Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Rule Should Be for Conflict of Interest

Resign first, clear your name second.

If there is physical or substantive circumstantial evidence that says that a member of the governing party is in a conflict of interest, that member should:
  • Immediately step out of any cabinet or advisory position; no call is required to resign a seat unless a crime was committed
  • Initiate an unbiased review of the claim or charge
  • Once the unbiased review is done, reinstatement to their position should be addressed if there is no wrongdoing

And yes, it does have to work differently for Members of the Government then it does for Members of the Opposition. Like it or not; and here's my argument. Please note, I will not argue if there is bias or not within the integrity or ethics commission of any level of government. I try, whenever possible, to work within the system :) .

What brought this on was Ontario Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar's alleged conflict of interest with respect to his business dealings at his former company ('Runaway minister' takes a pass on conflict questions). The evidence is both physical (photos of Mr. Takhar at the company) and circumstantial (wife and his Liberal riding association president are in charge of his company - hardly arm's length).

Members of the government have direct influence on the management of public money and public services. They direct the bureaucracy that approves or disapproves spending and other allocation of resources. Members in opposition, quite frankly, do not. This is most apparent in majority governments as not only are the members of government responsible for passing the legislation, but they are also responsible for allocating the resources.

But, this is true in minorities as well. Regardless of who initiates a bill, it is still the member of government that directs the spending and allocation of resources.

Besides, ministers in Opposition have nothing to resign. You might call for them to resign their seats, but that's to the voter to decide.

Case in point with Judy Sgro.

  • Rightly or wrongly, there was evidence presented that she used her cabinet position as Immigration Minister to secure visas and immigration allowances for people that worked on her campaign or in exchange for their help on the campaign.
  • After much fighting, she resigned her cabinet position and was subsequently exonerated (Ethics probe to clear Sgro). The original support claim by Mr. Singh was retracted.
  • However, she was not returned to cabinet.

What was wrong with this scenario? IMHO, she should have been returned to cabinet upon being cleared. In this case, even though it took a lot of prodding, she did the right thing and resigned. This tells other ministers (ie. Mr. Dosanjh) that resigning your portfolio only to be cleared leads to somebody else getting your position.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Actually JIm, Sgro wasn't cleared. The "Clouseauesque" ethics commissioner found that she was signing off on ministerial permits for people who worked on her campaign, or for their relatives. Any media flummery to the contrary came as a result of reporters wgo couldn't read past the first ten pages of the Ethics Commissioners report.