Thursday, October 29, 2009

Is the Harper Government Too Unethical to Pinpoint a Law?

The federal ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson, is having trouble determining how to handle the many ethics complaints by Liberal and NDP MPs regarding the flagrant abuse of taxpayer money for partisan advertising, by Harper and his gang . Have the Reform Conservatives broken laws no one was prepared for? They've certainly set new records for corruption.

However, an ethics professor from the University of Ottawa, begs to differ. He points out that there is indeed a law that they could be charged under. Sorry Ref-Cons. You may think you're above it, but you might just have to start operating under it. We're not officially the 'Cheques Republic' yet.

The party is not the government

A very curious seeming paradox has appeared in Canadian democratic institutions. Appearing before the House of Commons ethics committee, the federal ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson, mentioned that she was not sure how to handle the barrage of ethics complaints by Liberal and NDP MPs regarding what is alleged to be partisan advertising at the expense of the taxpayer. She noted to the committee that while she has a title that would seem to give her a mandate to deal with the complaints, the word ethics does not actually appear in the Conflict of Interest Code that she administers.

The official mandate according to her office's statements is to assist MPs and public office holders in preventing and avoiding conflicts between their public duties and their private interests. There is an implication in the point made by the commissioner that pure ethical issues that do not relate to conflicts of interest may be outside her mandate ....

(Errol Mendes is a professor of constitutional and international law at the University of Ottawa and an adviser on private- and public-sector ethics.)

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