Wednesday, April 14, 2010

There's No Conflict of Interest Here?

Yesterday Mary Dawson, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, announced that she has declined to investigate Helena Guergis. Her office released the following statement:

“Based on the information the Commissioner has at this time, she is not in a position to proceed with an inquiry under the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons or an examination under the Conflict of Interest Act, but she will continue to monitor the situation.”

Prior to her appointment as Commissioner, Ms. Dawson had a long career as a civil servant. She was appointed Associate Deputy Minister in the Department of Justice in 1988 by the Conservative Mulroney government, a position she held until she retired in 2005. On July 9, 2007, she was appointed Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner by the Conservative Harper government. Do you notice a pattern?

This is the same Commissioner who announced on January 13, 2010 that she wouldn't pursue the case against Conservative Party when they were accused of using nearly $56 million of taxpayer dollars in the first half of 2009 to fund their partisan television, radio, print and signage advertising campaign for the Economic Action Plan. This case was discontinued because Ms. Dawson concluded that the Conservative Party was neither a "person" nor a "corporation" so it could not have "private interests" as required under the legislation. This is an egregious use of a legal loophole if there ever was one. Most Canadians would agree that there is something wrong with both the quantity and style of advertising in this case. When we find Economic Action Plan billboards in children's playgrounds, the government has way over-stepped the bounds of what is ethically (and morally) acceptable.

Are Canadians to believe that Ms. Dawson is completely neutral when it comes to her political viewpoint in light of the fact that she was appointed as an ADM and Commissioner by Conservative Prime Ministers? I am not saying that she isn't qualified for the position, it's just that I find it difficult to imagine that she isn't somewhat beholden to her political masters. Can we be certain that her decisions remain non-partisan?

What do you want to bet that nothing ever comes of the allegations against Helena Guergis?


Dismissal of the Ethics Complaint against the Conservative Party of Canada

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