by Paul Wells
Justin Trudeau’s government was three weeks old when his office released ethics guidelines for cabinet ministers.
Trudeau was eager for everyone to notice.
“We will uphold the highest standards of integrity and impartiality both in our public and private affairs,” Trudeau said in the accompanying news release. “The documents we are releasing today provide guidance on how we must go about our responsibilities as ministers, and I encourage Canadians to read them and to hold us accountable for delivering these commitments.”
So why don’t we?
Let’s begin down here, under Section IV.1, Ministerial Conduct: Cabinet ministers “have an obligation to perform their official duties and arrange their private affairs in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny. This obligation is not fully discharged merely by acting within the law.”
From there it’s a short hop to Annex B, Fundraising and Dealing With Lobbyists. “Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must ensure that political fundraising activities or considerations do not affect, or appear to affect, the exercise of their official duties or the access of individuals or organizations to government.” Well, that can be a tough call, after all. With a government like this one, one that’s trying to do absolutely everything all at once, who can tell what affects the exercise of their duties? Perhaps there’s some simpler test.
Ah. Next paragraph: “There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.”
So it would be a bad thing for people doing business with the government to be able to buy access to cabinet ministers by making large contributions to the Liberal party?