Ethics at arm's length [Editorial] [Back]
National Post. Don Mills, Ont.: Jun 25, 2001. pg. A15
The Industry Committee of the House of Commons is calling on Prime Minister Jean Chretien to fulfill an ancient promise. Its 16 members, nine of whom are Liberals, want to strip Howard Wilson, the federal Ethics Counsellor, of his power to investigate lobbying irregularities. That responsibility, they say, should go to a newly created office because "lobbying is the concern of all Members of Parliament, not merely that of the Prime Minister." We agree.
So did the Liberals once upon a time. In the run-up to the
October, 1993, national election, the party assured voters that a Liberal
government would "appoint an independent Ethics Counsellor to advise both
public officials and lobbyists in the day-to-day application of the Code of
Conduct for Public Officials." Mr. Chretien and his colleagues wanted an
independent counsellor following Sinclair Stevens's troubles in 1986, the 1988
Airbus affair, and the controversy surrounding the attempt to privatize
But instead of giving
Under the Lobbyists Registration Act, people who get paid to
lobby politicians and government officials are required to register as
lobbyists and file a detailed report with Industry
The reason, said a Quebec Crown prosecutor, was that the Act is "too vague and that a conviction was unlikely under the circumstances." In response, John Manley, the minister of industry at the time, asked the Industry Committee to examine the Act's enforcement provisions. It now says the enforcement provisions need to be strengthened.
At Mr. Chretien's behest, the Liberals voted down an Opposition motion in February that would have created an independent ethics counsellor overseeing lobbyists. The Industry Committee and its nine Liberal members are properly asking the government to reconsider.