Set out below is a letter-to-the-editor by Democracy Watch Coordinator Tyler Sommers which was published in the Huffington Post, July 30, 2012
The federal Conservatives responded to the influence-peddling charges that former Prime Minister Harper adviser Bruce Carson is facing by issuing a statement saying “any individual who doesn’t respect our laws must face their full force, as well as the consequences that come with them.”
This is a deeply hypocritical statement from the Conservatives whose leader, Prime Minister Harper, has done nothing to penalize dozens of Conservative Cabinet ministers and MPs who violated federal good government rules by handing out government cheques labelled with the Conservative Party logo, and has done nothing to penalize Cabinet ministers Christian Paradis (who violated the federal ethics law), Tony Clement (who violated federal spending rules in the G8-G20 fiasco), Jim Flaherty and Peter MacKay (who violated federal budget rules by hiding the actual cost of the fighter jets), Peter MacKay again (who violated rules by using a military helicopter for a personal purpose), and Bev Oda (who violated rules governing expenses, and also misled Parliament).
In some cases, these ministers and others have faced no consequences for violating key rules also because a watchdog agency like the Auditor General or Ethics Commissioner has no power to penalize them, or has failed to enforce the law effectively and properly and no one is allowed to challenge their improper enforcement in court.
Because nothing can be done to force a Prime Minister to penalize Cabinet ministers and politicians who violate rules, the watchdog agencies must be required to conduct random audits and to investigate all complaints and situations in which there is evidence of a violation, and must be given the power to, and required to, penalize violators, and everyone must be allowed to challenge any watchdog in court who fails to enforce rules properly.
As well, the huge loopholes must be closed in key good government laws because these loopholes currently make it legal in many cases for people involved in politics to be dishonest, unethical, secretive and wasteful.
For example, loopholes in the federal lobbying law, and weak enforcement, have meant that no one has been prosecuted for failing to register as a lobbyist since the law was enacted in 1988, and dozens of lobbyists have been let off the hook (archive website). Recently, a House of Commons Committee has recommended some changes to close some of the loopholes in that law, and to strengthen enforcement, but not enough changes to stop secret, unethical lobbying of the federal government.
For more details, go to Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign