Monday, May 20, 2013

Canada's Gifted and Sponsored Senators

Updated October 2013

With the investigation into Mike Duffy's expenses and gifts by the RCMP dragging on, I thought that it would be an appropriate time to take a look through the Public Disclosure Summaries for a handful of Canada's other Senators to see what they receive as gifts and travel paid for by outside sponsors, in excess of their $135,200 salary and other perquisites of course!

Fortunately for Canadian taxpayers, the Office of the Senate Ethics Officer, Ms. Lyse Ricard, publishes these summaries online for all of us to read on the Public Registry Page of the Office website.  Here's the mandate of the Senate Ethics Officer:

The duties and functions of the Senate Ethics Officer are set out under the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators, which was adopted for three purposes:

(i) to maintain and enhance public confidence and trust in the integrity of Senators and the Senate;  

(ii) to provide for greater certainty and guidance for Senators when dealing with issues that may present foreseeable real or apparent conflicts of interest; and

(iii) to establish clear standards and a transparent system by which questions relating to proper conduct may be addressed by an independent, non-partisan adviser.

In general, the Senate Ethics Officer is responsible for administering, interpreting, and applying the Code. Section 41 of the Code affirms the independence of the Senate Ethics Officer, as well as his responsibility alone to provide advice to individual senators regarding the application and interpretation of the Code in any given circumstance.

More particularly, the Senate Ethics Officer’s mandate involves six major areas: A. opinions and advice; B. the disclosure process; C. inquiries; D. the public registry; E. outreach and external activities; and F. the annual report.

Basically, the gifts and/or sponsored travel given to a Senator from one source must exceed a value of $500 in total before they must be declared so technically, a Senator could receive a plethora of gifts with a combined value of less than $500 from any given donor and not have to declare a single one.  Also note that the new Conflict of Interest Code for Senators was amended on May 1, 2012.  Prior to that time, if Canadian taxpayers wanted to access this information, you could only see how our Senators were benefitting above and beyond their normal compensation by actually presenting yourself in person to the Office of the Senate Ethics Officer where you could view a hardcopy of the information.  

Here is a complete list of gifts and sponsored travel received by all Senators for 2012 - 2013:

From this list, you can see that during 2012 - 2013, only one Senator received a gift or gifts from a single individual with a combined value in excess of $500 and that one rang in at a rather stingy $599.92.  In sharp contrast, Senator Mike's "gift" of $90,127 was two orders of magnitude greater than the only other gift received showing just how out of line this problem quickly became for the Harperites.

In closing, here's another quote from the Officer's mandated vision, mission and core values:

The Senate Ethics Office is committed to carrying out its mandate in a manner that respects certain core values, which we believe is a key to success.

Our Vision
Our vision is that, through our work, senators will be well-supported in fulfilling their responsibilities under the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators in order to maintain and enhance public confidence and trust in the integrity of each senator and in the Senate.

Our Mission

The Office of the Senate Ethics Officer administers, interprets and applies the Code and provides sound, timely and independent advice to senators regarding their obligations under the Code in a manner that is non-partisan, responsive and effective.

Our Core Values

Both as individuals and as an organization, we are committed to the values of integrity, excellence, respect for people, teamwork and quality of life as we carry out our mission and work to achieve our vision. We strive to uphold these shared values in our daily actions and they guide how we serve senators, how we work together, and generally how we do business.

Shared values?  Best of luck on that one, Ms. Ricard.

No comments:

Post a Comment