By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, May 25, 2013 - 0 Comments
In regards to the matter of Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy, the Canadian Press considers the limitations of the ethics commissioner.
The Harper government has deferred to the commissioner as a part of the remedy in this case, the implicit message being, don’t worry, the ethics commissioner (and the Senate’s internal economy committee and the Senate ethics officer) will sort this all out. And so the ethics commissioner’s mandate and power must be considered: Is an investigation by the commissioner going to be sufficient here? And should the House of Commons merely wait to see what the commissioner’s work accomplishes?
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 3:09 PM - 0 Comments
I emailed the office of the ethics commissioner to ask if the commissioner was planning to investigate the Finance Minister’s letter to the ethics commissioner. Here is the response.
Commissioner Dawson is aware of the issue and is following-up with Minister Flaherty’s office. We cannot comment further at this time.
By John Geddes - Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 10:22 AM - 0 Comments
When Nigel Wright took a leave of absence from Onex Corp., the big Toronto-based private equity company, to become Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff nearly two years ago, hard questions were asked about how such a widely connected business insider could possibly avoid ethical conflicts on federal policies that affect corporate interests. To try to put those concerns to rest, the federal ethics commissioner set up a “conflict of interest screen,” spelling out at least some files Wright wasn’t allowed to even hear about. There are grey zones, but the screen clearly deems a few topics out-of-bounds—including, for obvious reasons given Wright’s ties to Onex, “the taxation of the Canadian private equity industry and its participants.”
And yet, last May 10, an unnamed official from Omers—the Ontario municipal employees pension fund, and indisputably a major private equity “participant”—filed a report with the federal lobbying watchdog, as required by law, disclosing a phone call with Wright the previous month. Omers listed the subject of its lobbying as “taxation and finance.” For a big equity player to talk to Wright directly on taxation would seem to set off alarm bells about a possible violation of his ethical screen. Indeed, asked by Maclean’s about that call, the office of Mary Dawson, the ethics commissioner, said it planned to “follow up” with Wright on the matter, but declined any further comment.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, June 17, 2011 at 9:31 AM - 18 Comments
Ethics commissioner Mary Dawson wonders whether we might need a code of conduct for MPs.
Dawson said she regularly gets complaints from people who think politicians are abusing their positions or behaving inappropriately.
“Misleading statements, personal attacks and the like that come with the partisan nature of political life are often distasteful to many Canadians,” Dawson wrote in her reports on both the Conflict of Interest Code for MPs and the Conflict of Interest Code Act. ”Some assume that this sort of behaviour must be covered by one or another of the various accountability regimes in force. In fact, there is no comprehensive regime that governs political conduct in general.”
By John Geddes - Monday, November 15, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 12 Comments
Those who investigate wrongdoing have little power, and little interest in using what they do have
With her surprise resignation last month from her post as the federal government’s first public sector integrity commissioner, Christiane Ouimet left a swirl of questions in her wake. Why quit less than four years into a seven-year term? What caused the unusually high turnover among her staff? Auditor general Sheila Fraser is auditing the commissioner’s operations, and answers will likely have to wait for her report. But the biggest puzzle of all looks less particular to Ouimet than symptomatic of a wider pattern: she fielded about 170 complaints in her stint as integrity watchdog, but found not a single case of wrongdoing by a public official.
Appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2007, Ouimet was charged with enforcing his government’s new Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act. The Conservatives touted the law as a long-overdue guarantee that whistleblowers on the federal payroll could confidentially expose bad behaviour by their superiors without fear of repercussions. The revelation that Ouimet had looked into so many whistleblowers’ allegations, and yet never found anything to act on, prompted an outcry. But the watchdogs she might be benchmarked against, especially those charged with enforcing the lobbying and conflict of interest rules, have also failed to bring to light any revelations of serious wrongdoing.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 4:10 PM - 0 Comments
Helena Guergis’ lawyer says the RCMP has effectively cleared his client.
At last report, the ethics commissioner was still investigating “a letter of support for a private company that the Honourable Helena Guergis, Member of Parliament for Simcoe-Grey, wrote to municipal officials.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 7, 2010 at 9:15 AM - 214 Comments
Amid talk yesterday of Rahim Jaffer, Helena Guergis, Devinder Shory, lobbyists, religion, ideology, firearms, abortion policy, poverty, torture, nuclear weapons, the prosecution of Omar Khadr and salmon farming, John Baird astutely identified the foremost issue facing Ottawa as the legal career of Liberal MP Derek Lee. Seems the biography of Mr. Lee posted on a law firm’s website describes him as participating in activities that include “lobbying government.”
After QP, Mr. Lee’s office distributed the following. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 1:50 PM - 33 Comments
The ethics commissioner concludes that the use of giant novelty cheques by unelected officials might diminish our democracy, but it isn’t against the rules.
Ms. Dawson concludes that using cheques featuring either the name of the MP or the Conservative Party logo “goes too far” and risks diminishing public confidence in the integrity of elected officials. Her report concludes that the cheques do not violate either the conflict of interest code for MPs or the Conflict of Interest Act for cabinet ministers, but are symptomatic of a larger politicization of government that must be addressed.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 23, 2010 at 12:35 AM - 25 Comments
Ms. Guergis seems interested in being the Conservative candidate for Simcoe-Grey whenever the next election occurs. The director of a solar power company, and a former Liberal MP, says he was “shocked” to learn his company was the subject of a proposal submitted to the government by Mr. Jaffer’s company. The private investigator tells the Canadian Press that the RCMP told him that it has commenced an investigation. The RCMP won’t say if it has actually done so. An observer wonders if there might be some holes in the Lobbying Act that need tending to. The ethics commissioner says she can’t investigate unless she has “some information that goes to whatever the hell the problem was.” And Mr. Jaffer’s business partner produces the documentation that was requested and, in the process, suggests that perhaps racism had something to do with the reception he and Mr. Jaffer received at the government operations committee the other day. Or at least that some people who watched the committee proceedings told him that perhaps racism had something to do with it.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 19, 2010 at 11:43 PM - 30 Comments
The ethics commissioner decides, for the second time, that she won’t investigate. An attempt by Pat Martin to change the schedule of the government operations committee so that Mr. Jaffer wouldn’t have to testify on Wednesday appears to have failed, at least for the moment, either because Mr. Martin was filibustered by Liberal committee members or because Mr. Martin’s motion violates House rules. Mr. Jaffer’s business partner says he and Mr. Jaffer want to testify, while Mr. Jaffer’s lawyer says “nothing will happen” on Wednesday and Mr. Martin pleads for decency and substance in our politics. Oh, and for the record, Ms. Guergis was not technically a cabinet minister. (Unless she was.)
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 3:57 PM - 24 Comments
Mr. Jaffer used Ms. Guergis’ ministerial chauffeur. The ethics commissioner won’t investigate whatever allegations were forwarded to her by the Prime Minister’s Office. Mr. Jaffer’s business partner says Mr. Jaffer and Ms. Guergis are unfairly under seige. The Liberals, meanwhile, are asking questions about a company linked to said business partner.
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.
Hey, remember that Code of Conduct for MPs? – Liveblogging the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commish at Procedure and House Affairs
By kadyomalley - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 11:01 AM - 4 Comments
What’s this? A meeting to deal with ‘matters related to the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons”? Why, that sounds like a job for … ITQ. After all, it is one of her favourite committees, after all. Check back at 11am for full coverage as Mary Dawson delivers a progress report on compliance with the code. No fireworks are expected — at least, not by ITQ, that is — but really, couldn’t we all use a bit of a refresher course on the ethical obligations of our elected officials? Check back at 11am for full coverage.
Man, I’d forgotten how small this committee room is — that, or I’ve been spoiled by the comparative glamour of the Railway Room. Also, it’s surprisingly full — I mean, not for an A-list committee, but for Procedure and House Affairs, more than two reporters showing up is cause for eyebrow raising and hasty consultations over what they could possibly be expecting.
Oh, there’s the whole gang back again. It seems like *ages* since ITQ has made it to a PROC meeting — probably because they’ve got a habit of going in camera for weeks at a time — but Chairman Joe is as jovial and good natured as ever as he gavels the meeting into action.
Well, this is annoying — my earpiece isn’t working, which is making the very softspoken Commissioner Dawson exceedingly hard to hear. Hmph. Luckily, her staff has passed out copies of her speech, which is why ITQ can inform you that she’s giving a fairly positive report on compliance, although she thinks the committee should consider freeing her up to explain when she decides *not* to launch an investigation.
