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Strengthening the role of the Ethics Commissioner

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On April 11, 2006, the Government of Canada introduced the Federal Accountability Act and Action Plan, delivering on its commitment to make government more accountable. The Federal Accountability Act received Royal Assent on December 12, 2006. This is one of a series of fact sheets describing proposed actions to respond to this commitment.

The context

Canadians expect elected representatives and public office holders to make decisions in the public interest, without any consideration of personal gain. Public office holders must perform their official duties and arrange their private affairs in a manner that will avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest.

What this means for Canadians

These measures will create a strong conflict of interest and ethics regime to help build public confidence in our system of government and parliamentary institutions. By enshrining the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders into law, the Government will ensure that the current and future Prime Ministers abide by a consistent set of rules.

The Action Plan

The Government of Canada has strengthened the role of the Ethics Commissioner. Effective July 9, 2007, the Federal Accountability Act:

  • enshrine the provisions of the current Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders into a new Conflict of Interest Act;
  • prevents the Prime Minister from overruling the Commissioner on whether the Prime Minister, a minister, or other public-office holder has violated this Act;
  • prohibits the use of blind management agreements ("venetian blind trusts"), meaning that public-office holders will either have to sell assets in an arm's-length transaction or place them in a fully blind trust; and
  • gives the public the ability to bring forward, through a Member of Parliament, information to the Commissioner for consideration and action, as appropriate.

On June 12, 2007, the Federal Accountability Act:

  • gives the new Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner the power to administer the proposed Conflict of Interest Act, initiate formal investigations, and levy monetary penalties for administrative breaches under this Act;

In addition, the Prime Minister has issued a revised edition of Accountable Government: A Guide for Ministers and Secretaries of State that includes ethical guidelines and guidelines for political activities of public office holders. These guidelines will ensure public confidence in the integrity, objectivity and impartiality of government is conserved and enhanced.

For more information

For more information on this specific measure, please refer to the relevant section of the Action Plan, or contact us.

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