Former ‘slush fund’ chair abruptly fled committee hearing on alleged misuse of taxpayer funds

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A cabinet appointee to a federal green ‘slush fund’ abruptly fled a Commons committee hearing Tuesday on the alleged misuse of taxpayer dollars.

Annette Verschuren, former board chair of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), faces an ethics investigation over alleged insider dealing.

Whistleblowers accuse the Liberal Party donor of approving a $217,000 COVID grant to her money-losing non-profit. It landed her in hot water with the Ethics Commissioner for a suspected breach of the Conflict Of Interest Act.

“Look, we’re entrepreneurs,” she told the committee by videoconference. “We are investing in the future of our country.”

In addition, Verschuren could not recall if she pursued funding for the Verschuren Centre, a research facility in Sydney, Nova Scotia.  

“Are you aware staff were told to find other financing for your Centre?” asked Conservative MP Rick Perkins.

“No, I am not,” she replied.

“I take responsibility in governance very seriously,” added the former SDTC chair. “I am chair of a governance committee of a major company in Canada. I understand — “

Verschuren then abruptly stood and ended her testimony, reported Blacklock’s Reporter. The incident followed testimony by one whistleblower who said the Verschuren Centre relied on a taxpayer bailout. 

A former SDTC financial compliance officer said Verschuren sought millions in grants for her sustainable energy centre at Cape Breton University, where she became chancellor.

“It was brought to us by the executives to say, ‘We are now looking at the Verschuren Centre,'” he said, which prompted protest from several employees.

“When you went through the analysis, what was the state of the Verschuren Centre at Cape Breton University at the time financially?” asked Perkins.

“It would likely go bankrupt if it did not receive federal funding,” replied the whistleblower.

“How much was the chair seeking for her ego project from the green slush fund?” asked Perkins.

“$2.2 million,” said the whistleblower, who confirmed the chair emailed other SDTC executives for an update on the centre’s application.

According to Blacklock’s Reporter, the foundation review committee “rejected it based on the conflict of interest.” 

But foundation employees moved the application forward to access other funding sources to “help the Verschuren Centre.” Numerous internal emails documented the facts, said the whistleblower.

According to government records, the Verschuren Centre received $3 million from the federal Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. It also received $1.4 million from the Department of Fisheries in 2022.

The centre also received $70,000 from the National Research Council on April 1, and $1 million from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency on September 5. Later that month, it received $1.18 million from the Canadian Food Innovation Network.



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