and emerging public firms.

He dismissed the notion that he's in a conflict.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom