By John Geddes - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 0 Comments
It is tempting to frame the news that Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, took the extraordinary step of personally giving more than $90,000 to Mike Duffy, the senator from (ostensibly) Prince Edward Island, strictly in terms of the stark contrast between the two main characters.
The story—broken over at CTV by Robert Fife—has Wright giving Duffy a fat cheque to allow him to repay improperly claimed Senate housing allowances. The gift-giver could hardly be a more guardedly low-profile public office holder; the recipient is about the most outsized character in the Upper Chamber.
If Duffy’s fame as a longtime TV news personality, before his Senate appointment, was once a boon to the Conservatives, allowing him to serve as a party fundraising draw, that same notoriety now makes this unwelcome story that much bigger. And if Wright’s reticence was previously seen as an exemplary attribute in a Harper-era political aide, that same discretion might make him seem, in this new context, a rather shadowy figure.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 9:52 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – The federal ethics watchdog has determined former cabinet minister Jay Hill breached…
OTTAWA – The federal ethics watchdog has determined former cabinet minister Jay Hill breached the Conflict of Interest Act when he contacted his ex-colleagues about a forthcoming multinational energy deal.
Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson says Hill breached Sec. 33 of the act, which prohibits former public office holders from taking improper advantage of their previous office.
Hill contacted cabinet ministers in 2011 about an impending oilpatch deal between Progress Energy and Malaysian oil giant Petronas to share the ownership and development of three shale gas sites in northeastern British Columbia, and to export natural gas to Malaysia.
At the time, Hill’s wife Leah Murray worked for National Public Relations, a firm that had drafted a communications plan for the deal.
The report says Hill, who left politics in 2010, used his former position to “facilitate access” to the ministers on behalf of his spouse and her employer.
During the investigation, Hill maintained that he only wanted to give his former colleagues a heads-up about the impending multi-million dollar deal.
But Dawson disputed that claim in her report.
“Mr. Hill described these calls to the ministers as simple heads-up calls,” she wrote.
“The evidence, however, shows that he went further. (International Trade) Minister (Ed) Fast told me that Mr. Hill had requested that he call Progress Energy.”
Dawson also pointed to other evidence, including testimony from Industry Minister Christian Paradis, who said Hill suggested that he, too, call the company.
And although witness testimony differed slightly, Dawson concluded that Hill’s calls were intended to assist his spouse in carrying out one of the steps identified in the strategic communications plan developed by her employer.
“His calls increased the likelihood that Ms. Murray and her employer would succeed in implementing some of the objectives of the strategic communications plan,” Dawson’s report said.
“Mr. Hill therefore acted in a manner as to take improper advantage of his previous public office as leader of the government in the House of Commons, and thereby contravened section 33.”
Hill, having been the House Leader for the Conservatives in the House of Commons, would have known the ethics rules inside and out, said NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus.
“We have someone who would have known better . . . giving a heads up to inside Conservatives,” said Angus.
“It really seems that the prime minister has no standard, has no ethical bar. This is just one other example of the Conservatives breaking the rules.”
By Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 6:06 PM - 0 Comments
WASHINGTON – John Kerry and his wife have agreed to divest holdings in a…
WASHINGTON – John Kerry and his wife have agreed to divest holdings in a Canadian oil company, as well as dozens of other investments, in an effort to avoid conflicts of interest as the Massachusetts senator prepares to become America’s next secretary of state.
The Canadian Press reported last week that Kerry had as much as US$750,000 invested in Suncor, a Calgary-based oil company whose CEO has urged the Obama administration to greenlight TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.
But federal ethics officials, acting independently of the White House, have determined the Suncor (TSX:SU) stock poses no conflict of interest threats. Kerry has divested of as much as $31,000 in Cenovus Energy, another Calgary firm that has pushed for Keystone XL approval.
Financial disclosure records show that Kerry and his wife, Heinz ketchup heiress Teresa Heinz Kerry, hold a vast array of international investments that could have placed the senator in an ethical quandary.
