Friday, March 10, 2006

Ethics Mess

The opposition has called into question the motives and promises mades when David Emerson crossed the floor to join the Conservative Party cabinet. A complaint was made, and the Ethics Commissioner, Mr. Bernard Shapiro, will conduct an investigation.

And, as also reported, the opposition has called for an investigation into Belinda Stronach's defection to the Liberal Party from the Conservative Party [Canada.com, Federal ethics battle gets nasty].
New Democrats requested Friday that an ethics investigation into David Emerson's jump to the Conservative cabinet just days after being elected as a Liberal should be expanded to include Stronach's Tory-Liberal leap of last May.
Hat tip, Section 15.

The current Conflict of Interest Code's (2004) purpose is to:
(a) maintain and enhance public confidence and trust in the integrity of Members as well as the respect and confidence that society places in the House of Commons as an institution;

(b) demonstrate to the public that Members are held to standards that place the public interest ahead of their private interests and to provide a transparent system by which the public may judge this to be the case;
Et cetera.

This code must be enforced.

Irrespective of your feelings about Mr. Shapiro and whether he is a partisan appointment, Prime Minister Harper has a duty to play by the rules until the rules are changed and his refusal to cooperate with Mr. Shapiro sends a poor message about a campaign run on accountability and ethics.

That said, now that Mr. Shapiro has to investigate Belinda Stronach's defection it would look exceedingly silly for Mr. Harper to all of sudden suggest that Paul Martin was well within his rights to appoint Belinda Stronach as a cabinet minister.

Mr. Harper needs to get out from under this cloud and fully support and cooperate with Mr. Shapiro.

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4 comments:

jdave34 said...

Don't let Dark Blue Tory see this...his brain will explode....

Mark Francis said...

In one of my posts I said that Harper, by grandstanding like this, isn't just atacking the Ethics Commissioner, he's assailing the _office_ of the Ethics Commissioner.

The end result can almost certainly be only more public cynicism in government.

This is why officials, regardless of the accuracy of opinions held against them, should not be treated this way.

Does 'Walk softy and carry a big stick' ring a bell?

Harper seems to more about being being loud, and he's possibly carrying a twig.

Shmoo said...

I disagree completely. The Ethnics Commissioner is playing games an deserves two words.

CuirosityKilledTheCat said...

I understand the dilemma many Tories face and emphasize. However, it is nonsense to swear My party, right or wrong, when that party does things which are wrong.

The gloss placed by many Tories on Harper’s actions is factually incorrect, and your conclusions equally wrong, for these reasons:

• The Ethics Commissioner is a officer of Parliament with powers granted him, and an obligation placed upon him, to investigate any complaint lodged by a Member of Parliament. Investitation of a complaint is not the same as finding that a breach of ethical principles has taken place.

• Therefore, Harper’s refusal to cooperate with the Commissioner is legally incorrect for a Prime Minister, and politically inept.

• Harper’s statement that it is his right to appoint members of his Cabinet is correct, but misleading. This is not the issue. The issue is whether Harper and/or Emerson breached the ethical standards applicable. If they did, the Commissioner has to decide on a remedy.

• Harper’s defence of his position means he has placed himself above the law. This is not the position a Prime Minister should take in a democracy founded on the rule of law. Harper is not a king; the divine right died out ages ago. Nor is he an infallible pope. He is an MP and subject to the laws like every other citizen of Canada.

• Harper campaigned vigorously on a platform of reform, and rode the corruption issue into power with his narrow majority. The onus is on him to govern in accordance with his platform, which was heavily weighted towards good, clean government. His actions in flouting the law re the Commissioner do not meet this test.

• Harper is obliged to introduce legislation as soon as possible in order to bring in an appropriate accountability law, without loopholes. Once such a law is in place, it will apply in future, and replace any existing laws which are amended by the new law. Hopefully, given his campaign promises, the new law will address the issue of MPs who cross the floor.

• It is in the interests of all Canadians that government be carried on in an ethical fashion. Harper’s response to the Ethics Commissioner falls short of this standard, and should not be countnanced by specious arguments such as yours. The citizens of Canada deserve better, and every citizen – including all Tories - have a right to call Harper and others on their actions, and demand the highest ethical behaviour from them.

Perhaps the only good that will come from this sorry debacle is that we have adquate legislation passed to uphold high ethical standards for our elected representatives.