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Ontario case shows politicians should not be allowed to enforce laws, especially laws that apply to other politicians

Set out below is an op-ed by Democracy Watch Board Member Duff Conacher which was published in Edmonton Sun on October 4, 2012 and the Globe and Mail on October 5, 2012

While all Canadian politicians should have more resources and do more to hold the government and Cabinet ministers accountable, especially on spending issues, their power to make rulings and penalize ministers and others should be taken away because they almost always make  decisions based on politics and party lines, instead of principles and facts.

Ontario Liberal Cabinet minister Chris Bentley is facing the likelihood of being found in contempt by the provincial legislature because opposition parties have a majority of seats — there is no way he would have faced such a ruling if the Liberals had a majority.

The power of the Speaker of the legislature to make such rulings should also be taken away because the Speaker is also a partisan politician.

The best way to ensure honesty, transparency and respect by all politicians is to pass an honesty-in-politics law, close loopholes in open government laws, increase the standards of behaviour required in the legislature, and have all complaints referred to the independent agencies that watch over integrity and open government.

The commissioners who head these agencies do need to be made more independent by requiring approval of appointments from all party leaders, and in some cases more accountable by ensuring all their rulings can be appealed to the courts if the make a factual or legal error, but other than that they have much more fair investigation and ruling processes than politicians do.

Making these changes would result in more democratic good government across Canada.

For more details, go to Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign