We can do better than the Liberals
An interesting thing happened in a Parliamentary committee last week. They created a productive report complete with actionable recommendations that received the full support of all three major opposition parties. While these recommendations focus primarily on changes to the Ethics Act and the Lobbying Act for Parliament, they will impact other arms of government such as the Senate and entities such as the Bank of Canada.
These 23 recommendations amount to a strengthening of both the Ethics Act and the Lobbying Act, a long overdue move that will clarify the ethical responsibilities of those covered by the act. They will also clarify what constitutes lobbying and what actions constitute lobbying. Amongst these recommendations are no awarding of government contracts to shell companies, that the Government of Canada introduce legislative changes to the Lobbying Act to give the Commissioner of Lobbying real powers to investigate, issue fines and impose lobbying bans to those who disregard the act, that the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner be provided with more tools to sanction public office holders who contravene the Conflict of Interest Act, and that senior public officials must be accompanied by one staff member to any meeting with a lobbyist to ensure proper notes are made.
These recommendations suggest changes that are long overdue and go some way to meeting the expectation that Canadians have in the ethical conduct of their government. Sadly, the recommendations didn’t impress the Trudeau Liberals. In a four-page dissenting opinion they call the recommendations “unhelpful”. Given their many and well documented ethical lapses and conflicts of interest, “unhelpful for Liberals” must be what they truly feel about the recommendations. But they had their own recommendations to make.
In fact, they proposed only three recommendations. The first and second recommend that more time be given to studying the acts themselves. No doubt these recommendations are framed in the recognition of an upcoming election the Liberals desperately want. The third is an affront to all Canadians; “That the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics refrain from conducting parallel investigations with any independent Office of Parliament into the conduct of members of Parliament, either directly or by proxy”. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals recommend that the committee responsible for investigating ethical lapses not be allowed to investigate such lapses.
We can do better, and we deserve better. It’s why Erin O’Toole and Canada’s Conservatives have pledged to secure accountability in Ottawa — toughening the Conflict of Interest and Lobbying Acts, and imposing higher penalties. Canadians can’t afford more of the same from these Liberals, and as we face an election shortly, maybe as early as September, Canadians can put a stop to Liberal insiders getting ahead, while the rest of us get left behind. Let’s do it together.