‘As Members of Parliament often do’

by Aaron Wherry

I asked the Prime Minister’s Office if Mr. Harper had any opinion on the actions of Jim Flaherty in regards to the application of Durham Radio.

Does the Prime Minister believe that the Finance Minister acted in accordance with the rules and standards of ministerial conduct when he wrote to the CRTC to express support for a Durham Radio Inc’s application?

Here is the response from the Prime Minister’s press secretary.

The Member of Parliament for Whitby-Oshawa wrote a letter on behalf of his constituents, as Members of Parliament often do. The Ethics Commissioner has previously acknowledged that “ministers, as Members, have duties towards their constituents” but must exercise caution. The Minister of Finance plays no role and has no input into the deliberations or decisions of the CRTC.

I would also point out that Durham Radio Inc.’s application was unsuccessful.




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‘As Members of Parliament often do’

  1. If you raised your kids this way……..

    I would also point out that Durham Radio Inc.’s application was unsuccessful.

    ————————————

    Aw c’mon Mom. I know I shouldn’t have copied Billy’s homework, but I got an “F”

  2. More of the same old, Cons acting like cons.

  3. Wasn’t influential letter-writing one of the charges lobbed at Guergis? Things turned out quite badly for her …

  4. Flaherty should contact Ezra Levant about getting ahead by making tribunals appear sinister and un-Canadian. Why, clearly the CRTC is just a jumped up kangaroo court that doesn’t use the same strict rules of evidence you’d find in a regular court. Plus now we find out a minister can’t even go out on a limb for his constituents before these high and mighty star chambers.

    Heck, inside of two weeks he can have right wingers spewing “end. them. now” all over the interwebs!

    • Tom Flanagan got the ball rolling on this on CBC today. Down with the CRTC!!!

  5. By “actions” Do you mean the letter he wrote or was there more activities involved ? when you say “actions” it implies there was more then just a singular letter of support

  6. Flaherty identified himself as the Minister of Finance and Minister for the Greater Toronto Area in his letter to the CRTC — so he was clearly writing as the minister not just as an MP.

    But even if he was writing as an MP, he should not be in the clear. The question of what is the proper role of MPs has been swept under the rug for the past 145 years, but is coming to a head as situations arise and rulings are made under the federal Conflict of Interest Act and MP and Senate codes, all of which have only existed for a few years. Unfortunately, most of the rulings by the former Ethics Commissioner (Bernard Shapiro) and the current Commissioner (Mary Dawson) and the Senate Ethics Officer either ignore what the Act or codes say, or interpret them in bizarre ways aimed at letting people off-the-hook even if they have clearly violated the Act or codes — but at least some good rulings that draw clear lines have been made.

    The Conflict of Interest Act (sections 4 and 9) prohibit Cabinet ministers, their staff and appointees, and senior government officials, from making decisions or using their influence to further their own or their family’s or friend’s interests, or to improperly further another person’s interests. The MPs Code (sections 8 and 9) prohibit MPs from doing the same (except, bizarrely, they are allowed to do this for friends).

    The MPs Code also contains principles in section 2 that say MPs are expected to serve the public interest (not private interests) and uphold the highest standards “so as to avoid real or apparent conflicts of interests, and maintain and enhance public confidence and trust in the integrity of each Member and in the House of Commons.” See the Code at: http://www.parl.gc.ca/About/House/StandingOrders/appa1-e.htm

    Section 5 of the MPs Code says that an MP is not, in any situation, in violation of the Code “if the Member’s activity is one in which Members normally and properly engage on behalf of constituents.”

    So, the issue is, what is “normal and proper” vs. improper. While some argue that it is normal and proper for MPs to push the specific interests of their constituents, I think it should be considered improper because it is often, and can easily become in any situation, a favour-trading system that does not uphold the highest standards or serve the public interest, and that creates apparent, if not real, conflicts of interest.

    If MPs are allowed to lobby for a specific interest of a person or organization (as opposed to for a policy position that a majority of their constituents support), then MPs can pick and choose who they help, and will likely usually help people who voted for them or raised money for them more than they help others. So if such lobbying is allowed, MPs will likely not offer the same level of help to all their constituents, and the extra help they offer to some constituents will amount to favour trading (vote or raise money or campaign for me, and I will help you more).

    I think, in order to have fair and similar service given to all constituents (which is in the public interest), that rules in the MPs Code should be interpreted so that the definition of “normal and proper” is that MPs are required to help all of their constituents on a first-come, first-served basis (no queue-jumping allowed just because you voted for the MP or raised money for them), and must provide the same help to all constituents, helping them find the govt. agency they need to find, and helping them figure out how to apply or complain or connect to that agency, but that they are prohibited from do anything more for anyone.

    MPs are voted in by some voters but are paid by all voters and so should be required provide service to all their constituents as fairly and equally as possible, and the best way to avoid biased or unequal service, and to uphold the highest standards and the public interest and integrity of MPs, and to prevent conflicts of interest, is to prohibit MPs from advocating on behalf of any one constituent’s specific personal interest.

    Hopefully, even if the Ethics Commissioner makes the incorrect decision that Flaherty wrote the letter only as an MP (a decision that would ignore the facts), and fails to find him guilty of violating sections 4 and/or 9 of the Act, she will still find him guilty of acting improperly as an MP in violation of sections 8 or 9 of the MPs Code.

    Duff Conacher, Founding Director of Democracy Watch and Democracy Education Network, Director of GoodOrg.ca Consulting, Adjunct Professor at University of Toronto Faculty of Law

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