Saturday, March 04, 2006

Unanswered Questions

First of all, let me say that I agree with Paul Wells that Bernard Shapiro should resign. There's no point in having an ethics commissioner if no one is willing to accept his legitimacy. And so long as there is no rule against floor crossing, I really don't think these matters should be investigated.

That said, this entire affair is just bizarre and raises a ton of questions. I won't even begin to try and answer them.

1. Why did Harper strengthen the ethics commissioner's power, in one of his first acts in office, so that his findings could not be overturned? If he thought Shapiro was illegitimate then, he certainly wouldn't have done that. So if he thought Shapiro was legitimate a few weeks ago, has he only changed his mind now that he disagrees with Shapiro's decision?

2. Why did Harper make reference to Shapiro not investigating Brison crossing the floor when Shapiro wasn't even the ethics commissioner then? Should he also investigate Jack Horner?

3. Why did Shapiro choose to investigate this incident, but not Belinda's crossing?

4. Given that the Tories wanted Shapiro to investigate Belinda's crossing, shouldn't they want him to investigate this one?

5. Why did the Tories applaud when Shapiro decided to investigate Ujjal during the "comfy fur" fiasco, but not this incident?

6. If Shapiro stays on, will Harper put any stock into future Shapiro investigations? Or will he only boycott investigations he disagrees with?

7. Isn't it kind of disingenuous of Harper to use a technicality to get out of this by saying "the House wasn't sitting" when this occurred? Wasn't he supposed to be above this sort of stuff? Or was that just campaign talk?

8. If a new Ethics commissioner is put in place, would it be OK for a future PM to refuse to work with him after taking office? Doesn't that sort of politicize the position?

9. If a party disagrees with the choice of the new ethics commissioner, could they refuse to co-operate with him in the future? How would Harper react in that situation?

10. David Emerson said he'd resign if the Ethics commissioner found him guilty of any wrong-doings. This sort of implies to me that Emerson doesn't mind being investigated. Right?

11. (via the comments section) Why has Shapiro chosen to investigate a matter involving a Tory when the house wasn't yet in session when he said during the election that he couldn't investigate Tony Valeri's landflip?


  • It is truly baffling why a fervent preacher like Harper, who ran his campaign from the lofty pulpit of transparency and accountability is now pulling shit like this.

    Sorry, did I say baffling? I meant disgusting. We need a democratic revolution, not more of this Martin/Harper hollow man crap.
    K-Dough's Canada

    By Blogger K-Dough, at 3:32 p.m.  

  • Forgot one

    11. Why has Shapiro chosen to investigate a matter involving a Tory when the house wasn't yet in session when he said during the election that he couldn't investigate Tony Valeri's landflip??

    By Blogger McGuire, at 3:38 p.m.  

  • Fair enough. I'll add point 11, and not just because I don't like Valeri.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 3:41 p.m.  

  • good Post CG.
    Now all you got to do is get it printed in the Herald and Sun so the masses get to think about the questions raised ....
    oops, sorry, that's an oxymoron isn't it- the Herald and Sun helping Albertans to think for themselves?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:28 p.m.  

  • Valeri wasn't investigated because Shapiro was asked to do so in the middle of an election campaign. If he had done so he would have allowed himself to be used as a pawn by the Conservatives who were using it as nothing more than a cheap campaign stunt.

    By Blogger Robert McClelland, at 4:59 p.m.  

  • 3. Why did Shapiro choose to investigate this incident, but not Belinda's crossing?

    Did anyone file a complaint against Stronach? No complaint, no investigation.

    By Blogger Robert McClelland, at 5:03 p.m.  

  • I may be wrong, but I think the NDP (and possibly the Tories) asked him to look into Belinda's crossing.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 5:08 p.m.  

  • There are a few differences between the Stronach and Emerson floor crossings. First, Martin offered Stronach a cabinet post only after she had decided to cross the floor, not as an enticement. Harper bribed Emerson with a cabinet post. Second, the outrage over the Emerson floor crossing was extremely higher than the outrage when Stronach crossed the floor. Third, Stronach's crossing was, at the heart, value oriented.
    Emerson has not said once that he believes in Harper's vision of Canada. Stronach has repeated many times that Harper's vision for Canada was the reason she crossed the floor.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:29 p.m.  

  • I think you may be wrong too, Bart. I can't find such a complaint and none of the conservatives have found any reference to one either.

    By Blogger Robert McClelland, at 5:43 p.m.  

  • I'm glad Shapiro is investigating Emerson and at the end I hope he'll have to resign. Why is Election Canada not investigating Emerson? This is not floor crossing this is election fraud.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:04 p.m.  

  • Most important thing is this

    Was Emerson offered a cabinet position before he crossed the floor?

    If yes then he's gone...because according to some ethical thing in Ottawa...YOU CAN'T

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:25 p.m.  

