Liberals pledge watchdog independence

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says his party would put limits on the federal government's influence over its watchdogs.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said Tuesday his party would put limits on the federal government's influence over its watchdogs.

Liberal Leader Micheal Ignatieff looks towards Paul Kennedy, the former chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, as he speaks during a Parliament Hill news conference on Tuesday. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))
"I'm willing to accept those limits, and we will put forward in the Liberal platform in the months ahead some clear definitions of how we would safeguard the independence of these tribunals …," said Ignatieff.

Ignatieff spoke following a Liberal roundtable on governance, which heard from the former heads of three agencies who say they experienced interference from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government.

The speakers included former nuclear safety commission head Linda Keen, former RCMP public complaints commission head Paul Kennedy, and Peter Tinsley, the former military police complaints commissioner.

Keen called her dismissal "an attack without precedent in Canada." In 2008, the Conservatives said she lost the government's confidence over the way she handled the shutdown of a medical isotope-producing nuclear reactor.

However, one participant in the roundtable pointed out that the Liberals practised in the past what Ignatieff is now against.

Political science professor Ned Franks said the government of former prime minister Jean Chrétien shut down the inquiry into the actions of Canada's military in Somalia.

Health of women, children

With Parliament prorogued until March 3, the Conservatives shifted their focus to discussing the health of women and children in poor countries.

Harper produced an opinion column for the Toronto Star and the French-language La Presse. 

He said his government would focus on the health of women and children in the world's poorest countries at the upcoming G8 conference.

Bev Oda, the minister responsible for foreign aid, met with various groups on Parliament Hill to discuss how to deliver aid to the poor.