Tory logo on cheques goes too far: ethics chief

The federal ethics commissioner says the use of political party logos on ceremonial funding cheques is inappropriate but not against the MPs' code of ethics or the Conflict of Interest Act.

Practice is legal but inappropriate, commissioner finds

The federal ethics commissioner says the use of Conservative Party logos on ceremonial funding cheques is inappropriate but not against the MPs' code of ethics or the Conflict of Interest Act.

MP Gerald Keddy presents a ceremonial cheque that includes the Conservative Party logo and Keddy's signature. ((Chesterns.ca))
Mary Dawson issued two reports Thursday — one on the code and one on the act — in response to dozens of complaints about the cheque logos last fall from opposition MPs and the public. 

Conservative MPs and ministers were handing out large-sized ceremonial cheques with the Conservative Party logo on them, even though the money was from the government of Canada, the critics said.

Dawson determined that such props might help raise the profile of the people using them, but they do not further an MP's "private interests" as defined in the code or the act.

She acknowledged an MP might have a private financial interest in re-election, since being an MP comes with a good salary and benefits. But by that logic, she said, anything an MP does to improve his or her image with constituents could be seen as furthering a private interest.

Still, Dawson said the practice of using partisan or personal identifiers in announcing government initiatives "goes too far and has the potential to diminish public confidence in the integrity of elected public officials and the governing institutions they represent."

"Public spending announcements are government activities, not partisan political activities, and it is not appropriate to brand them with partisan or personal identifiers."

She recommended the government consider strengthening existing policies on props used for funding announcements and other government communications. She pointed to Ontario and Alberta, which already have legislation governing the politicization of government communications.