Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Transparency and Accountability

CTV: PM preparing to dump ethics commissioner

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is either so arrogant as to think that he can get away with replacing the Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner while Mr. Shapiro is in the process of investigating him, or he is too clueless to understand that this is more than a problem of bad optics. The ethics commissioner is a Parliamentary officer. If he can not be independent and must be concerned for his job if he investigates the Prime Minister then the office and function of the ethics commissioner in Parliament is empty and meaningless. The precedent this will set is injurious to Parliament.

Since the Ethics Commissioner can only be removed for cause, and this would require a resolution of the House of Commons - is this really something that Harpo wants to put before the House? Regardless of what they think of Shapiro, the opposition caucuses would be foolish to support such a motion.

I'm not sure at this point if this is an uber-dick move, or quail scurry and cover.


Anonymous said...

It truly amazes me how much stock you Liberals put into this Ethics Commissioner. When he investigated Abotech and Liberal MP Smith, he didn't even know the public servant (who since was fired) and Smith were cousins. Yet nothing went wrong in his eyes. Why did he write a letter to Jason Kenny stating that "because the house isn't sitting I have no mandate to investigate any member of parliament"? As far as I know the house isn't sitting so why does he want to investigate now? Everybody knows how the investigation will turn out. So lets cut through all the crap, let Mr. Shapiro render his verdict right now (because he already knows the outcome), fire his sorry ass, and put in place someone like Shiela Fraser who has the respect of ALL parties.

Muad'Dib said...

Harpo! Can I use that? :)

Excellent post!


Anonymous said...

He cannopt be removed without just cause? I think you are right there.

The entire house committee determined that Shaprio had lost the confidence of the house, was in contempt of the house had breached his own ethics and was totally biased.

It was up to Martin at that time to act and remove him. Martin did not do it (why one might ask?) so since it was a decision of the last parliament to remove him they can do it now...before the next parliament sits. ...for cause.

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

Just noticed that CTV claims Harper is preparing to “dump” the Ethics Commissioner.

Oh yippee! Our very own Saturday Night Massacre ...

Brought to us by Harper’s New Tories. His first import from Bushland. What’s next? Stars wars systems? Troops in Iraq? Bloated budgets and deficits?

Can’t wait to see.

CoteGauche said...

Anon: 2 points.

First of all, Shapiro didn't decline to investigate Tony Valeri because the House wasn't sitting, but because Parliament was disolved. Important difference. The House takes numerous recesses and breaks throughout the year, but it is disolved by the Governor General when an election is called.

Secondly - while Shapiro was found in contempt of the Parliaments rules, he was not found to have any bias. The basis for the contempt charge was that he inappropriately spoke to the media. The all party committee that investigated him found no bias, and recommended no sanctions.

Finally, you conveniently missed my point. Regardless of the performance or crediblility of Bernard Shapiro, the PM attacking the ethics commissioner and threatening to replace him while the PM is under investigation is inappropriate, and stupid. The opposition party's could not have written a better script for a man who ran on a platform of accountability and transparency.

Anonymous said...

Well, lets see if he can resurrect a shred of competency and non-partisanship by investigating Brison when asked.

Anonymous said...

CuriosityKilledTheCat . . . I know you are a Liberal but most Liberals know how partial Mr. Shapiro is. Everybody knows what a lap dog is was and is so this is completely a non-issue. And, you seem to align the Tories with the U.S. Well, to answer your "wait and see" comment, just watch Canada get some favourable results now that we have a party in place who don't consider the Americans bastards. We don't have to jump when the Americans snap their fingers but we don't have to keep poking them in the eye and then expect them to rule favourably on issues that are important to all Canadians.

CoteGauche said...

Anon: which policies do you think we should have supported the US on?

War in Iraq?

Balistic Missile Defense?

Should we have rolled over on softwood lumber or the BSE beef?

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for Shapiro to investigate Brison and Stronach, were the offers made to them unethical, I guess we will never know because it will never happen. Shapiro's days are numbered by his own inactions with these two instant former cabinet ministers.

Anonymous said...

shapiro, fire the waste of skin.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: Shapiro was not Ethics Commissioner when Brison crossed the floor, I guess that is why he did not investigate. Regarding Stronach, was a formal, written complaint filed with the office of the Ethics Commissioner? Not that I know of. However, a formal, written complaint was filed with the office of the Ethics Commissioner by Opposition members in the case of Emerson, hence the investigation. In this case Harper approached a Cabinet minister with an offer - subtle but real difference. Cabinet ministers remain ministers until a new government is sworn in, e.g., Pettigrew remained Foreign Affairs Minister for weeks, despite losing his seat in January, until the day McKay was sworn in as MFA. And Emerson was a Minister, duly-appointed by the GG, when he was approached by Harperoney.

fiddlefaddle said...

Conservatives are dancing as the bullets fly at their feet over this one. Mr. Clean gave no thought to the electorate when he pulled Emerson out of the bag; this was all about getting revenge on the Liberals and Stevie just pulled a plain ol' .... up. His udder contempt for voters and a conceit not seen since .... since .... George Bush, has now got Mr. Clean dancing so fast he just might shed that pot belly of his. He'd better call for some of that Canadian talent in Washington to help with this one.

