Election stalls report into ex-integrity watchdog

Canada's interim integrity commissioner is the blaming the federal election for refusing to disclose a highly-anticipated report, making it the third document that has been shelved because of the campaign.
Former integrity commissioner Christiane Ouimet appears at a Commons committee March 10 in Ottawa. A report into her tenure is being delayed until after the election. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press) (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Canada's interim integrity commissioner is the blaming the federal election for refusing to disclose a highly-anticipated report, making it the third document that has been shelved because of the campaign.

The Office of the Integrity Commissioner came under intense scrutiny last year after Auditor General Sheila Fraser issued a scathing report into Christiane Ouimet's tenure in the position.

Among the complaints against Ouimet is that during her three-year tenure as integrity commissioner, she found no cases of wrongdoing in the 228 complaints to her office.

Mario Dion, the interim integrity commissioner, hired Deloitte to conduct a study of all of the complaints filed with the commission, which is responsible for protecting civil servants who are attempting to disclose government wrongdoing.

Dion's office said the review was supposed to be finished on March 31, but he "will not release any information relating to the content of the report until after the election campaign."

However, Dion's statement said any steps outlined in the review will be put in place to address shortfalls pointed out by the Deloitte report.

Duff Conacher, the co-ordinator of Democracy Watch and the chairperson of the 31-member Government Ethics Coalition, said the public service should be neutral during an election campaign but the failure to disclose this report is preventing the electorate from being fully informed on the Ouimet issue.

"They are influencing the discussion by keeping the report secret; that influences the discussion. You can't have the discussion with the full information if you don't have the full report," Conacher said.

"That is always less democratic than disclosing the information."

The integrity commissioner is an independent agency of Parliament. However, Conacher points out the report is not a report by the commissioner so it should be beholden to the same disclosure requirements.

Auditor General Sheila Fraser has refused to release her report on G8 spending because she needs Parliament to be sitting. (Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press)
The integrity commissioner's report is the third report that was supposed to be released but has been put on the shelf until after the election campaign has concluded.

The auditor general has a final report into the federal government's spending on the G8/G20 summit. However, Fraser has said she cannot release the report until Parliament returns.

Fraser's office has launched an internal investigation into how copies of draft reports were leaked to the media.

As well, two retired judges have indicated they cannot release of secret documents about prisoner transfers in Canada's mission in Afghanistan until Parliament is sitting.

All the parties have called for both the auditor general's and the judges' reports to be disclosed — despite the fact the election is ongoing.

The failure to disclose these reports warrants changing the rules of parliamentary bodies, according to Conacher.

"Every federal law that prohibits a government institution from releasing a report when Parliament is closed should be changed to require the institution to release the report whenever it is scheduled to be released or whenever it is finished," he said.