Inside Politics

Ethics watchdog pushes for more power to punish lawbreakers

Due to a series of unfortunate vote-related events, the ethics committee was forced to postpone its much-anticipated chat with Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson, whose testimony this afternoon was to have officially kicked off the five-year review of the Conflict of Interest Act. 

Unfortunately, parliamentary democracy -- specifically, the government's ultimately successful efforts to curtail further report stage debate on the refugee deportation bill -- intervened, and the committee agreed, regretfully but unanimously, to adjourn for the day and call the commissioner back at an unspecified date in the future. 

Dawson's office, however, has obligingly made the her undelivered opening statement available for public perusal. 

On cursory review, she doesn't appear to be pushing for substantial change to the existing ethics regime, although as was the case when she made s similar appearance at the procedure and house affairs committee during its review of the MPs' code of conduct last fall, she does suggest that she might be given the power to impose administrative penalties for serious breaches. 

Dawson also reiterates her recommendation that the threshold for disclosure of gifts received by public office holders be reduced from $200 to just $30. (Her presentation does not, however, extend to musing about calculating the cash value of the Hill reception circuit, a proposal that met with little support when put before the procedure committee. 

As for those potentially controversial rulings on the propriety of ministers and parliamentary secretaries sending bid-supporting letters to the CRTC, her opening statement was silent, presumably, she will expand on her reasoning when the committee gets the chance to grill her in person. 

In any case, you can read her full statement here: 

Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson - by CBCPolitics

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