You are free to continue issuing giant novelty cheques

by Aaron Wherry

The ethics commissioner concludes that the use of giant novelty cheques by unelected officials might diminish our democracy, but it isn’t against the rules.

Ms. Dawson concludes that using cheques featuring either the name of the MP or the Conservative Party logo “goes too far” and risks diminishing public confidence in the integrity of elected officials. Her report concludes that the cheques do not violate either the conflict of interest code for MPs or the Conflict of Interest Act for cabinet ministers, but are symptomatic of a larger politicization of government that must be addressed.




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You are free to continue issuing giant novelty cheques

  1. Mary Dawson is no Sheila Fraser, and certainly no Kevin Page.

  2. It appears that Ms. Dawson is incapable of any action as an "ethics" commissioner and indeed has the impression that we need a comprehensive legal framework to reign in our MP's. OJ Simpson would have loved her.

  3. What's with this Mary Dawson?

  4. Diminishing public confidence in the integrity of elected officials is ethical ?

  5. The feds need an Auditor General, like Ontario. The current provincial government actually voted in this position to voluntarily keep the politics out of government advertising. Those cheques are verboten in Ontario. As are highway construction ads with photos of the premier, or even workplace safety ads with say, the labout minister.

    Mind you, the AG position was a response to the previous PC government, more than a few of whom have starring roles in the big leagues now.

  6. As I noted some weeks back, Mary Dawson is a long-time Conservative appointee to two government posts, the first with the Mulroney government back in 1988 when she was appointed Assistant Deputy Minister to the Department of Justice, a position she held until she retired in 2005. I'm not saying that she's not capable of doing the job of Ethics Commissioner, but I think in light of the fact that she was posted to the Ethics position by the Harper Conservatives suggests that her loyalties are at the very least suspect.

    Whether or not it is the legislation that binds her hands when making decisions is moot. If the legislation is that bad, her position is redundant and perhaps she should resign in protest.

    http://viableopposition.blogspot.com/2010/04/yest

  7. Her job is to apply the rules that exist. She's not allowed to make up her own ethics rules. In this case, she said: "It's not against the rules, but I think it's a problem and I don't like it."

  8. If she is at all gun-shy, it may be a direct result of the misplaced partisan hype concerning the demotion of Linda Keen.

  9. I don't think her loyalties are suspect. In fact, I think she's scrupulously fair and impartial. It's her job to apply the rules that exist, and I haven't seen any argument yet that she interpreted the existing rules incorrectly. If the Conflict of Interest Act is flawed, it's up to Parliamentarians to change the legislation.

  10. Seems like a good ruling to me:

    "Nowhere in the Code is there a suggestion that the expression “private interests” would cover political gain or advantage. To come to such an expansive interpretation would require some indication in the Code that this was intended. I find no such indication. To the contrary I find specific enumerations of a much narrower category of interests."

  11. I looked up the word "useless" in the dictionary, and there was a picture of Mary Dawson.

  12. Democracy Watch has challenged Dawson's ruling that when a government's actions are questioned, it is up to the government to decide whether an inquiry should take place to investigate themselves. I don't think that case has been resolved yet, but one possibility is that Dawson will be found to have given governments accused of wrongdoing too much leeway in hiding from investigation.

    Also, Dawson's unwillingness to investigate Guergis seems questionable as more allegations come out to reinforce the previous allegations of private business being done in Guergis' office.

  13. I don't think "useless" quite captures Mary Dawson. After all, she is said to have invented a private mechanism to allow Conservative MPs to get around our public disclosure rules. http://thechronicleherald.ca/Front/1177007.html

    Clearly, she is useful to some ethically challenged MPs.

  14. What are you talking about? She's an Officer of Parliament. The Conservatives can't fire or demote her without the approval of Parliament.

  15. Well good – I look forward to you biting your tongue next time you feel like reflexively accusing Wherry of bias.

  16. So what, exactly, does that have to do with ethics?

    Her job is certainly to apply the rules that exist, but it should be a sense of ethics which guides her toward passing a judgement if certain rules (such as the conflict of interest code for MPs) was violated. If all she's doing is judging on the letter of the rules, then there's no need for an Office of Parliament to adjudicate it. Just use one of the government lawyers.

  17. She is not allowed to rule on ethics issues, even though they put "Ethics" in her title. We cannot slam Ms. Dawson, she can only act within the parameters of her office, which means she can act on the Conflict of Interest Act and Conflict of Interest Code.

  18. If all she's doing is judging on the letter of the rules, then there's no need for an Office of Parliament to adjudicate it.

    Just to be clear: You're arguing the ethics commissioner's personal "sense of ethics" should supercede the rules that exist?

  19. Doesn't Guergis have thirty days to respond?

  20. Um…Sheila Fraser?

    (Unless the comma between "Auditor General" and "like Ontario" is a typo, of course.)

  21. I must congratulate you Aaron. You are one of the few reporting on this whose headline is not misleading people into believing the Conservatives have broken the rules.

  22. Can they not extend her term?

  23. Okay, since the ads are over-politicized, shouldn't the Conservative party at least have the decency to pay back the $42 million stolen from the taxpayer on this program. The Harper adscam is $3 million more than the Chreten version, and it's still gojng on. I'm sure John Baird would demand the party pay back this stolen money if he weren't so busy with other matters.

  24. Touche. It sure would be nice to have an ethics commissioner that was, well, ethical.

  25. It may be within the rules, but it still stinks.

  26. "..it should be a sense of ethics which guides her toward passing a judgement if certain rules (such as the conflict of interest code for MPs) was violated."

    Your absolutely right, if rules were broken, in this case no rules were broken. Her role is to interpret the Code and the Act but in her examination she went further and suggested they change the rules, and the government said yes. What is the problem? If they don't change the Treasury Board rules, then it is problem. But I don't see the beef with Dawson? Unless you think she overstepped her mandate by advocating a policy change. I don't think you think that though :)

  27. Good question. I believe they could nominate her but her nomination is subject to the approval of Parliament. Feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken.

  28. Well let's not get carried away. One post does not a balanced commenter make. If I think Wherry is showing unfair bias or grossly misrepresenting something I'll continue to call him on it. Though I must admit I've found much less reason lately to object to the content Aaron has been putting out.

  29. I'm arguing that the commissioner's sense of ethics should be used in the adjudication of the rules.

  30. puzzled??

    Appointed by Harper, everything is going according to plan

    from his twisted point of view, this was an excellent appointment

  31. Once she decides to do her job, the CONs will be done with her…

  32. Shock! Frogger feels CON appointee is beyond the hack-ism that her own government intended her to reach.
    Although no doubt her hackery is no worse than her predecessor (in the former position – i can't remember his name) it is laughable to suggest she's impartial. Attempting to do her job, possibly.

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