  • Re. Belinda; didn't the Tories, in the person of John Reynolds, seek at minimum a cursory investigation from the Ont Attorney Gen dept, bypassing Shapiro? I can see where all these Tories -- or is it now the Anonymous party? -- are p/o'd at what looks like double standards, but Shapiro is not acting on his own request. A handful of MPs plus numerous letters from citizens, have asked him to look into this Harper-Emerson deal. His ruling on the Grewal-Dosanjh spat came down to: 'If one party was to offer a bribe or inducement for the other to cross the floor, that would be a serious issue ethically.' There's no denying that there is more than circumstantial evidence to support an investigation into Emerson/Harper.
    But watch. The Tories are going to ramp up their Republican-style attack on BShapiro's person, and will stick to that defence against those who try to catch them in the future. That's if Canadians are as guillible as our neighbours down south.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:32 p.m.  

  • If the Tories say this stuff is Ok, does that mean my offer of 4 litres of motor oil and a slightly chipped Gordon Lightfoot CD IS FAIR bargain to get out of that parking ticket next time? Should Vancouver Canucks GM Dave Nonis be able to make Tomas Kaberle an offer (after he signs a new contract) to relocate to a winning (at least more than the Leafs) team? Maybe Supreme Court justices, in Harper's world, can avoid those ugly 6-4 split votes -- we can just say its unanimous by inviting the losers to join with the victors.
    How about anyone disagreeing with a superior power is automatically given a quick case of character assassination?
    Exactly what does Harper want us to read into his waffling, moaning and bribing-style of politics? And is that what you Conservatives want - for your children or the future of our country?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:54 p.m.  

  • Forgive me if this is wrong. It was an early news article that I read right after Emerson switched. Could someone please confirm or deny.

    The question people seem to be focused on is was Emerson offered a cabinet post before changing parties. If you'll remember, he was, however he was not forced to change parties. He was offered the cabinet post directly, then he decided to change parties afterwards. He didn't have to switch to get the post, therefore wasn't bribed to switch parties.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:20 p.m.  

  • Let's try to have a brain here, OK? The Prime Minister can offer a Cabinet post to anyone he pleases. There is no requirement they be from his party. BUT, if he offered the position in order to receive a quid pro quo (say, like a confidence-saving vote. . .) that would be unethical. It's about time you guys realized that the party system is not a construct of the constitiution or the elections act, and parties are just groups of people with no more rights (supposedly) than anyone else. Citizens vote for other citizens, and they may vote for many reasons including party affiliation, but it is the person that is elected.

    As for Shapiro, he's become a laughing stock for his Liberal-lap-dog act. Harper strengthened the office, not the POS who presently occupies it. If Shapiro had an ounce of hounour, or even self-respect, he'd resign and let Harper appoint (or perhaps have Parliament appoint) a non-partisan ethics commisioner.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:58 p.m.  

  • I confess I'm baffled by Liberals taking a hostile view towards Shapiro's decision. Why didn't he investigate Stronach's defection? Because she didn't defect two weeks after the election! Emerson and Harper pulled off their ill advised little coup while the ink was barely dry on donations Liberals made to elect a Liberal MP.

    The Conservatives are very keen on the idea of witchfinders-general so long as they're not on the business-end - Shapiro is hardly a partisan hack, and if we accept Harper's hardline "attack the neutral authority" tactics, it sets an awful precedent.

    Don't like the allegations? Attack the watchdog! Smear the whistleblower! Harper will do as much as this as he can get away with.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:42 p.m.  

  • An none of Shapiros past psooible malfeasance and incompetence means its ok for a Prime Miniter, any Prime Minister, to refuse to cooperate with the office during an investigation.

    Especially one that ran a campaign on not being corrupt like the other guy, on being ethical and on having a more transparent government.

    All of which he promply tossed out when he took the oath.

    He could have dumped Shapiro on his first day. He didn't.

    Shapiro, for once, is doing his fucking job.

    Deal with it.

    By Blogger Mike, at 10:50 p.m.  

  • No matter what Shapiro or the Liberal/NDP opposition coalition may say.....Emerson was right to join the cabinet and try to get something positive done for the country rather than playing politics and Harper was right to reach outside his own party to find someone to show he was willing to govern through a broader coalition than the Conservative party. Polls show that the majority of Canadians approve of what Harper is doing...most people are tired of elections and want the government to get on with the work of governing.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:39 a.m.  

  • A few points:
    1) The House isn't sitting, ergo according to Shapiro himself, the floor crossing of Emerson is not something he can investigate (per his argument re Valeri).
    2) The House isn't sitting, so the Accountability Act has not yet been tabled, ergo Shapiro's role has not yet been strengthened.
    3) Shapiro was found in contempt of the House, and Ed Broadbent called for his resignation. He has zero credibility.

