You know what I like? Context.

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the ethics commissioner wanting to investigate Prime Minister Harper (still getting used to that) and Harper’s reluctance to participate.

If you haven’t, catch yourself up here.

The matter is being debated a fair bit in the mainstream papers. For an example, check out this editorial in the Globe, which ran across from this opinion piece.

What hasn’t been discussed, at least not as far as I’ve seen, is what Harper said about the Office of the Ethics Commissioner during the election campaign. According to the highly-touted Federal Accountability Act, Prime Minsiter Steve wants to strengthen the Office, not weaken it. Allow me to quote, at length, from the section entitled “Strengthen the Role of the Ethics Commissioner:”

In 1993, Paul Martin and the Liberals promised the appointment of an independent Ethics Commissioner. For over ten years, Paul Martin and the Liberals failed to fulfill that promise, and Martin voted against his own Red Book words in the House of Commons.

Finally, under the pressure of the Sponsorship Scandal, the Liberals partially fulfilled their promise. But many problems remain with the role of the Ethics Commissioner, including the special exemptions Paul Martin created for his own business dealings.

The plan
Stephen Harper will:

  • Give the Ethics Commissioner the power to fine violators.
  • Prevent the Prime Minister from overruling the Ethics Commissioner on whether the Prime Minister, a minister, or an official is in violation of the Conflict of Interest Code.
  • Enshrine the Conflict of Interest Code into law.
  • Close the loopholes that allow ministers to vote on matters connected with their business interests.
  • End “venetian blind” trusts that allow ministers to remain informed about their business interests, and require all ministerial assets to be placed in truly blind trusts.
  • Allow members of the public – not just politicians – to make complaints to the Ethics Commissioner.
  • Make part-time or non-remunerated ministerial advisers subject to the Ethics Code.

Now, there are legitimate reasons to question Bernard Shapiro himself, but the fact remains that his appointment was ratified by Parliament as a whole – a chief request of the then-opposition Tories.

I’m in no way suggesting the media is giving Harper a free ride on this one, I just think people might be interested in knowing what Harper has said about the role of the Ethics Commissioner. After all, the accountability act is his biggest priority.

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