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Public has clear right to know what political staffers are doing and what power they have

Set out below is a letter-to-the-editor by Democracy Watch Board member Duff Conacher which was published in the The Epoch Times and Canada.com on August 9, 2012

Liberal spokesperson Sarah Bain says "we simply do not comment on personnel" when asked questions about the Liberals re-hiring Adam Carroll, a former staff person who resigned earlier this year after he ran a Twitter account that disclosed details of Conservative Cabinet minister Vic Toews' divorce proceedings.

This is a shocking statement that unfortunately shows the usual deep lack of understanding about the role and accountability of political staff.

Many political staff who are paid by the public take part in key policy discussions and decisions, and so the public has a clear right to know what they are doing exactly, and what powers they have, and their financial and other private interests. Without this information, the public cannot tell whether staffers are furthering their own, or their family's or friend's interests, with their decisions and actions.

All the parties use staffers to do their dirty work because there are no ethics or other accountability rules that apply to the staff of MPs and senators, and research and other party office staff (the Conflict of Interest Act only applies to the staff of Cabinet ministers).

As the parliamentary committee (Procedure and House Affairs) continues its review the MPs' ethics code this fall, and as the Senate considers changes to its code, they must strongly recommend that this this huge loophole be closed by extending the codes to cover the staff of MPs and senators.

For more details, go to Democracy Watch's Government Ethics Campaign