Kerry’s office said last week that many of those investments were in blind trust and are managed by an independent trustee. The senator is one of the wealthiest lawmakers on Capitol Hill with an estimated net worth of $193 million.
The investments nonetheless raised alarm bells among American environmentalists given the State Department will make a decision this year on the fate of the Keystone pipeline. Kerry is expected to breeze through his Senate confirmation hearings on Thursday.
“I am committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct for government officials,” Kerry wrote in the agreement with the State Department’s ethics office.
“I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter that has a direct and predictable effect on my financial interests or those of any person whose interests are imputed to me, unless I first obtain a written waiver.”
Environmentalists had called on Kerry last week to divest of all the Canadian oil company’s holdings.
Keystone is back on the hot seat in the U.S. capital this week, in part because U.S. President Barack Obama spoke out on the need to confront climate change in his second inaugural address on Monday.
The president’s forceful repudiation of climate change skeptics has prompted the U.S. environmental movement to urge the president to back up his rhetoric by nixing Keystone XL, the $7 billion project that would carry bitumen extracted from Alberta’s carbon-intensive oilsands to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Obama said on Monday.
“Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney has faced tough questions this week about whether those remarks bode badly for Keystone and what precisely Obama intends to do on the climate change front.
Kerry’s longtime devotion to environmental issues is also making pipeline proponents nervous.
The senator has long been one of the most fierce climate hawks on Capitol Hill, leading unsuccessful efforts three years ago to push greenhouse gas legislation through Congress.
As secretary of state, he’ll have to decide whether approving the pipeline is in the national interest of the United States.
In the aftermath of Obama’s inaugural address, 53 senators — more than half in the upper chamber — sent the president a letter on Wednesday urging him to approve Keystone XL.
Their bipartisan letter was sent a day after Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, previously an opponent of the pipeline, said he was satisfied that TransCanada’s (TSX:TRP) altered route for the pipeline skirts an environmentally fragile region of his state.
“Because (Keystone XL) has gone through the most exhaustive environmental scrutiny of any pipeline in the history of this country and you already determined that oil from Canada is in the national interest, there is no reason to deny or further delay this long-studied project,” wrote the senators, lead by Republican John Hoeven and Democrat Max Baucus.
“Nebraska has now addressed the outstanding concerns you raised when you denied the permit, and we therefore urge to finish expeditiously the review process and approve the pipeline.”
Obama raised concerns about the pipeline’s original path when he rejected TransCanada’s application last year.
Gary Doer, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, said the secretary of state must make a Keystone decision based on facts, not emotion.
“The bottom line is, whether it’s Hillary Clinton or John Kerry at the State Department —they have the reports,” Doer said Wednesday. “Is this in the national interest of the United States? That’s the question.”
By macleans.ca - Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 11:24 AM - 0 Comments
What Rob Ford and Alison Redford have in common
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford: thrown out of office over the consequences of using it to raise $3,150 for his youth football charity. Alberta Premier Alison Redford: not thrown out of office, and not likely to be, over her handling of a $10-billion tobacco lawsuit. Yes, the troubles of these oddly paired cross-country mirror images are very different in scale. But both, to some degree, have bogged down over conflicts of interest not just because of their actions but because of their very identities. One could argue that, like Shakespearean heroes, they have been undone by their virtues.
Ford, the single-minded, ebullient football coach, charged ahead and shrugged off warnings from the city’s integrity commissioner and the Speaker about his conflict in a council vote, leaving a judge with no choice but to punish him. Redford, a product of the ultra-small world of the Alberta bar, simply doesn’t seem to have imagined there would be controversy over choosing her ex-husband’s law firm to manage a massive tobacco lawsuit while she was justice minister of the province. As even her defenders observe, that’s just how business is done there. (Which would seem to be an argument for letting somebody from another province choose among bidders for giga-contracts.)