    Harper should can Shapiro & either appoint Ed Broadbent (if he'll take the job) or have a multi-party committee select a new Commissioner. If THAT Commissioner believes there is something to investigate in the floor crossing (I expect Ed would, anyway), then he should do that.

    By Blogger Candace, at 2:24 a.m.  

  • I think Ed Broadbent would make a fantastic ethics commissioner. I am a Conservative supporter, but Broadbent is respected by all parties in my oppinion.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:06 a.m.  

  • Who shall guard the guards?

    Clearly something stinks in Denmark (on the Rideau), and the stench emanates from both the former governing party and the current one. The average citizen reads or hears about the shenanigans and shakes his or her head, disbelievingly.

    There are two issues: (1) Whether we need an ethics commissioner to keep Parliamentarians on the straight and narrow and if so what kind of commissioner with what kind of powers. (2) Should the Emerson-Harper deal be investigated and should Harper cooperate with the ethics commissioner.

    In my view the answer in both cases is Yes.

    Yes to a properly constituted Ethics Commissioner, appointed as a member of the civil service, with a legislated independent mandate, and an a mandate to be impartial.

    Yes to Harper and Emerson cooperating with the Ethics Commissioner.

    Stephen Harper campaigned on a platform of ethics, as Mr Clean, bringing a new broom to the capital city. He won a narrow victory. Now it is time for him to govern in a clean and ethical manner. By doing these two things – passing legislation for an independent ethics commissioner, and cooperating re the Emerson walkabout – he will be acting in accordance with promises made before the election.

    By not doing these two things, he will be breaking promises made to the voters.

    It is as simple as that, and no contortions of logic an obscure this moral simplicity.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:46 a.m.  

  • Two points, both of which are really semantics and will most likely be disregarded by anyone who doesn't want to hear them.

    First, the difference between Valeri and Emerson/Harper is that in the middle of an election campaign, there are no MPs. All of them ceased to be MPs on the date of dissolution. No MPs, no one subject to the Code, and no one for Shapiro to investigate. On January 23 Emerson and Harper both were re-elected, and as such were again subject to the Code. Valeri got his ass deservedly kicked, and as he is still not an MP, is still not in Shapiro's jurisdiction.

    On the "found in contempt of the House" thing -- not quite. Shapiro has never been found in contempt of the House. Why? Because a committee doesn't have that power -- only the House itself can find someone in contempt and the Committee's report was never adopted. Also, it is interesting to note that in making it's findings, the Committee said that his breaches were not "deliberate or intentional."

    Now, on to the question at hand: is Shapiro doing anything wrong? Maybe. Has he said that Harper and/or Emerson did anything wrong? not at all. He has said that he received complaints and will investigate. Sounds pretty reasonable to me. But is there really a valid issue for him to investigate? That's a little tougher to say since all I've seen is media reports about the grounds that he's investigating on.

    From what I gather, and I would appreciate being corrected by anyone who knows more, he is investigating whether Emerson breached the Code by accepting an appointment (ie. Cabinet) that would further his personal interestes (ie. pay cheque etc...) and whether Harper breached it by making the offer. In effect dealing with section 8 of the Code (the same one used to investigate Grewal/Dossanjh). Section 8 says that:

    "When performing parliamentary duties and functions, a Member shall not act in any way to further his or her private interests or those of a member of the Member’s family, or to improperly further another person’s private interests."

    However, there is a caveat. Under definitions, it is explaind what is and is not furthering private interests, and apparently 3.(3)(c) of the Code says:

    3) For the purpose of this Code, a Member is not considered to further his or her own private interests or the interests of another person if the matter in question...
    c) concerns the remuneration or benefits of the Member as provided under an Act of Parliament.

    You mean like those Acts of Parliament concerning MP and Ministerial salaries? Looks like it's clear the Code doesn't apply to this situation.

    Bottom line: call him incompetent, I think he's proved that. But to dismiss him as a partisan hack simply because he's now investigating you is ridiculous.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:54 p.m.  

  • I think the bottom line of all of this is that it completely undermines any confidence anyone's built up in some kind of renaissance of accountability and non-partisanship on the hill.

    It's just sad and depressing. I have to hand it to the Tory campaign team, they really picked the right issues and got the people who care energized, but it just seems like business as usual.

    Shapiro shouldn't be so stupidly transparent; Harper shouldn't be so casually dismissive. Bleh.

    Can we just redo the whole 'government' thing now please?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:44 p.m.  

  • Can those of you who suggest that Emerons crossing of the floor is as bad or worse than Belindas, please explain to me what the Conservative Party gained as a result of the crossing.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:39 p.m.  

