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Media Release


Thursday, February 6, 2003

OTTAWA - Today, in testimony before the House Procedural Affairs Committee, the nation-wide Government Ethics Coalition called on the Committee, the federal government and all Parliamentarians to close key gaps in the proposed ethics rules and ethics enforcement system for Ministers, MPs and Senators. If the gaps are not closed, the Coalition does not believe that the new system will do enough to ensure honest, ethical government.

"Stronger measures than the Prime Minister has proposed are needed to reverse the undemocratic, unethical, secretive and dictatorial habits and attitudes the Liberals have entrenched in the federal government in the past nine years," said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch and Chairperson of the Government Ethics Coalition.

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."

In order to have an open, effective government ethics system, key loopholes and gaps in the federal government's proposed system must be closed through the following changes and new measures:

"Even if the Liberals pass all the proposed rules and changes to ethics enforcement, the Ethics Commissioner will not be as independent as needed, some ethics rulings will likely still be kept secret, public servants will still not have an independent ethics watchdog, penalties for unethical behaviour will still be too weak, and ethical whistleblowers will still not be adequately protected," said Conacher. "These key gaps in the government's proposals must be closed."

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

The Government Ethics Coalition is also pushing for changes to Bill C-15, which amends the federal Lobbyist Registration Act, to require more detailed disclosure of corporate lobbyist activities, and to restrict the influence of lobbyists on the federal government:

Democracy Watch also has two cases before the Federal Court challenging what it believes is bias of the current Ethics Counsellor, and delay by the Ethics Counsellor in ruling on several complaints concerning lobbyists violating ethics rules by putting Cabinet ministers in conflict of interest situations.

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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