Democracy Watch: Harper Breaks Ethics Pledge
Date: Thursday, February 23 2006
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
OTTAWA - Today, Democracy Watch revealed the details of the promises Stephen Harper broke on his first day as Prime Minister when he released his new Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders (the Code -- See link to the Code on the following webpage: http://www.parl.gc.ca/oec/en/public_office_holders/conflict_of_interest). The promises were all contained in the “Federal Accountability Act” section of the Conservative Party’s election platform, and on February 6th when the new Cabinet was introduced PMO officials claimed that the changes made to the Code were among many measures the new Prime Minister had implemented immediately because they did not require legislation to be implemented.
Prime Minister Harper and the Conservative Party pledged before and during the election campaign to close five loopholes in the Code. All five loopholes have been left open in the new Code (Please see Backgrounder below for all the details).
The first promise Harper broke was the promise to apply the Code to all ministerial staff and unpaid ministerial advisers. In fact, changes made in this part of the Code increase the number of part-timers and unpaid advisers not be covered by most of the requirements in the Code.
The second broken promise was the failure to extend to five years the cooling-off period before Cabinet ministers, ministerial staff and senior public servants can become lobbyists after leaving office. In fact, unless Cabinet ministers put ministerial staff on a list, the staff person will be allowed, as they were already, to become a lobbyist one year after they leave their staff position.
The Prime Minister’s Office was also dishonest about the failure to keep this commitment in the February 6, 2006 news release it issued. The “Backgrounder” of the release, under the heading “Reinforcing Government Accountability”, made the false claim that the revisions to the Code:
“include a five-year ban on former ministers, ministerial staff and senior public servants from acting as lobbyists to the Government of Canada, a ban which cannot be waived or reduced by the Ethics Commissioner.” (SEE release at: http://pm.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?id=684)
[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on February 24, 2006]