  • There's another element that the Tories and Harpo seem to be forgeting, or at least willing to gamble with. A gov't comes in, generally, with good will and a hefty slice of credibility, as part of a new mandate. Even in a minority, the public has a level of acceptance and even encouragement for the incoming ruling party. It typically takes a gov't and a PM quite some time, usually another election or two, to lose that acceptance level. Harpo, by reducing his commitment to 'changing the way the gov't does things' and his clear republican-influenced approach to both opposition (from opposing parties and the public, as in the Emerson and Fortier items) and media scrutiny, is tossing away this public currency. People of all stripes were shocked and a little upset by the Emerson crossing; and thru TV they saw both Harpo and Emerson say that it was a matter of being offered a role in cabinet that sealed the deal (we still don't know when the negotiations began, but I've heard that its another bombshell to this story which will come out soon). The public overall is likely ready to move on, but this is like flypaper; it hasn't gone away in BC where the tories have 17, er 18 seats. When harpo says he holds no faith in the ethics commissioner, a few more people see him for being a two-faced politician (just as Paul Martin lost credibility upon handing Belinda that cabinet post). This is a slow fire that is causing damage and harpo's way of fighting it, by smearing his attackers as opposed to standing up and taking the criticism, balancing it with action, is wearing thin. If it wasn't hurting, would there be so many 'anonymous tories' out there defending his every move? What happened to those brave enough to sign their name/poster? Huh?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:17 a.m.  

  • Hear hear. I'm reluctant to even make fun of the CPC as 'the party of principle' since I can't even swallow that as a concept for the purposes of a cheap laugh.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:08 a.m.  

  • Although I am quite annoyed at Harper for inviting Emerson I have to agree with some of the points that Harper made about Shapiro.

    Firstly being that since Belinda wasn't investigated, neither should Emerson.

    Secondly, as the Globe and Mail stated, having Shapiro investigate a political decision is dangerous territory.

    Thirdly, I would like to know the order in which the events occured, whether or not Emerson was given a Cabinet position 'in exchange for' his support or if he was simply offered a Cabinet position.

    Finally, my big prediction, for all the talk going on nothing will come of it. Shapiro will investigate, and find that there is insufficient evidence either way and will move on. To do otherwise would be requiring a magic ball to determine one's intentions.

    By Blogger Eric, at 9:33 a.m.  

  • A pox on both their houses, say I.

    There are two issues which interest me here.

    We need to clean up Parliament so that corruption and breach of faith exacts a penalty on the MP who commits those deeds and if needs be the party represented by that MP. If having an Ethics Commissioner with an independent mandate, a clearly defined mandate, and powers to enforce his or her rulings, is an effective way to guard the guards, then good, go ahead and form one.

    (By the way, I would like the Ethics Commissioner to have the power to bench an offending MP for less serious misdeeds, so that the MP cannot vote for a defined period).

    The second issues is a political one, and is Harper’s call. His refusal to cooperate with the current Ethics Commissioner, despite having won power by proclaiming himself Mr Clean fighting Mr Corrupt, sends out loud signals to many: does this man have a double standard? Does he regard himself as above the rules and laws?

    We have seen how the imperial presidency is busily dragging America back into the dark ages. Are we in for an imperial prime ministership under Mr Clean?

    One way to show that he believes he is not above the law is for Harper to cooperate with the Ethics Commissioner on the Emerson walkabout.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:52 a.m.  

  • NDP growls and shows its teeth ...

    They are considering bringing a contempt of Parliament charge against Stephen Harper over his refusal to cooperate with the Ethics Commissioner!

    Peter O’Neil in The Gazette on March 9, writes:

    “Harper, Broadbent noted, is also violating the ethics code requirement that all MPs must co-operate during investigations. "The prime minister is moving in dangerous territory himself, no doubt inadvertently, and he could even be found in contempt of Parliament," Broadbent told CanWest News Service yesterday.... Parliament has the authority, though it has never been used, to throw anyone in jail for contempt of Parliament, according to the latest edition of the authoritative House of Commons Procedure and Practice, by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit. Contempt is defined as "any act or omission which offends against the authority or dignity of Parliament (and) can include disobedience to a legitimate command of the House or libels against it, its officers or its members," according to the Parliament of Canada website. New Democrat MP Peter Julian said yesterday his caucus colleagues, meeting today and tomorrow in Ottawa, will consider whether to raise a motion of contempt against Harper when the new Parliament begins next month.”
    Hardball politics, anyone? And when do we see the Liberals showing some action in defence of Parliamentary rights, rather than hand wringing distress?
    Go for it, Layton! It is part of your job.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:11 a.m.  

  • Now that the NDP is asking Shapiro to widen the investigation to include Belinda, do you think he'll comply? And why didn't the NDP ask Shapiro to investigate Paul Martin too?

    And why isn't the media all over this?

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 9:21 a.m.  

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