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By now, many of you readers have probably heard the news, ethics commissioner, Mario Dion, found Prime Minister Justin Trudeau contravened a section of the federal Conflict of Interest Act in the way he pressured the then attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, regarding SNC-Lavalin.
Though he was found to have violated this act, there is nothing in the Conflict of Interest Act that allows the commissioner to impose any sort of punishment or sanction against the Prime Minister for his actions in this case. The only power the ethics commissioner has, punishment wise, is to impose fines of up to $500 on MPs who meet certain reporting rules. These fines do not apply to a section nine violation, which is the section the Prime Minister was found to be in contravention of.
I think this case shows the Conflict of Interest Act needs to be changed to allow the commissioner more power to hold members of our federal government to account.
Basically, under the current rules, if you violate section nine of the act, a report is created by the commissioner, the report is sent to the prime minister and then made public, and that’s it. The only person then who can punish the prime minister is the prime minister himself. And even if he had been eligible for the fine, what would docking the leader of the country a mere $500 do? It surely isn’t a big enough number to send any sort of a message. The only real loss for the politician in this case is a slight hit to their reputation.
To me, this shows that the process is broken. There is no accountability in this process. It should give someone who acts as a non partisan investigator the ability to render judgement and lay penalties on any member of parliament, even if that certain member is a leader of a party, or leader of this country. The government needs to review and alter this act to decide what would be an appropriate punishment for a contravention of any section of this act to deter the politician from doing it again. Whether that be a suspension, a reprimand, a fine higher than $500 or something else.
I understand this is election season, and this report could be harmful itself to the current governing party popularity wise, but I think if anything is to come out of the mess of the SNC-Lavalin scandal, it should be more powers for the Ethics Commissioner and stricter conflict of interest rules.
It may be the fact I’m a reporter, but I take a conflict of interest very seriously, and I hope all political representatives do as well. I hope a conversation will soon be had at the federal level about how to improve the Conflict of Interest Act.