Hurray for Pat Martin!

I have to admit that those are words that I really never would have imagined myself writing in that order, but what can I say? Absurdly unworkable rulings by well-meaning ethics and conflict of interest commissioners lead to strange bedfellows:

Notice of motion from Pat Martin

May 9, 2008

That the Standing House Committee on and [sic] Ethics report to the House that the Standing Orders of the House of Commons be amended so that in s. 3(3) of Appendix I, Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, the word “or” is dropped after the word “public” in subsection (b), and in its place the following words be added:

(c) if the private interest consists of being named as a defendant in
a lawsuit regarding matters then before Parliament or a Committee of
Parliament; or

and to re-letter the remainder of the subsection accordingly.

It’s worth noting that this is, in fact, exactly what Commissioner Mary Dawson suggested that the House should do, if – emphasis on the ‘if’ – there was a genuine fear that her decision on Thibault could lead to a flood of SLAPPs (strategic lawsuits against parliamentarian participation), although she seemed unconvinced that this was a legitimate concern, perhaps due to the fact that she hasn’t been on the job long enough to become sufficiently cynical about the depth to which our political discourse has sunk. From her final observations:

Concerns have been raised about the use of lawsuits, more particularly libel suits, to
prevent a Member from performing his or her duties in the House of Commons. I cannot
predict whether this may indeed become a problem and I hope it does not. Should this
become a serious concern for Members, however, the Code could be adjusted to except
libel suits from the ambit of “private interest” for the purposes of sections 8 and 13. Such
a step would not appear to be necessary, in any event, in relation to disclosures under
section 12.

Now, the question is – will the committee support Martin’s motion? I guess we’ll find out when it goes up for debate, which could be tomorrow, or Thursday.

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