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Conflict over WFN lobby?

Westbank First Nation is the unwitting third party as a Conservative MP cries conflict of interest over one of the band's lobbyists.

Dr. Tim Raybould registered in January as a federal lobbyist for two clients, including WFN and First Nations Finance Authority.

Raybould is also married to new federal Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould.

The opposition Conservatives are crying foul, saying the minister is in a clear conflict of interest, while the Liberals say the issue is moot.

In a recent debate in the House of Commons, Conservative MP Jacques Gourde raised the issue.

"Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice sits on six cabinet committees, including one responsible for strengthening the relationship with indigenous Canadians. Her husband is a registered lobbyist who will lobby the government on issues related to First Nations. Her husband's lobbying work is a direct conflict of interest, since the justice minister will now deal with legal matters involving First Nations."

"How can the Prime Minister justify this obvious conflict of interest?" he asked.

Dominic LeBlanc, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, defended Wilson-Raybould, saying she went directly to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner for advice.

"The Minister and her husband are following the ethics commissioner's advice to a T," said LeBlanc.

Picking up the debate, MP Blaine Calkins said the Minister is responsible for projects funded under the aboriginal justice strategy.

"That means she gets to decide which groups receive taxpayer funding. Given that her husband is a lobbyist for the Westbank First Nation and the First Nations Finance Authority, will she recuse herself from any decision with respect to aboriginal program funding?" asked Calkins.

LeBlanc again pointed to the fact Wilson Raybould and her husband visited with the ethics commissioner and are following that advice.

"Our advice with respect to conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict of interest comes from the person whom Parliament has chosen to provide that advice. Her name is Mary Dawson," said LeBlanc.

"She is the ethics commissioner and the conflict of interest commissioner. We are happy to take her advice and follow it meticulously. That is what my colleague has done. I wish the honourable member might inform himself as to how the process really works."

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