Ethics office fails to disclose income information

Helena Guergis

You can’t govern effectively without trust. And there can be no trust without integrity and transparency.
– Prime Minister Stephen Harper, April 20, 2006.

The federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Office has admitted it does not disclose federal MPs annual income, despite the Members’ Conflict of Interest Code insists the watchdog body should report the source and nature of members’ income.

The Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons is administered by Commissioner Mary Dawson whose role is to administer transparency, oversight and accountability.

Recently, her office fined Helena Guergis $100 for failure to disclose details of a home mortgage.

Now the tables have turned. Ms. Guergis may have a valid reason to complain about the Conflict of Interest office.

The code states the Commissioner is to provide the public with summaries of members’ “income, assets and liabilities.” However, the conflict of interest office does not disclose this information.

“The summary shall… set out the source and nature, but not the value, of the income, assets and liabilities referred to in the Member’s statement,” says the code.

In an email communication, Margot Booth, Manager, Communications and Outreach for the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner of Canada confirms a portion of the commissioner’s duties.

“The Act (section 25) does not require public disclosure of income,” writes Ms. Booth.

While Ms. Booth is correct that the law does not require disclosure of amounts, the law makes it clear that the source and nature of the income are to be disclosed annually. To date this information has been kept secret.

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