Ethics czar issues new guidance to ministers, parliamentary secretaries

OTTAWA – The federal ethics commissioner says it may be appropriate for a minister or parliamentary secretary to try to sway a government decision when it is a matter of importance to their constituents.

In issuing the new guidance, Mary Dawson says a cabinet member or parliamentary secretary may wish to speak out or make representations to another minister in the interests of their constituency.

However, before doing so, ministers and parliamentary secretaries must consider whether they or their relatives or friends have private interests that could be advanced by such actions — a clear red flag.

The guidance was quietly issued recently following letters from a minister and several parliamentary secretaries to the federal broadcast regulator.

In February, Dawson admonished Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and two parliamentary secretaries — Eve Adams and Colin Carrie — for breaching the Conflict of Interest Act by writing letters to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in support of radio licence applications.

In a recent case, Dawson did not sanction parliamentary secretary David Anderson for writing a letter to the CRTC urging more diversity in all-news offerings by cable and satellite television providers.

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