Federal Accountability Action Plan, April 2006
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Strengthening the role of the Ethics Commissioner
- A new Conflict of Interest Act
- A new Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner with powers to fine violators and consider public complaints
- A ban on voting by ministers on matters connected to their business interests
- An end to the use of “venetian blind” trusts
"These measures will create a strong conflict of interest and ethics regime to help build public confidence in our system of government and parliamentary institutions."
Why we are doing this
Canadians expect elected representatives and public-office holders to make decisions in the public interest, without any consideration of personal gain. Public-office holders must perform their official duties and arrange their private affairs in a manner that will avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest.
The Federal Accountability Act will:
- combine the functions of the Ethics Commissioner and Senate Ethics Officer and create a new position of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner;
- enshrine the provisions of the current Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders into a proposed Conflict of Interest Act;
- give the Commissioner, an individual who must have a judicial or quasi-judicial background, the power to administer the Conflict of Interest Act and initiate formal investigations;
- give the Commissioner the power to levy administrative monetary penalties of up to $500 for administrative breaches of this Act’s provisions;
- prevent the Prime Minister from overruling the Commissioner on whether the Prime Minister, a minister, or other public-office holder has violated this Act;
- prohibit ministers from voting on matters connected with their business interests;
- prohibit the use of blind management agreements (“venetian blind” trusts), meaning that public-office holders who are required to divest controlled assets will either have to sell them in an arm’s-length transaction or place them in a fully blind trust;
- provide that all “ministerial advisors” who are part of a minister’s office are subject to this Act; and
- give the public the ability to bring forward, through a Member of Parliament, information to the Commissioner for the Commissioner’s consideration and action, as appropriate. Members of Parliament will be required to attest by oath or affirmation that, in their opinion, public complaints are well founded. The Commissioner will have the authority to reject complaints deemed to be frivolous, vexatious, or made in bad faith.
The Government will articulate ethical guidelines for all public-office holders, including ministers, through a revised edition of Accountable Government: A Guide for Ministers that will include guidelines for political activities.
The Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner will be responsible for administering the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons and the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators. The Commissioner will provide confidential opinions to Members of Parliament and advice to public-office holders on any matter respecting their obligations under these Codes, and will conduct inquiries on behalf of Parliament on questions of compliance with them.
The Government would welcome the opportunity to work with Members of the House of Commons and with Senators to enshrine their respective conflict of interest codes into law.
These measures will create a strong conflict of interest and ethics regime to help build public confidence in our system of government and parliamentary institutions. By enshrining the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders into law, the Government will ensure that future Prime Ministers abide by a consistent set of rules.
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