Toronto voted for Ford, by and large, because it wanted a renegade mayor who wouldn’t be a prisoner of city hall. Alberta voted for Redford, by and large, because it was tired of self-taught outsiders; it was ready to welcome back a premier from the right side of Calgary’s tracks. You buy the steak, you get the gristle as well as the sizzle. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 12:19 PM - 0 Comments
CTV News has learned that in 2009, when Paradis was public works minister, he stayed at the lodge of Marcel Aubut, the former owner of the Quebec Nordiques. At that time, Aubut, who is now president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, was lobbying Ottawa to help fund a $400-million arena in Quebec City.
By Andrew Coyne - Monday, July 12, 2010 at 4:31 PM - 88 Comments
I like to think my credentials as an Airbus obsessive are in order, so allow me to dissociate myself from any suggestion that the appointment of David Johnston as Governor General is somehow tainted by it.
It’s true that it was Johnston, as adviser to the Prime Minister on the terms of reference for the Oliphant inquiry, who recommended against including the Airbus scandal in its mandate, a decision that looks all the more baffling in light of the judge’s findings: not only that Brian Mulroney took hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, shortly after leaving office, from the very man from whom he was accused of taking bribes while in office, but that he lied about it, up to and including his appearance before the inquiry. Regardless of whether Mulroney was personally involved, the circumstances surrounding the Airbus deal are so suspicious that, even 22 years later, they cry out for an inquiry — not in spite of the passage of time but because of it. Johnston’s reasoning, that Airbus, having once been the subject of an RCMP investigation, was “well-tilled ground,” is simply unsupported by the facts: the RCMP had only just begun their investigation when it was shut down by the leaking of the infamous “Swiss letter,” a calamity from which it never recovered.
That’s my opinion, at any rate. Lots of perfectly sensible people with no obvious axes to grind thought he was spot on. But even if you take my view of it, it’s a long way from an error of judgement to a conflict of interest. Those who insinuate there was something unseemly in Johnston’s appointment — sometimes accompanied by the disclaimer that, although they themselves do not believe any of this, others might — are obliged to offer some evidence, or even a plausible rationale, before tossing about such incendiary charges.
At the very least they should say clearly what they mean. Is it seriously alleged that Johnston and Harper cooked up a deal in advance — you keep Airbus out of the inquiry, and I’ll make you Governor General? Surely no one is that far gone. Is it, then, that a grateful Harper bestowed the appointment upon him as a sort of reward, ie that it was only the appointment, and not the advice, that was corrupt — a prospect the Star’s Jim Travers raises, but can’t be arsed to properly debunk? Or is it merely, as Rick Salutin claims, that Johnston’s role in the Oliphant inquiry was an “audition” (whoops, “what can be seen as an audition”), a “test of what the guy might do in a situation where Harper interests are at stake.” You follow the logic: because he had ruled in a way that was supposedly favourable to Harper’s interests in the matter of Mulroney’s cash, he could also be relied upon to do so, say, in a constitutional crisis, the connecting factor being — what? Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 3:01 PM - 88 Comments
Garry Breitkreuz says the language in yesterday’s embarrassing press release “is not me.” Well, gee, Garry, it may not have been you, but as a longtime observer of your career I thought it was an excellent likeness. If you ask me, you picked a pretty bad moment to disavow the self-portrait.
Joan Bryden’s wire story for CP says that Breitkreuz’s statement “compared Canadian police chiefs to a cult and urged Liberals to beat their leader, Michael Ignatieff, ‘black and blue’.” On count one of the indictment, Breitkreuz must be judged not guilty. He actually compared the opposition in the Commons to a cult, and said it was being “led by organizations of police chiefs”—i.e., political advocacy groups that claim to represent police chiefs, and that have a strong interest in the naïve citizen (or the naïve reporter) confusing them with the police qua police.
Breitkreuz has always worked hard to emphasize this distinction, and it was highlighted rather intensely a year ago when John Jones, an ethics advisor to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, quit because of the association’s incorrigible addiction to questionable corporate donations. As Christie Blatchford wrote in the Globe at the time:
Dr. Jones and the members of the ethics committee were in Montreal in August for two days of meetings around the CACP’s annual conference when they learned about Taser’s sponsorship and that of others, including a joint Bell Mobility-CGI Group-Techna donation of $115,000, which went toward the purchase of 1,000 tickets at $215 each to a Celine Dion concert on Aug. 25.
