A transparency-measuring contest - Macleans.ca

A transparency-measuring contest

The rush to be seen being accountable

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On Sunday, Justin Trudeau teased that the Liberals would soon come forward with new ideas to increase transparency around the expenses of MPs and senators.

Yesterday, Conservative Senate leader Marjory LeBreton said she’ll introduce a motion that will call on the auditor general to audit Senate expenses.

Liberal Senate leader James Cowan then said the House of Commons should also be audited.

Meanwhile, Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux is proposing a bill that would force party leaders to endorse all political ads run by their respective parties. Mr. Lamoureux tells the Star he doesn’t know if Mr. Trudeau supports his idea, but if the Liberals do support it, there’s surely nothing stopping them from unilaterally imposing the rule on themselves regardless of whether the bill ever passes the House.

If a political leader is willing to accept whatever grief might result from implementing reforms, there are easy points to be scored now on transparency. Full disclosure of MP expenses would seem an obvious proposal to make. But so too would new oversight for government advertising (as the BC NDP proposed in January and as the Ontario Liberals have already implemented).

Less sexy, but more important would be commitments to reform the access to information system, establish the Parliamentary Budget Officer as an independent and well-funded institution and overhaul the estimates process.