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Media Release


Tuesday, May 20, 2003

OTTAWA - Today, the nation-wide Government Ethics Coalition called on the federal government to close the serious loopholes in Bill C-34 which creates a new ethics enforcement system for Cabinet, MPs and senators.  Bill C-34 was introduced in Parliament on April 30.  If the loopholes are not closed, the Coalition believes the new system will be hampered by conflicts and too weak to ensure honest, ethical government.

"Prime Minister Chrétien has proposed a new 'swiss-cheese' ethics enforcement system filled with holes that will prove to be fatal flaws," said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch and Chairperson of the Government Ethics Coalition, "especially given that the new ethics watchdogs will conflict with each other, be appointed by Cabinet, operate in secret, and be unaccountable to the public or the courts."

The details of the fatal flaws in Bill C-34's proposed ethics enforcement system are as follows (and for each flaw the Coalition's recommendation for changing Bill C-34 is set out below):

In addition, the Coalition is concerned that Bill C-34 removes the rules in the Parliament of Canada Act that prohibit MPs and senators from being involved in government contracts, with no guarantee that these rules will be included in the new ethics codes to be passed by MPs and senators.

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 Bill C-34 and ethics rules for MPs and senators are passed, the ethics watchdogs will still not be independent, the public will be denied the right to file ethics complaints and appeal rulings, some ethics rulings will be kept secret, penalties for unethical behaviour will be too weak, and ethical whistleblowers will 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."

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 Bill C-34.

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

Democracy Watch's Government Ethics Campaign
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