02/25/2016 02:30 EST | Updated 02/25/2016 02:59 EST

Dominic LeBlanc's Staffer Met With Irving Shipbuilding Days Before Hire

The meeting took place late last month.

OTTAWA — A close friend of Dominic LeBlanc’s met with Irving Shipbuilding a few days before joining the office of the Government House leader.

The meeting took place between the company and Kevin Fram on January 20, 2016, while he was director of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, according to the registry held by the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada.

Dominic LeBlanc, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, answers a question at a meeting of the Atlantic premiers and members of the federal cabinet representing Atlantic Canada in Fredericton, Wednesday, Feb.10, 2016. (Photo: James West/CP)

The House leader’s office confirmed that Fram was hired as director of issues management for LeBlanc, a long-time friend, five days after the meeting in question.

LeBlanc is required to avoid any ties with the Irving family, its companies and subsidiaries. Under the orders of Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson, he recently signed an agreement that will keep him out of decisions that involve one of the most influential and powerful families in Canada.

'Longstanding personal relationship'

During question period on February 16, LeBlanc reiterated to the House of Commons that he had a "longstanding personal relationship" with the Irvings.

The Conservative opposition had posed a question about another meeting, which took place between the Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, and James D. Irving, President of J.D. Irving Ltd. in Moncton. LeBlanc denied there was any interference on his part.

But Fram’s case raises question from Conservatives, who claim that criticism about ethics is keeping them "very busy these days."

"For sure, it tarnishes this government's self-proclaimed virginity," said Steven Blaney, the member from Bellechasse-Les-Etchemins-Lévis. "The current government has set very high ethics standards."

"It tarnishes this government's self-proclaimed virginity."

— Steven Blaney

When asked about the subject of the meeting, Irving spokesperson Mary Keith referred the Huffington Post Québec to the commission's website. All the site says is that the subject of the meeting was related to industry.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Hunter Tootoo, defended his former chief of staff’s integrity in a statement.

"In the first hundred days of my mandate, I have travelled from coast to coast to coast and held numerous meetings with key stakeholders. At the time of many of these meetings, this fine individual was one of the many outstanding public servants working for the Department."

"In his capacity as Acting Chief of Staff in my office, he facilitated and attended many of these meetings. He was simply doing his job and he did it well. All the rules were followed. The system works," declared Tootoo.

LeBlanc's office stated he had no additional comments to make on the subject.

Fram a friend of Irving family

In 2003, The Globe and Mail reported that Fram had been invited on a trip to fish for salmon at an Irving family cottage. He was then chief of staff to the Minister of Natural Resources, Herb Dhaliwal.

The friendship between Fram, a long-time Liberal, and the Irving family is well established. He met them when he was working for former MP Paul Zed, the former husband of Judith Irving.

Under government guidelines at the time, all ministers and their employees had to declare gifts over $200. Fram did not feel he had to declare the trip, since he knew the Irvings since before he had started working for Dhaliwal.

LeBlanc was also on the trip, according to The Globe and Mail. He claimed to have declared the trip beforehand to then-Ethics Commissioner Howard Wilson.

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