Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Is the Media feeding the attacks on Ethics Commisioner?

Is the media providing a factual based narrative on the criticism of the Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson?

Ethics Commissioner: No Witchunt For You! (NDP LIB MP's Cry Foul!)

In the few articles I have reviewed I can only find  two Liberal MP's,  Pat Martin NDP criticism, a growing grumble on Parliament Hill – particularly from the opposition.

The Press has enlisted the support of a former Liberal appointee Howard Wilson, who served as the first and only federal ethics adviser from 1994 to 2004, say the Conservatives’ heavily promoted new ethics regime is to blame.

Does the press provide a reasonable background, eliminate a perception of potential bias that might make Howard Wilson's opinion less credible or the growing grumble is nothing unusual? No

As a Conservative blogger that has voted CPC for the last few election I will do my part in providing more historical detail to eliminate any potential for bias.

This CBC does an indepth article with context nice here.  Yes they can!


Role of the ethics commissioner
CBC News Online
June 10, 2005
In April 2004, Ottawa named Canada's first ethics commissioner, a role created to replace the ethics counsellor. The commissioner post, given to former McGill University principal Bernard Shapiro, has more power and is more independent from the government than the ethics counsellor.
Bernard Shapiro (CP file photo)
The ethics commissioner will enforce the code of conduct for cabinet ministers and establish a new code of conduct for backbench and opposition members. Unlike the ethics counsellor, who reported to the Prime Minister's Office, the commissioner will report directly to Parliament, but the prime minister will still decide what actions to take against MPs who are found to be in conflict of interest.
In June 2005, Shapiro came under criticism for his handling of the secret tapes Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal made of his conversations with prominent Liberals. Shapiro initially said he had no mandate to investigate the behaviour of Tim Murphy, the prime minister's chief of staff, who appears on the tapes. He later said he may have misinterpreted his own powers.
Appearing before the parliamentary ethics committee, he said, "I'm learning as I go along." NDP MP Ed Broadbent said Shapiro’s testimony made it clear he doesn't understand his mandate.
Broadbent has also called for Shapiro's resignation for his handling of the investigation of former Liberal cabinet minister Judy Sgro. Shapiro allowed Sgro and her staff to review details of his ongoing investigation, and he hired lawyers to review his decision.

History of the post
Howard Wilson
In 1994, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien named Howard Wilson as Canada's first ethics counsellor in response to campaign promises in the 1993 Liberal Red Book. The counsellor, who reported directly to the Prime Minister's Office, had responsibility to advise MPs on the following:

•The Conflict of Interest Code.
•The Parliamentary Code of Conduct.
•The Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders.
•The Lobbyists Registration Act.
•The Lobbyists' Code of Conduct.
In the Red Book, the Liberals promised the new ethics counsellor would strengthen the Lobbyist Registration Act and clarify the Conflict of Interest Code.
Since 1994, the ethics counsellor has investigated several high-profile cases, including:

•Conflict of interest allegations against Chrétien regarding his involvement in the Hotel Grand-Mère.
•Allegations against former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano for awarding contracts to advertising companies connected to his sons.
•Paul Martin's role in the Canada Development Corporation (CDC) during the tainted blood scandal.
•Wilson ruled former solicitor general Lawrence MacAuley breached conflict of interest rules by directing government projects and contracts to friends and family, leading to MacAuley's resignation.

The setup of the office of the ethics counsellor has come under fire from critics, who believe too much power is centralized in the Prime Minister's Office. During his time in office, Chrétien had argued that he, as prime minister, had to take final responsibility for his ministers.
Critics complain the ethics counsellor doesn't have any real authority – that he's not a real watchdog because the prime minister decides which cases the counsellor should investigate.

See link for REST of article.

Democracy Watch
Summary of the History of Democracy Watch's Eight Federal Ethics Complaints That Are Still Awaiting a Fair, Impartial Review

In December 2002, Democracy Watch applied to the Federal Court of Canada for a review of federal Ethics Counsellor Howard Wilson's bias and failure to uphold legal duties because of the delay in ruling on 8 complaints Democracy Watch had filed with the Ethics Counsellor.
In 7 of the 8 complaints, the complaint was based upon activities of a lobbyist which Democracy Watch believes violate Rule 8 of the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct which prevents lobbyists from undertaking any activity that constitutes improper influence and puts a federal public office holder in a conflict of interest situation. The eighth complaint, filed on April 12, 2001 and concerning John Dossetor, alleged that Dossetor violated the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct by failing to register as a lobbyist.

Link to rest of article here. Court Case here

Remember how the media had fun, provided extra ink on prorogue, how it was undemocratic, unusual

The Canadian Parliament sat for 92 days in 2000 according to Hansard. The Canadian Parliament averaged less than 120 sitting days per year throughout the 1990s.

It is important news be provided with equal points of view, disclosure, potential bias or conflicts by those interviewed or offered as sources experts.

Identifying and Documenting Bias in News Stories

Sometimes liberal bias reflects a conscious choice by the reporter or editor. Sometimes it stems from mere laziness; it can take a lot of work to produce balanced news stories on a consistent basis. And a reporter under deadline pressure may just not understand the conservative viewpoint well enough to explain it in his story. So if the conservative expert he called doesn't call back in time, that perspective won't make it into the story.
But none of these are valid excuses. A reporter's job is to present a balanced story. (Of course, the reporter who tries but fails because he's just so rushed and can't get a conservative to comment deserves more understanding from you than the reporter who never bothers to call a conservative and regularly writes or broadcasts biased stories.)

Here is the hansard from a special committee here.

  • Between April 1, 2008, and March 31, 2009, I reported findings on four investigations. One investigation that I began in this past fiscal year is still ongoing.
  • The reasons for a decision not to proceed are shared with the parties concerned, but I cannot make them public.
  • Ms. Denise Benoit:   As indicated earlier, salaries represent the largest item of our $7.1 million budget. In fact, the full salary budget amounts to $4.5 million. That leaves us with a non-salary budget of $1.8 million, an important portion of which is spent covering the cost of administrative services received under the various MOUs. When you add up the amounts under all the MOUs, the total comes out to between $700,000 and $800,000. Therefore, the amount that is left over and does not cover salaries is used to pay for normal operating expenses, for example, for equipment, systems and trips, although members of our organization travel very little.
  • Ms. Mary Dawson:
    Each of the investigations takes a different length of time. There's no standard amount of time. We did an average of the four that we did, and we found that the average was about five and a half months, I believe.
    As for the cost, we support our investigations almost entirely internally. We don't resort to outside lawyers, so it's quite a bit less expensive than if we were getting outside lawyers. The model we've developed for an average, because we knew we'd be asked this question, said that it was about $24,000 for the average investigation, I think, but there are enormous differences between each investigation. 
Rest here.
I hope visitors will make up their own mind, about the challenges of this position without the use of selective sources and ommission of their potential conflicts of interest.


h/t BC Blue here

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