Three recent rulings by Federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson are contradictory and further erode confidence in her ability to do her job, according to Duff Conacher of the Democracy Watch, a non-profit that monitors government transparency and ethics issues. A statement by Conacher circulated to media today states:
"Dawson has again ignored evidence and rules in her ruling that Cabinet minister Tony Clement did nothing wrong when he endorsed a company in his riding in a promotional video and in two letters.
"The Ethics Commissioner ruled in March that Cabinet minister Christian Paradis was guilty of giving 'preferential treatment' in violation of section 7 the Conflict of Interest Act setting the standard that it is illegal for ministers 'to use their positions as ministers to provide greater assistance to their constituents than to other Canadians in relation to their own department or larger portfolio.'
"In clear contrast, the Ethics Commissioner only warns Minister Clement not to do this again, instead of finding him guilty.
"And in making that ruling about Minister Clement's appearance in the video, the Ethics Commissioner ignored the letter that Clement also wrote that 'encouraged an individual in Dubai to explore working with' the same company. The Ethics Commissioner also failed to disclose the text of that letter, and another promotional letter, that Clement wrote for the company.
"In contrast, the Ethics Commissioner found former Minister of State Helena Guergis guilty of violating federal ethics rules for writing a very similar letter.
"Given that giving such 'preferential treatment' is a violation of the Act, it is by definition 'improper' which means that the Ethics Commissioner should have also found Minister Clement of violating section 9 of the Act which prohibits acting in ways that 'improperly further another person's private interests.'
"This ruling provides even more evidence that federal government ethics rules will not be properly and effectively enforced as long as Mary Dawson is the Ethics Commissioner."
David Beers is editor of The Tyee.