11/14/2011 06:35 EST | Updated 01/14/2012 05:12 EST

Former Spy Watchdog Regrets Lobbyist Dealings


The head of the McGill University Health Centre said he now regrets his dealings with a controversial lobbyist that forced his resignation as the chair of Canada’s spy watchdog.

Dr. Arthur Porter resigned as chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) Thursday after his ties to Ari Ben-Menashe became public.

Porter, who was named MUHC’s executive director in 2004, said his proposed deal with lobbyist Ben-Menashe was meant to secure infrastructure funding in his native Sierra Leone.

“We entered into a consulting relationship with him to see if we could get to the next step, which was to be able to identify a funding source,” Porter told CBC Montreal's Homerun.

“Within a very short while, just a couple of months, it became very clear that we could not get to identification of a funding source, and therefore the relationship was curtailed.”

He said no money ever changed hands.

However, Porter said he felt he had to step down from the SIRC after receiving so much bad press.

“Of course, I regret it, especially since there was no funding source identified,” he said.

“Here was a dead deal that didn’t take a lot of my time, but actually caused me to have to resign from something that I truly love.

“Nobody asked me to resign, but I [felt] a very strong moral obligation.”

Porter was named to SIRC in 2008 and appointed chair in 2010.

The MUHC's board of directors held an emergency, closed-door meeting Sunday night to discuss Porter's future with the centre.

The meeting focused on whether Porter's outside interests are interfering with his work with the hospital network.

A statement released Monday states the board, "supports his ongoing efforts in leading and advancing the redevelopment of the MUHC."

Porter announced earlier this year that he would not renew his contract when it expires at the end of March.