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News Release


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

OTTAWA - Today, Democracy Watch called the first investigation report by federal Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro (released today) biased and flawed.  The investigation into the actions of former Cabinet minister Judy Sgro and her staff was undertaken in response to allegations that Sgro violated federal Cabinet ethics rules (set out in the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders).  The Commissioner found that Sgro only violated one ethics rule (prohibiting "preferential treatment to any person") even though many other actions by her are clearly covered by the ethics rules.

Even worse, the Ethics Commissioner had clear evidence that members of Sgro's staff (who are covered by the ethics rules) violated the rules but he did not find them guilty of doing so.

"Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro hired former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's lawyer from a law firm with many connections to the Liberal Party to investigate Liberal Cabinet minister Judy Sgro, and even worse he excused many of her and others activities even though they clearly did not uphold the highest ethical standards as required by federal ethics rules," said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch and Chairperson of the Government Ethics Coalition.  "If the Ethics Commissioner has any integrity he will declare his investigation into the Sgro affair biased and flawed and resign."

To conduct the investigation into Sgro's and others' actions, the Ethics Commissioner hired (without a contract bidding competition) David W. Scott and his law firm Borden Ladner Gervais (BLG).  BLG donated $165,000 to the federal Liberals between 2000 and 2003 (2004 donation figures are not yet publicly available); donated more than $25,000 to Paul Martin's campaign for the Liberal Party leadership; has three partners representing Liberals before the Gomery Commission inquiry (David W. Scott and Peter K. Doody representing Jean Chrétien, and Guy J. Pratte representing Jean Pelletier), and; in February 2005 hired Gar Knutson, former Cabinet colleague of Sgro.
 As a result of these many, deep ties between BLG and the Liberal Party, BLG was in a conflict of interest and should never have been involved in any investigation of any Liberal.

Adding to the fiasco of the Sgro investigation, the Ethics Commissioner delivered in mid-May a "confidential advice" letter to Judy Sgro that she made public while claiming that the letter cleared her of any wrongdoing.  Such a letter should not have been made available while his investigation was continuing.

"Having the Ethics Commissioner give secret advice to politicians is very dangerous, especially when the Commissioner refuses to make public rulings made while giving advice," said Conacher.  Democracy Watch will soon launch a legal challenge of the Ethics Commissioner's many biased actions.

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Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179

To see a Democracy Watch op-ed about the biased, flawed operations of the federal Ethics Commissioner, click here

Democracy Watch's Government Ethics Campaign

Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro's report on the Sgro affair: http://www.parl.gc.ca/oec-bce/site/pages/ReportS_EN3_web.pdf

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