Inside Politics

In praise of transparency: The Ethics committee opens the doors for future business


Well, wasn't that an enlightening look behind the in camera committee curtain, where future business is traditionally discussed and decided outside the glare of the public eye? 

The first portion of today's meeting was devoted to administrative details related to the upcoming study on the dispute between the CBC and Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault over access to information; namely, finalizing the witness list based on party submissions. 

After a lively debate over a potentially contentious proposal by the government side to invite a sitting judge to testify on why he ruled against the CBC in an earlier case -- which, it's fair to note, would almost certainly violate the sub judice convention, not to mention legal precedent protecting the independence of the judiciary -- the committee adopted the list as proposed, aside from a few scheduling details to be worked out with regard to appearances by parties with a direct interest in the appeal set to be heard by the court next month. You can read the preliminary list here. 

Witnesses will, of course, be obliged to answer questions from both government and opposition members, which could make for a fascinating session once the study finally gets underway -- which, at this point, seems unlikely to happen before members return from the week-long October break.  

After that bit of housekeeping business was settled, the committee turned its attention to Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro's proposal to investigate alleged violations of election financing rules by the New Democratic Party. 

Earlier this month, the Conservative Party launched an official complaint against the NDP over the sale of advertising space to labour unions at its most recent convention, which seems, at least on the face of it, to be an attempt to circumvent the ban that prevents such entities from direct political donations. 

Although the chair initially found Del Mastro's gambit out of order on the not unreasonable grounds that the subject matter falls directly within the mandate of another committee -- Procedure and House Affairs, to be precise -- thanks to its majority status, government members were able to overturn his ruling and pass the motion, although not without being forced to vote against what NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus insisted was a friendly amendment to expand the witness list to include NDP officials and other experts who might be able to shed more light in the application of the Elections Act. 

For complete coverage, read the full liveblog. 

Mobile-friendly auto-updating text feed available here.


As noted in Orders of the Day, depending on how much stock you put into the rumours that rumble through the corridors of Centre Block, the majority-enjoying Conservative contingent on the ethics committee may vote to open up today's meeting --- currently listed as in camera -- to the public. 

If they do, I'll be there to liveblog it, so check back at 8:45 for full coverage. 

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