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

Mr. Clean goes to Ottawa, and one of the first things he does is state that the rules which apply to all elected politicians do not apply to him because he does not want them to.

So he has his spokesperson tell the world that they don’t want to obey those rules because they don’t like the ruler. As if any defendant in the dock of any court in any land in the whole wide world would say he liked the judge and jury and prosecutor. Not liking somebody who is investigating whether you broke the rules is human nature.

But unlike all those others, Mr. Clean says he has The Power. Resorting to the tried and proven tactics used by the neocons of the US, lead by one Karl Rove, Mr. Clean changes the subject by framing it differently. It is not a question of his conduct in perhaps providing an inducement to an MP to change sides and so perhaps breaching the rules of ethics. Oh no.

It is about the power of the Prime Minister to make cabinet appointments. So there! Take that, EthicsSmethicks Commissioner.

Anybody else beside me here overtones of the imperial response Bush offers so often? I am President, therefore I am all-powerful, therefore I am above the law, therefore I can disregard those who would call me to account for breaking the laws.

Is Mr. Clean really going to argue that because he is the head-elected-honcho in Canada, his power to appoint anybody he wants to, to the Cabinet cannot be questioned?

Really? How interesting. How presumptious. How arrogant ...

I wonder if Canadians are going to go along with this bushian logic coming from Harper.

Because if they do, they are agreeing with a man who claims he can appoint anyone to any post without any oversight. Even if that person gave Harper a bribe? Are cabinet seats now open to the highest bidder, because Harper is head-democratically-elected-honcho in this here land of ours, and nobody has any say over him?

How about it, then, Mr Harper – why not open a Dutch auction for some really nice posts? Want to be Ambassador to France? Offer the Prime Minister a princely sum and its yours. Illegal? Hell, no – he is the Prime Minister and nobody can oversee how he does this job of appointing people ...

See how easily framing changes the nature of the discussion: suddenly Harper is defending democracy in refusing to cooperate with an ethics commissioner appointed by Parliament who is investigating whether one of the foundations of democracy was damaged by an MP perhaps being offered and accepting an inducement to take office as a Cabinet minister.

Harper’s Rovian framing makes it simple: Harper is good. Ethics Commissioner is bad. End of story.

And Canadians are the losers.

CoteGauche said...

This aught to be a fun session of parliament if Harpo tries to put forward a resolution to dismiss Mr. Shapiro. Regardless of the other parties opinions of Shapiro - they aught to have at Harpo like a birthday pinata.

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

Harper’s baby going out with the dishwater?

Harper campaigned and won on the basis that the Liberal government was corrupt, and he and his new government were going to clean up Ottawa. His ethical responsibility program struck a chord with many voters who were appalled by the corruption, shown in the Quebec adscam, and general indifference shown by Martin and his cabinet to ethical issues. So voters gave Harper a slim margin to carry out reforms and clean up Ottawa.

Now, out of hubris, Harper is fighting a legally appointed Ethics Commissioner and assuming a position of being above the law.

This politically disasterous move by Harper risks his government, removes from his party the ethical advantage which brought them into Ottawa, and, most of all, reveals Harper as the man many voters thought him to be before the election – rigid, convinced of his righteousness, and intolerant.

Harper’s response is inept and troublesome. Are there no advisors who can make him see that his tactics on this are lose-lose?

He will not win this one. Nor is it important that he does; what he should be doing is carrying out the promises he gave voters, and instituting as soon as possible realistic, workable and effective ethics rules for Ottawa, without loopholes ...

Voters will hold him accountable if he ends up using bait-and-switch tactics on the ethics issue; he won’t get repeat business from them come the next election.

CoteGauche said...

I also think that Ed Broadbent should STFU. The opinion of that old windbag and a quarter will get you a phone call. His continuing to undermine and attack the ethics commissioner only calls into question his own integrity.

Once more - I am no big fan of Shapiro, but parliamentarians of all parties need to circle the wagons here to protect the independence of the office.

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

One Martin, Two Martins; One Probe, Two Probes; Next Step, the Clean Parliament Act...

So NDP MP Martin has asked the Ethics Commissioner to investigate the Stronach/Martin walkabout.

Good for him! One of the strongest tenets of a working democracy founded on the rule of law is that there should be one law, for all.

Every MP has the right to ask the Ethics Commissioner to investigate. This is one of the checks and balances in our Parliament.

This is one way we manage to guard the guards.

Now, the Ethics Commissioner should investigate both the Emerson and Stronach walkabouts, using all the powers of his office to ensure that all MPs he wishes to talk to about these matters, obey the law and give him the cooperation the law says is due to him.

And then, when the dust is settled, let us have the NDP and Bloc cooperate in introducing the Clean Parliament Act, being some real legislation on ethics. No loopholes, no vagueness, sharp clarity about walkabouts, lobbyists etc. It would stand a good chance of being passed if the Bloc, NDP and Liberals want it to.

Take a very brave and very foolish party to oppose the Clean Parliament Act given recent events.

CoteGauche said...

With a minority government, Harper is going to continue with his boycott of the ethics commissioner as long as the opposition partys continue to indicate that they are going to tollerate it.

Let's see if the opposition can get it together with a motion to censure Harpo.