Harper harpooned by own ethics harpoon

by Jack Locke

Prime Minister Harper appears to be in violation of his own federal conflict of interest and ethics code that was put in place to ensure government accountability.

The code was introduced in parliament by Mr. Harper’s government in February 2006.

Government records show that the prime minister has not filed an annual summary public disclosure statement listing his private interests since 2007. Yet, the code mandates federal public office holders must file annual disclosure statements.

“A Member shall, within 60 days after the notice of his or her election to the House of Commons is published in the Canada Gazette, and annually on or before a date established by the Commissioner, file with the Commissioner a full statement disclosing the Member’s private interests and the private interests of the members of the Member’s family,” stipulates the code.

The code was introduced to bring forward a degree of accountability to federal politicians and senior civil servants and to allow for transparency.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson

The communications manager for the federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics office says all information filed is available for public review on the government’s website.

“The information you requested is not available in a form that I can email. You can, however, access all information available in the public registry under the Conflict of Interest Act on our website: http://ciec-ccie.gc.ca/PublicSearch.aspx explained Margot Booth, Conflict of Interest and Ethics spokesperson, in an email.

The website indicates the prime minister’s last summary statement was disclosed on November 27, 2007. This is in marked contrast with other members of Mr. Harper’s cabinet.

Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General Rob Nicholson’s last disclosure summary was filed July 2, 2009. Likewise, Jay Hill, government house leader has a disclosure summary on record filed this year on April 14.

The consequences of the violation are left to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to assess. Current commissioner Mary Elizabeth Dawson will only review cases upon receiving a request to investigate. In cases where she finds a violation, she may levy no penalty or may “recommend appropriate sanctions.”

The main purpose of the code according to its stated goal is to “maintain and enhance public confidence and trust in the integrity of Members as well as the respect and confidence that society places in the House of Commons as an institution.”

© Jack Locke 2010


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