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News Release


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

OTTAWA - Today, Democracy Watch called the first investigation by federal Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro biased and flawed.  The investigation into the actions of former Cabinet minister Judy Sgro and others was undertaken in response to allegations that Sgro violated federal Cabinet ethics rules (which are set out in the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders).

Democracy Watch called for a new, fair, impartial inquiry into the Sgro situation.

"Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro hired a Liberal Party-connected law firm to investigate a Liberal Cabinet minister, and that makes his ruling on minister Judy Sgro's actions biased and invalid," said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch and Chairperson of the Government Ethics Coalition.  "If the Ethics Commissioner has any integrity he will declare the Sgro investigation biased and flawed and call on the government to establish a fair, impartial inquiry."

To conduct the investigation into Sgro's and others' actions, the Ethics Commissioner hired (without a contract bidding competition) 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 made public today that he has delivered a "confidential advice" letter to Judy Sgro, and the media is reporting that Sgro's staff claim the letter clears the minister of any wrongdoing.  The Ethics Commissioner has not stated when his official ruling on the Sgro situation will be released to the public.  The Ethics Commissioner has cleared other Cabinet ministers of wrongdoing using his right to give secret advice, and has refused in those cases to make public his reasons for concluding that the ministers have not broken any ethics rules.

"Having the Ethics Commissioner give secret advice to politicians is very dangerous, especially when the Commissioner refuses to make public his reasons for finding politicians not guilty of breaking ethics rules," said Conacher.

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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

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