CGI Group Inc. is a major, long-term firearms-registry contractor. In the odious press release, Breitkreuz, or his evil twin, asked “Could it be that CACP support for the registry is financially motivated?” Why the pussyfooting? Seems like he could have just said flat-out that when it comes to the gun registry, the CACP has an obvious conflict of interest and cannot be considered an uncompromised source of policy advice.
As for the charge that Evil Garry called for Ignatieff to be beaten…well, the world will always have its thick-as-a-plank literalists, won’t it? The press release didn’t even refer explicitly to a beating, but said that “[Ignatieff's] true colours are showing, and if his caucus has any integrity, those colours should be black and blue.” If Breitkreuz thinks that this rough-and-tumble metaphor is an offence worth apologizing for, fine; standards, after all, are ever-evolving in this area.
His real problem is that his rather careful statement about the CACP’s conflict of interest would have been easy for the opposition to strip of its context and twist into an anti-cop sound bite. In the wild-and-woolly Reform days, when the party’s base consisted of half-anarchist and heavily-armed rural Westerners, this kind of tension was not a major problem. Old Reformers readily recognize a implicit distinction between lawfulness and regimentation, between policing and the police state. But this philosophical razor is naturally a little blunter in a federal party that is trying to straddle multiple regions and political traditions. Reform’s passion for old-fashioned, demotic criminal justice seems to have been diverted into the task of elevating the police into a species of untouchable philosopher-king. And in the Ignatieff era, this is a contest in which the Liberals no longer have any compunctions about competing.
That puts someone like Breitkreuz in an awkward position, since he is dedicated to the destruction of a gun-registry program that many police really might like—not because it is in the public interest, but because it gives them another pretext for arrests, searches, and horse-trading with the bad guys. The registry self-evidently gives the police more power, but it is difficult to imagine that it protects anyone from personal harm. You can build all the databases you like, but no properly trained officer of the law will ever enter a premises or stop a suspect without accounting for the possibility of a weapon coming into play. If one were to take the CACP at its word, and accept that the registry with all its inaccuracies is routinely used to “check for the presence of firearms” in homes being visited by police, one would be forced to consider the possibility that the damn thing is nothing but a digital Petri dish of overconfidence and carelessness—well worth consigning to oblivion in the name of safety and common sense alone.
By John Geddes - Wednesday, December 23, 2009 at 7:18 AM - 13 Comments
New rules target partisan lobbyists’ ‘improper influence’
The 3,664 lobbyists duly registered, as required by law, to try to influence the federal government are hardly a model of professional solidarity. In-house government relations specialists for blue-chip corporations often clash with idealistic advocates for non-profit groups. The lobbyists-for-hire who trade on their partisan connections divide along Conservative and Liberal lines. Lately, though, this typically fractious community of clout, clustered around Parliament Hill, is united—by anxiety over a new official interpretation of the federal “Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct,” which they say might unfairly ban them from approaching politicians they’ve legitimately supported in past elections and leadership campaigns. If they’re right, the age-old linkage between partisanship and influence might have been unexpectedly ruptured.
The uproar is over a guidance bulletin, issued early last month by Karen Shepherd, the government’s commissioner of lobbying, on what constitutes an illegal conflict of interest between a public office holder and a lobbyist. Shepherd said potential cases of “improper influence” will continue to be judged individually, but she sweepingly warned that from now on, “political activities” might create such conflicts. Asked by Maclean’s exactly what activities in support of political candidates might mean a lobbyist would then be prevented from actually lobbying those politicians once they’re in power, her office listed “fundraising, communications, logistics, speech writing, etc.” In other words, just about anything.
The problem is that Shepherd declines to spell out exactly when such partisan work might disqualify lobbying later on. “This is so vague,” said Michael Robinson, a lobbyist with influential Earnscliffe Strategy Group and long-time Liberal strategist, “as to make it impossible for somebody to conduct their behaviour in a way that they’re confident they won’t cross a line.” Tories are no more sure of what’s being outlawed. “What I think this interpretation has essentially done is say, ‘There is no black and white, there is only grey,’ ” said Goldy Hyder, the senior Conservative who heads the powerhouse Hill & Knowlton consulting group’s Ottawa office.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 7:05 PM - 33 Comments
CBC explores the irony of news that the ethics commissioner will be investigating the ethics of giant novelty cheques.
Canada’s ethics commissioner will investigate dozens of allegations that Conservative MPs are using taxpayers’ money for partisan purposes. But Mary Dawson says she’s not sure how far her mandate allows her to go into ethical issues, despite her job title.
… in her annual report, Dawson highlighted that while the word “ethics” appears in her job title, it does not appear in the Conflict of Interest Act or the Code of Conduct for MPs. ”It’s quite unclear as to the extent to which my mandate extends into ethical issues that are not expressly referred to in either the code or the act and, in fact, one would wonder whether it extends there at all,” Dawson said at parliamentary ethics committee meeting.
Federal Accountability Act, this is your life! – Liveblogging the Conflict of Interest and Lobbying Commissioners at Ethics
By kadyomalley - Monday, March 2, 2009 at 2:39 PM - 3 Comments
Hearken back for a moment to those idealistic days of yore when a steely-eyed leader of the opposition promised that, if elected, his government would “undertake an unprecedented overhaul of the federal government” and “introduc[e] sweeping reforms to make Ottawa accountable’. He also issued a stark warning to party supporters seeking to use politics as a “stepping stone” to a career in lobbying:
“Make no mistake. If there are MPs in the room who want to use public office for their own benefit, if there are Hill staffers who dream of making it rich trying to lobby a future Conservative government, if that’s true of any of you, you had better make different plans. Or leave.”
So, how’d all that work out? To find out, tune into ITQ’s coverage of the Ethics committee this afternoon, where Conflict of Interest Commissioner Mary Dawson and (interim) Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd will deliver back to back briefings on how well those sweeping reforms made the leap from campaign rhetoric to regulatory reality.
Hurray! After last week’s unceremonious exile to the wilds of West Block, we’re back in Centr Block this afternoon; I’m not sure if that means the scheduling gnomes at committee headquarters have an inkling that this meeting might attract more media attention or if it’s just randomized room selection, but ITQ is certainly not complaining.
While we wait for the tap of the gavel, a quick roll call. On the government side, we have Brad Trost, Russ Hiebert, Maurice Vellacott, Earl Dreeshan and Bob Dechert. Meanwhile, on Team Opposition, it’s Borys W., Michelle Simson, Eve Marie Thi Lac, Louis Plamandon and Bill Siksay.
Wait, there’s Pierre Poilievre! Now it’s a party!
Yes, it’s distinctly possible that I am way too happy to see Poilievre take a seat at the table.
By kadyomalley - Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 5:39 PM - 0 Comments
As expected, the Speaker ruled that the latest report from the Ethics committee –…
As expected, the Speaker ruled that the latest report from the Ethics committee – which recommends that the Code of Conduct be amended so that a libel suit against a sitting member would not be considered a conflict of interest – was out of order, as the Code falls under the aegis of Procedure and House Affairs, and as such, cannot be taken up by another committee.
By kadyomalley - Monday, May 12, 2008 at 5:58 PM - 0 Comments
I have to admit that those are words that I really never would have…
I have to admit that those are words that I really never would have imagined myself writing in that order, but what can I say? Absurdly unworkable rulings by well-meaning ethics and conflict of interest commissioners lead to strange bedfellows:
Notice of motion from Pat Martin
May 9, 2008
That the Standing House Committee on and [sic] Ethics report to the House that the Standing Orders of the House of Commons be amended so that in s. 3(3) of Appendix I, Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, the word “or” is dropped after the word “public” in subsection (b), and in its place the following words be added: