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Minister no longer knows if he owns shares in ministry contractor

The New Democratic Party’s citizens’ services critic Doug Routley yesterday asked minister Ben Stewart about his shares in Telus Corporation, a company with which his company has large contracts.

“I’d like to ask about shares held by the minister in Telus Corp. and whether he's concerned about a conflict of interest, given the outsourcing contracts the ministry has with Telus,” Routley asked during debate of the citizens’ services ministry’s budget estimates.

The Tyee reported that Stewart’s financial disclosure when he became a candidate said he owned shares in Telus. The company holds about $375 million worth of contracts through Stewart’s ministry and received $70 million from the provincial government last year.

“I’m not quite certain how the issue about declarations that were made during the recent election pertain to the estimates of this House,” said Stewart. “I think that that’s probably a matter better asked of the Conflict-of-Interest Commissioner.”

Asked outside the committee room about the shares, Stewart told The Tyee he no longer knows whether or not he owns shares in Telus. “To be honest I’ve signed everything over in a blind trust as required by the conflict commissioner,” he said. “It was pretty well an instruction I got from him.”

Stewart can find out the total value of his stock portfolio whenever he wants, he said, but not what's in it. “The trustee and the broker I've been using are the only two who know exactly what’s there. Whether we own shares or we don’t is another matter. I can’t tell you the answer.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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