Dangerously Unethical Loopholes in MP
Ethics Rules Mean
MPs Can Lobby For Themselves, Family Members and Anyone They Choose
So federal Ethics Commissioner can't
find Helena Guergis guilty for sending letter supporting a business in
her riding, even if her husband had an interest in the business
Ethics Commissioner should rule
Guergis sent letter as a Cabinet minister, which would make it illegal
-- Loopholes must be closed
Monday, June 14, 2010
OTTAWA - Because of dangerously unethical loopholes in the Conflict
Code for Members of the House of Commons (MPs Code), it is essentially
impossible for federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson to find that
Conservative MP Helena Guergis violated the MPs Code when she sent a letter to
a local government council promoting the business of one of her voters
for a possible contract (even if the Commissioner finds that Guergis'
husband Rahim Jaffer had an interest in the business).
On June 8th, Commissioner Dawson announced
that she will investigate Ms. Guergis for sending the letter in her
role as an MP.
Commissioner Dawson should decide the Ms. Guergis sent the
letter as a Cabinet minister, and that this is improper, which would
make it clear that sending such a letter on behalf of one specific
business is a violation of section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act.
Democracy Watch's position is that Cabinet ministers cannot simply take
off their ministerial-hat and pretend they are only serving voters in
their riding, especially when doing things such as promoting a specific
voter's business or financial interests.
If Ms Guergis was a Senator, under sections 8-16 of the Conflict of
Interest Code for Senators, sending a letter that even attempts to
promote a private interest or business as Ms. Guergis did is
more clearly illegal, especially if her husband had an interest in the
business promoted in the letter.
"Dangerously unethical loopholes in MP ethics rules allow them to try to influence government decisions to make money and win jobs for themselves, their family members and friends while in office, and these loopholes must be closed immediately," said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch.
In Democracy Watch's opinion, if she was doing her job
properly Commissioner Dawson would also announce that she will
investigate Democracy Watch's May 6th complaint to determine whether
of the Conservative government, including Ms. Guergis, gave
preferential treatment to
organizations and people represented by Rahim Jaffer in violation of
the Conflict of Interest Act.
Also, if she was doing her job properly, Commissioner Dawson
would use her clear powers to randomly audit the financial statements
that MPs and Cabinet ministers submit to her annually, and also
randomly audit their activities as MPs and ministers, to ensure that
they are not taking part in debates and decisions in which they have a
private interest (for example, only because of media reports, the
Ethics Commissioner is reviewing the activities of Liberal MP Derek
The Ethics Commissioner told the Oliphant Commission that she
does not believe she has the power to do such audits (even though she
clearly does), so the MPs Code
and the Conflict of Interest Act
should be changed to require her to conduct random audits.
loopholes in the MPs Code
MPs only have to declare publicly their conflict of
interest when they are helping themselves or another person with a
specific financial matter (such as winning a contract), and only in
this situation are they prohibited from taking part in debates and
votes (not that there ever are debates or votes in the House of Commons
about specific contracts).
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For more information, contact:
Democracy Watch's Government Ethics Campaign webpage