The head of a federal investment-promotion agency — and former national director of the Liberal Party of Canada — resigned this month from the board of a holdings firm specializing in cannabis companies after he received an order from Canada's ethics czar.
The order was issued against Ian McKay under the Conflict of Interest Act on Jan. 15. Conflict of Interest Commissioner Mario Dion alleges McKay failed to disclose all of his outside activities within 60 days of being named CEO of Invest in Canada.
Dion's order says McKay's role as a director with Nesta Holdings Co. was no longer allowed after the Trudeau government appointed him to lead Invest in Canada in March 2018.
"I therefore order you to resign from the board of directors of Nesta Holding Co. Ltd. and to submit to my office, within 10 days of the deemed date of service of this order, proof of receipt of your resignation from the chair of Nesta Holding Co. Ltd.'s board of directors," Dion's notice said.
McKay stepped down two days after receiving Dion's order, Nesta Holdings CEO Chuck Rifici told The Canadian Press on Friday.
"I can confirm we received his resignation letter on Jan 17," Rifici wrote in a message.
On Friday, a spokesperson at Invest in Canada said McKay was not immediately available to comment on the matter.
McKay was the Liberal party's national director from 2010 to 2013 and he briefly served as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's personal envoy during difficult Pacific Rim trade negotiations involving Japan.
The website of Ottawa-based Nesta Holdings describes the company as a "private equity firm that builds partnerships and brands within the cannabis space."
Rifici is a former chief financial officer for the Liberal Party of Canada and was its treasurer for five years until June 2016. Rifici is a co-founder and former CEO of Canopy Growth Corp., which is now one of the world's largest licensed cannabis companies.
The Trudeau government first announced Invest in Canada, which had initially been dubbed "Invest in Canada Hub," in the fall of 2016, promising $218 million over five years to create it.
The goal of the agency is to lure global investment and simplify the process for international businesses to make Canada their new home.
The agency also made headlines last year over how the Liberal government chose its name.
Internal federal documents revealed that Ottawa embarked on an "rigorous business naming process" and spent $24,000 to hire a consultant to help rebrand the investment promotion body to ensure it would grab the attention of foreign investors.
In the end, Ottawa changed the name of the "Invest in Canada Hub" to "Invest in Canada."
The naming effort sought to deal with internal concerns that the official title would fail to give the organization a fresh start at its launch, according to a briefing note to then-international trade minister Francois-Philippe Champagne. The memo was obtained by The Canadian Press under an access-to-information request.
In addition to worries the name failed to set Canada apart from the pack, there were reservations about the word "Hub" because it is usually associated with innovation and not investment.