Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

May 07, 2009 11:22 ET

Government of Canada Takes Important Step to Strengthen Ethical Standards in Parliament

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 7, 2009) - Following through on the government's commitment to Senate reform, the Hon. Steven Fletcher, Minister of State (Democratic Reform) introduced legislation today to place ethics standards for the Senate and the House of Commons under a single ethics officer. The legislation builds on the measures brought forward in the Federal Accountability Act to increase accountability and strengthen democracy in Canada.

"Canadians expect that all parliamentarians will be subject to consistent ethical standards," said Minister Fletcher. "This bill moves us closer to making an Upper House that is more democratic and accountable and an institution that Canadians can be proud of."

The Senate Ethics Act amends the Parliament of Canada Act to eliminate the separate office of Senate Ethics Officer and bring the Senate and House of Commons ethics codes under the jurisdiction of a single, independent Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

The government has committed to reforming the Senate to reflect the ideals of a 21st-century democracy, by limiting Senate terms to eight years, giving Canadians a say over who represents them in the Upper House and harmonizing the Senate ethics regime with the House of Commons.

The Senate Ethics Act is the first step in meeting that commitment and the government will be introducing further Senate reform legislation in the near future.

"Ensuring integrity in the political system was a key aspect of our government's Federal Accountability Act," said Minister Fletcher. "The Senate Ethics Act will ensure that a consistent approach to ethical standards will be applied to all parliamentarians."


BACKGROUNDER

An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Senate Ethics)

The Senate Ethics Act will amend the Parliament of Canada Act to eliminate the office of the Senate Ethics Officer and give a single, independent Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner a mandate to apply a common approach to ethics for senators, members of the House of Commons and public office holders. If passed, this legislation will help create a more accountable and democratically legitimate Senate, providing a solid basis for further reform.

The bill also includes transitional provisions respecting the reappointment of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, as well as the transfer of appropriations and personnel from the office of the Senate Ethics Officer to the office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

The proposed bill will restore the original provisions proposed in the Federal Accountability Act when that bill was first introduced in Parliament and passed by the House of Commons.

Current Provisions of the Parliament of Canada Act: A Separate Senate Officer

The Parliament of Canada Act currently establishes two different ethics officers: the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and the Senate Ethics Officer.

The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner's mandate includes the administration of the Conflict of Interest Code for members of the House of Commons, as well as the ethical rules for public office holders in the Conflict of Interest Act. The Commissioner's mandate also includes the provision of confidential policy advice and support to the Prime Minister in respect of conflict of interest and ethical issues in general.

The office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner was established in 2006 when the Federal Accountability Act was passed, replacing the previous office of the Ethics Commissioner. The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner is appointed by the Governor in Council following consultations with the leader of every recognized party in the House of Commons and after approval of the appointment by the House of Commons. The current Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner is Mary Dawson, who was appointed in July 2007 for a seven-year term.

The Senate Ethics Officer is appointed by the Governor in Council following consultations with the leader of every recognized party in the Senate and after approval of the appointment by the Senate. The current Senate Ethics Officer is Jean Fournier, who was appointed in April 2005 for a seven-year term.

Federal Accountability Act

When the Federal Accountability Act was introduced in April 2006, the Government proposed the creation of a single Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to replace the separate Ethics Commissioner and Senate Ethics Officer. The bill was passed by the House of Commons with this measure in June 2006. However, on two occasions, the Senate rejected the provisions that would provide the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner with a mandate to administer the Senate ethics code and instead insisted on preserving a separate Senate Ethics Officer. The Government ultimately accepted the Senate's amendments in order to secure timely passage of the Federal Accountability Act.

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of State for Democratic Reform
    Cherie Godin
    613-943-6975