Hey, there’s a watcher from Natural Resources here! What, oh what, about today’s meeting could possibly have attracted the interest of *that* ministry — oh, right.
By kadyomalley - Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 9:00 AM - 18 Comments
ITQ is heading to the University of Ottawa today for the final public hearing of Oliphant Commission, which will include roundtable discussions with two witnesses: Sue Gray, the director of the propriety and ethics team for the UK Cabinet Office and Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson. The show gets underway at 9:30 sharp, so be sure to tune in for full liveblogging coverage.
Trivia note: The last time ITQ darkened the doors of Ottawa U, it was to write what turned out to be a faintly — okay, not so faintly — damning review of the cafeteria food, so she’ll be keeping a watchful eye out for revenge-minded sandwich assemblers during today’s visit.
Greetings, Oliphantasticalists! Are you ready for some down and dirty tales of sordid parliamentary excess, courtesy of the woman in charge of keeping the UK’s elected officials in line? I hope not, because due to the somewhat limited mandate of the commission, those sorts of questions will likely be deemed too far afield for today’s session with Sue Gray.
We’re in a new venue today — the Gowlings Moot Court at Ottawa U, to be specific, and it definitely gives the entire procedure a much more official feel. So far, nobody has demanded that I remove the sunglasses from atop my head, so it isn’t quite like the O’Brien trial *yet*, but I’ll keep y’all posted.
Oh, there’s the judge — looking especially judicial today, presiding, as he is, over a real(ish) court room.
By John Geddes - Friday, May 8, 2009 at 7:05 PM - 27 Comments
Ruby Dhalla and her lawyer suggest new layers of complexity and even conspiracy in the story of allegations about caregivers her family employed. But don’t hold your breath waiting for the federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to step in to settle the matter.
At her news conference today, Dhalla’s lawyer again referred to her request for the commissioner to review the allegations against her. It certainly sounds like the sort of thing that would make sense. The problem is that MPs took steps last year to make sure the commissioner doesn’t have any clear mandate to look into this sort of affair.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 8, 2009 at 3:31 PM - 46 Comments
After a brief opening statement—and rather unequivocal denial—from Ms. Dhalla, her lawyer is putting on a rather dramatic show of paperwork, receipts, boarding passes and witness statements, making ominous and vague statements about an organized attack on his client.
Akin has Ignatieff’s statement.
Geddes explores the ethics commissioner riddle.
By kadyomalley - Monday, June 2, 2008 at 10:46 AM - 0 Comments
.. in a letter to the Hill Times, no less. I wonder if he’ll…
.. in a letter to the Hill Times, no less. I wonder if he’ll be able to persuade the more — reluctant members of his caucus — particularly David “Cranky” Tilson, who brought the complaint to Dawson in the first place — to consider the long-term ramifications of her ruling, and not just gloat over the fact that it was a Liberal whose wrist was slapped:
Mary Dawson’s unfortunate decision: Tory MP Williams
Re: “Dawson ruling puts Parliament in ‘crisis,’ says top expert,”
(The Hill Times, May 29, p. 1).
[...] Whether or not Mr. Thibault allegedly defamed Mr. Mulroney will be settled in court if it ever gets there. What is more important for Parliament is her definition of a “private interest.” For her definition she relied upon her legal experience, oblivious to the fact that she is now engaged to adjudicate in the public world of politics and democratic right of free speech. Nowhere in her report did she discuss the constitutional protection of freedom of speech in Parliament or even acknowledge that Members of Parliament have a duty to speak on issues of public concern. [...]
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:
By kadyomalley - Friday, May 9, 2008 at 9:29 AM - 0 Comments
So, who gets to write the minister’s speech for this event?
NOTICE OF MEETING …
NOTICE OF MEETING
Standing Committee on Public Accounts
Meeting No. 32
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Room 269, West Block
Orders of the Day
Pursuant to the motion of the Committee of March 13, 2008 – Selected Finance Canada Contracts
11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Department of Finance
Robert Wright, Deputy Minister
Treasury Board Secretariat
Wayne G. Wouters, Secretary
12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Sara Beth Mintz
1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Hon. Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance