No Plans for Investigation Into Rio Tinto Appointment of Ex-China Ambassador: Ethics Commissioner

By Noé Chartier
Noé Chartier
Noé Chartier
Noé Chartier is an Epoch Times reporter based in Montreal. Twitter: @NChartierET
January 18, 2022Updated: January 18, 2022

Federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s office says it is not planning to investigate the appointment of former ambassador to China Dominic Barton as the incoming chair of mining giant Rio Tinto, after two NDP MPs had asked the commissioner to look into the matter.

“I can confirm Commissioner Dion is not launching an examination into Dominic Barton as he did not have direct and significant dealings with Rio Tinto while he was Canada’s Ambassador in China,” Melanie Rushworth, the communications director at the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner (OCIEC), said in a statement to The Epoch Times. 

Barton met with Rio Tinto officials in October 2021 when he was still Canada’s ambassador to China. He subsequently announced his resignation from that post early the following December and Rio Tinto appointed him as the future chair of their board shortly afterward. 

Rushworth said that Barton communicated with them in October “to seek specific guidance in respect of post-employment pursuits, namely whether a virtual meeting on October 8, 2021, with representatives of Rio Tinto as well as two other Canadian officials, would be considered significant for the purpose of subsection 35(1) of the Conflict of Interest Act.”  

This subsection stipulates that a former office holder cannot take up employment with an entity with which he or she had “direct and significant official dealings” for a one-year “cooling-off” period. 

The OCIEC says that based on the information provided, Dion determined that the meeting was not significant and therefore the act would not apply. 

The two NDP MPs—Edmonton Strathcona MP Heather McPherson and Hamilton Centre MP Matthew Green—contacted Dion earlier this month to ask him to look into the matter. 

“Given that Mr. Barton held a position within public office at a high level of responsibility and influence and, given that Mr. Barton met with Rio Tinto executives as recently as October 2021, it should be of concern to all Canadians that less than three months after meeting with the gold mining company, he announced his intention to become Chair of Rio Tinto’s Board of Directors,” wrote McPherson and Green, according to The Globe and Mail. 

Barton will join Rio Tinto’s board this coming April and will take the helm as chair the following May.

Before serving as Canada’s ambassador to China, Barton had extensive experience working in China, including with Chinese state-run companies, as global managing director for the consulting firm McKinsey & Company.

China accounts for 60 percent of Rio Tinto’s total sales according to the company’s latest results.

“I am truly looking forward to working with Dominic in our effort to continue to strengthen Rio Tinto, in particular drawing on his wealth of experience across Asia in both a business and diplomatic capacity,” said Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm in a December statement.