Public Works Minister Anita Anand

Public Works Minister Anita Anand in an ethics filing says she recused herself from cabinet discussions involving the bridge because of her husband’s business position.

The husband of Defence Minister Anita Anand is the director of a company that received tens of millions of dollars in COVID-19 taxpayers cash while she served in cabinet, says Blacklock’s Reporter.

But her office is denying there was any hanky-panky involved.

“Minister Anand has fulfilled her disclosure obligations to the Ethics Commissioner,” said Daniel Minden, press secretary.

Anand “has not signed any contracts with this entity or its subsidiaries,” he said.

Anand’s husband, John Knowlton, is senior managing director with a pension fund investor, Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System.

Anand’s filings under the Conflict Of Interest Act do not disclose Knowlton is also a director of Li,feLabs, a COVID-19 contractor.

LifeLabs was among suppliers awarded millions of dollars’ worth of contracts for COVID-19 testing, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos confirmed Friday.

“Our testing capacity is increasing steadily and significantly but it still remains incomplete,” said Duclos.

“In order to further increase our capacity quickly we have awarded contracts to private companies providing us with additional testing and processing services. These companies include Switch Health, LifeLabs and Dynacare.”

LifeLabs in a company statement identified Knowlton as an executive. He is also a former lawyer with Torys LLP of Toronto and ex-legal counsel for Bombardier Transportation.

“He is a member of the board of directors of LifeLabs,” said the company which would not take questions.

LifeLabs prior to the pandemic received few federal contracts. It was awarded three in 2019 worth a total $134,413.

MP Anand (Oakville, Ont,) was first elected October 21, 2019 and appointed public works minister a month later on November 20. Blacklock’s last June 10 first asked the Department of Public Works whether LifeLabs had received any additional contracts since Anand’s appointment as minister. The department did not respond.

Days later, on June 23, LifeLabs received a COVID-19 testing contract worth $66,307,424. Weeks afterward, on August 20, it received a separate $1.9 million contract. Anand was minister of Public Works at the time.

The department last Monday told The Canadian Press that LifeLabs also received a contract worth up to $111 million for testing services in Yukon, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Minden said Anand played no role in any of the contracts, and that LifeLabs is owned by the husband’s employer, Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System.

However, filings with the Ethics Commissioner do not disclose any Declaration Of Recusal involving Anand and LifeLabsm though she did report other conflicts. Anand last May said she deliberately avoided any discussion affecting LifeLabs’ parent company and its 34% ownership of Prince Edward Island’s federally-regulated Confederation Bridge.

“On May 11 in the exercise of my official duties, I recused myself from discussions and decisions concerning ferry services between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, as well as between Nova Scotia and P.E.I. as there could be implications for the Confederation Bridge, which is subject to the conflict of interest screen implemented to ensure my compliance with the Conflict Of Interest Act,” Anand wrote in a Public Declaration Of Recusal filed with the Ethics Commissioner.

There is no similar public filing indicating Anand avoided “discussions and decisions” involving LifeLabs’ contracts awarded in June, August and December while Anand remained in cabinet.

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