Inside Politics

Ethics commissioner finds Flaherty's letter to CRTC 'improper'

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In a somewhat extraordinary show of proactive disclosure, the PMO talking point list may have broken actual news in today's dispatch on that now controversial letter of support for a Durham-area radio bid that was sent by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to the CRTC last year. 

The note, which was transmitted via the recently created Talking Point email list, states that Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson has ruled that the "ministerial signature block" did, indeed, identify the sender as the minister "rather than an MP," an "administrative oversight" that, we are informed, the minister has "acknowledged ... was regrettable. 

The commissioner's office has confirmed that an order of compliance was issued yesterday afternoon. 

According to a spokesperson for Dawson, she found that it was "improper" for Flaherty to have written the letter, and directs him to "refrain from writing such letters in future without seeking approval from her office." 

"As the facts are clear and an order has been made, the Commissioner will not be launching an investigation," the note concludes. 

UPDATE: It seems that may not be sufficient to mollify the Official Opposition. 

Via a just-released bulletin from the NDP, we are informed that party leader Tom Mulcair has written to the PM to demand "an investigation into [Flaherty's] attempt to influence the CRTC's decision [...]" 

 Here's the full text of the PMO-issued talking points: 

Sent: January 18, 2013 8:59 AM
To: Talking Points
Subject: Letter to CRTC Regarding Durham Radio Station

Letter to CRTC Regarding Durham Radio Station

The Ethics Commissioner has ruled that the Ministerial signature block in the letter sent by Minister Flaherty to the CRTC on March 30, 2012 identified the sender as a Minister rather than an MP.

- The Minister personally added a line to his letter to ensure it was clear that he was writing as the Member of Parliament for Whitby-Oshawa and instructed that the letter be put on MP letterhead.

- Minister Flaherty fully intended that this letter be sent in his capacity as a Member of Parliament.

- The Minister has acknowledged the administrative oversight and that it was regrettable.

UPDATE: Later this morning, Flaherty's office issued a statement of its own, in which the minister expands on his explanation while still acknowledging the "regrettable" error: 

"The letter to the Secretary General of the CRTC on behalf of a constituent was fully intended to be written and sent in my capacity as Member of Parliament for Whitby-Oshawa. It was drafted in my community office and printed on my M.P. letterhead, and in fact, I insisted the M.P. reference be added to the text to emphasize the point. However, due to an oversight my Ministerial title was used in the signature block. This is regrettable and I can assure the Ethics Commissioner that this will not happen again."

The compliance order issued by the commissioner last night: 

Compliance Order re: Flaherty CRTC letter

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