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Inquiries laws must be changed to ensure all questionable government actions are investigated fully, fairly and impartially

Set out below is a letter-to-the-editor by Democracy Watch Board member Duff Conacher which was published on June 27, 2011 in the Ottawa Citizen and on Canada.com.

The G8 spending and Afghan detainee torture scandals are just the latest of more than 20 very questionable federal government actions in the past 20 years alone.


In a minority government, opposition party MPs control committees and can hold hearings and examine questionable situations, but these committees are tainted by rabid partisanship and so are not fair nor impartial.


At any time a federal MP has the legal power to file a complaint that requires the federal Ethics Commissioner to investigate about whether ethics rules were violated in a situation, or that requires the Parliamentary Budget Officer to investigate the total cost of a government activity.


However, for all other situations in a majority federal or provincial government, only ruling party MPs or the Cabinet have the power to control investigations of government actions, and they both have no interest in doing so.


A much more fair system would be to change the laws across Canada to allow a majority of parties in the legislature to initiate public inquiries of any government action, with all party leaders having to agree on the person named as the inquiry commissioner.


Yes, under this system sometimes opposition parties would launch unwarranted inquiries, but they would pay a political cost for wasting the public's money on these inquiries.


Overall, because this system would increase the likelihood that all questionable situations are investigated fairly and impartially, it would be better than the current system which allows many questionable situations to be investigated in an unfair and partisan way, or covered up and never investigated at all.

For more details, go to Democracy Watch's Voter Rights Campaign page