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NRI Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar denies conflict
of interest claim

TORONTO, June 18, 2005

Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar defended himself against allegations of conflict of interest yesterday after Premier Dalton McGuinty accused him of a "lapse of judgment" for visiting a company he once owned, but had placed in a blind trust.

Takhar admitted to reporters at a hastily called news conference that it was probably a mistake to meet for several hours at the Chalmers Group of Companies in April when, as a member of the legislature, he isn't supposed to have any links to the business.

But he said he didn't break any rules.

"I believe I followed the rules," Takhar said. "At the same time, I believe I made an error in judgment by meeting at that location."

Takhar landed on the hot seat earlier this week when the Conservatives produced photos of the minister arriving at the company's head offices in Mississauga and leaving three hours later.

Takhar repeated his assertion yesterday that he was there only to discuss how to pay for his daughter's university tuition fees.

"At no time did we discuss the operation of the business," he said.

Despite repeated calls for his resignation, Takhar has refused to step aside, saying he would await a review of the situation he's requested from Integrity Commissioner Coulter Osborne. McGuinty has stood by his minister.

"Whatever the integrity commissioner decides, I will follow," Takhar said.

Earlier, McGuinty came to Takhar's defence, calling his misstep a "lapse of judgment" but refusing to ask for his resignation.

"I commend him for referring the matter to the integrity commissioner for his advice and response to that," McGuinty said.

"I don't believe a rule has been broken, but again I'll leave that to the integrity commissioner."

Takhar admitted he has previously visited the office "three or four times" -- but only to pick up his wife for family gatherings or social functions. She works there, serving as president and chief executive of Chalmers Group.




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