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Media Release


Thursday, April 17, 2003

OTTAWA - Today, the nation-wide Government Ethics Coalition called on the Prime Minister and Cabinet to close the loopholes that would be left if the reports of the Senate and House committees were followed in creating a new ethics enforcement system.  If the loopholes are not closed, the Coalition does not believe that the new system will be strong enough to ensure honest, ethical government.

"MPs, and especially Senators, are recommending an ethics enforcement system with serious loopholes to protect themselves from accountability, instead of protecting the public interest," said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch and Chairperson of the Government Ethics Coalition.

The Coalition supports the following recommendations made by both the House of Commons Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the Senate Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament in their April 10, 2003 reports:

However, both committees have serious gaps in their recommendations, gaps that will greatly weaken the enforcement of ethical standards, as follows: In order to have an effective, comprehensive government ethics system, the Coalition also believes that the following gaps in the current system must be closed by the following new measures: "Even if the Prime Minister changes the proposed ethics system as recommended by the Senate and House committees, the public will be denied the right to file ethics complaints, some ethics rulings will still be kept secret, penalties for unethical behaviour will still be too weak, lobbyists and public servants will still not have an independent ethics watchdog, and ethical whistleblowers will still not be adequately protected," said Conacher.  "These key gaps in the government’s proposed new ethics system must be closed to ensure and honest and ethical federal government."

National surveys in the past decade have consistently shown that 80% of Canadians want strong ethics rules for politicians and public servants, and in May 2002, the Liberals' own polling firm reported that 45% of Canadians believe the Liberals are corrupt.  In a 1996 Supreme Court of Canada case about a public servant accused of an ethical breach, the Court stated: ". . . given the heavy trust and responsibility taken on by the holding of a public office or employ, it is appropriate that government officials are correspondingly held to codes of conduct which, for an ordinary person, would be quite severe."

Democracy Watch’s nation-wide, 30-member group Government Ethics Coalition will continue to push for stronger and more comprehensive measures to be included in the changes that are finally made to the federal ethics rules and the ethics enforcement system.

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Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch
Chairperson of the Government Ethics Coalition
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Democracy Watch's Government Ethics Campaign
Democracy Watch homepage