Oh, boo hoo. Poor Stephen Harper. Barely in office a month, and already he’s got the ethics watchdog snapping and snarling at him. From the Toronto Star:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is attacking the legitimacy of the federal ethics watchdog after he announced an investigation of Harper’s conduct recruiting David Emerson to the Conservative cabinet.
In a letter made public yesterday, Bernard Shapiro said he has decided to embark on a preliminary investigation into whether Harper complied with the conflict-of-interest code for MPs when he brought Emerson, who had just been re-elected as a Liberal, into the Tory fold.
Shapiro’s decision prompted new criticism that Harper is ignoring his vow to practise more ethical, accountable politics.
“Mr. Ethics himself is now under investigation by the ethics commissioner,” crowed Liberal MP Wayne Easter, one of three opposition MPs who asked Shapiro to look into the events surrounding Emerson’s unexpected emergence as Conservative trade minister.
But in a surprising move, Harper’s office responded by trying to discredit the ethics commissioner, who was named to his post by former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin.
“This guy’s got a real pattern of attacking Conservative MPs and not Liberal MPs,” said Sandra Buckler, Harper’s director of communications.
She suggested the latest investigation has persuaded Harper he has to get rid of Shapiro.
“This Liberal appointee’s actions have strengthened the Prime Minister’s resolve to create a truly non-partisan Ethics Commissioner, who is accountable to Parliament,” she wrote in an email.
Buckler also argued that, since the Emerson affair happened when Parliament wasn’t in session, Shapiro has no right to investigate.
In his letter to House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken, Shapiro said he will also investigate the actions of Emerson.
“Although the subject of this inquiry is the Prime Minister, given that the actions of Messrs. Harper and Emerson in this incident were intertwined, questions will no doubt be raised during the course of the preliminary inquiry on the conduct of Mr. Emerson as well.”
The Commons conflict-of-interest code bars any MP from trying to induce another MP to take a course of action to further his or her private interests.
Emerson, the former Liberal industry minister, set off an angry reaction among Liberal supporters in his Vancouver-Kingsway riding when he was sworn in as a Conservative cabinet minister on Feb. 6.
Explaining that sequence of events, Harper told reporters on that day that he felt Emerson had served the Liberals well in cabinet.
“Obviously that service (was) over,” Harper continued, “so I decided to call him and suggest that I thought his talents would be best used on the government benches rather than in opposition … I’m pleased that he accepted that offer.”
Bryon Wilfert (Richmond Hill), another Liberal who wrote to Shapiro, said that if the commissioner finds that the Prime Minister or Emerson breached the MPs’ code, “I think the steps would have to be resignation.”
New Democrat MP Peter Julian, who also requested an investigation by Shapiro, said the whole affair is a sign that, when it comes to ethical behaviour, Harper’s Conservatives are no different from Martin’s team.
“This is a wake-up call on the first few weeks of his government and the fact that he has governed, in my mind, exactly the way the Liberals governed.”
And here he promised us change. Good thing I voted for the NDP, and not this clown.
And isn’t this just so typical of how conservatives, big C or small, operate? They make political hay out of their opponents’ ethical lapses while expecting the rest of us to ignore theirs, which are every bit as glaring. (What was it Jesus said again about not picking at a speck in your neighbor’s eye when there’s a big ol’ plank in your own? Something like that.)
Another typical conservative trait: shooting at the messenger, instead of taking the message to heart. Instead of accepting the ethics commissioner’s verdict, the Conservatives are now attacking and smearing the ethics commissioner for daring to criticize them! How ethical is that?
No wonder Benjamin Disraeli said, “A Conservative Government is an organized hypocrisy.”