Conservative leader Stephen Harper claims he now wants to improve accountability in government but his public record reveals this is nothing more than political double-speak:
- Stephen Harper opposed amendments to strengthen the Lobbyist Registry (Bill C-15, Lobbyists Registration Amendment Act).
- He voted against the Ethics Bill which created an independent Ethics Commissioner (Bill C-4, Parliament of Canada Amendment Act [Ethics Commissioner and Senate Ethics Officer]).
- He opposed the political financing bill that put tight limits on corporate and union donations and strengthened donation disclosure rules (Bill C-24, Canada Elections Amendment Act [Political Financing]).
- He has opposed all efforts to put limits on the influence of third-party advertising during election campaigns, even fighting the issue at the Supreme Court as president of the National Citizens Coalition. Mr. Harper said he will repeal these rules if he becomes Prime Minister.
- Mr. Harper has opposed a recent government initiative to require third party groups that advertise during elections to reveal the identity of their donors.
- He has repeatedly refused to reveal who bank-rolled his 2002 campaign to become leader of the Canadian Alliance.
- He has refused to reveal exactly how much was paid to Ezra Levant in 2002 to get him to step aside from the Calgary Southwest nomination so he could run in a by-election.
- Mr. Harper has refused to make his deputy leader, Peter Mackay, reveal the identity of the single donor who paid off his $500,000 leadership debt.
- Mr. Harper appointed as a Defence Critic Gordon O’Connor, a man who has acted as a lobbyist for the defence industry for seven years.
- Today Mr. Harper pointed to the record of Brian Mulroney and suggested he will use Mr. Mulroney as his standard of ethics.
Mr. Harper’s spotty record on ethics contrasts with the reforms Prime Minister Paul Martin has brought in over the last 18 months.
In her February 10, 2004 report, Auditor General Shelia Fraser said, “Our review of a sample of standing offers found that the competitive process had been followed in pre-qualifying suppliers. Requests for proposals were issued, and the selection process resulted in standing offer agreements with the successful bidders. We note that the vast majority of these suppliers were not the same as those providing sponsorship or advertising services.”
She concluded “For the most part, we found that the federal government was managing public opinion research in a transparent manner and with adequate controls. The activities were centrally co-ordinated, as required by policies. Selection of suppliers for standing offers followed the competitive process. However, PWGSC needs to improve its management of standing offers and call-ups for public opinion research in order to be consistent with the rules in place.”
Under Paul Martin’s leadership this government has taken dramatic steps to ensure our methods of procurement are fair, competitive, and transparent – and that government contracts produce good value for taxpayer dollars.
A Code of Fair Contract Practices – an integrity pact – is being put in place to ground our relationships with suppliers in a culture of integrity.
We have changed the way we award advertising contracts, acting on recommendations from an internal audit as well as the Auditor General. To increase competition, value-for-money and overall transparency:
- In of the spring of 2004 we hired a new Agency of Record for media placement. This contract was awarded through a rigorous and competitive open-bidding process.
- We have established a completely new group of pre-qualified advertising suppliers through the same transparent process.
- Since 2003 we have published a detailed annual report of all advertising activity. On a quarterly basis we report on departmental advertising contracts.
- We have strengthened rules around public opinion research (POR) – even though he Auditor General observed in her 2004 report that these activities were “well managed” with “roles and responsibilities clearly defined.”
To further advance our government’s commitment to value, transparency and good stewardship of taxpayer funds:
- New Standing Offers were established through competitive bidding in May 2004 – these will be renewed in the spring of 2006.
- Our first annual report on POR activities was published in October 2004.
- We’ve undertaken a review of how we purchase syndicated studies – seeking best value for taxpayers’ dollars.
Since April 2004 all travel and hospitality expenses – of Ministers, Ministers of State, Parliamentary Secretaries and their political staff, and other senior government officials – have been posted online on a quarterly basis.
Government contracts worth more than $10,000 are also posted online.
The government is reviewing the possibility of publicly reporting on cases of public sector misconduct – in a manner consonant with individual privacy and the law.
This government has embraced transparency in key appointments:
- Through our Action Plan for Democratic Reform Parliamentary committees have been empowered to review the appointments of the heads of Crown corporations.
- We have reformed the process of appointing members to the Immigration and Refugee Board to promote fairness and efficiency.
- We have brought increased transparency to the selection of Supreme Court Justices.
This government is committed to expanding Access to Information:
- The Access to Information Act has been extended to 10 key Crown corporations that were previously exempt.
- The government has presented a discussion paper to Parliament which proposes, among other measures, that the Access to Information Act be expanded to several federal institutions that are currently exempt.
Ethics & Audits
From his first day in office, Prime Minister Paul Martin has reformed government so that everyone in the public service – everyone – will be held to account. This government has:
- Re-established the office of the Comptroller General of Canada;
- Strengthened ethical guidelines for ministers and other public office holders and established an independent Ethics Commissioner for the House of Commons – while moving to have Members of Parliament adopt their own Conflict of Interest Code;
- Introduced a new, publicly posted recusal process for Members of Cabinet, including the Prime Minister;
- Put forward legislation to encourage ”whistleblowers” and to protect them from reprisal.
The Government also strengthened audit practice in the public sector through a comprehensive, ongoing initiative that includes the new Policy on Internal Audit – it will:
- Increase the independence of the internal audit function through the creation of truly independent internal audit committees and of a Chief Audit Executive position in each department and agency;
- Enhance oversight, monitoring and reporting by establishing annual reports from Chief Audit Executives and the Comptroller General of Canada, whose oversight extends to the overall state of controls and processes across the federal government;
- Strengthen and further professionalize the internal audit function throughout the government through higher professional standards, recruitment of additional skilled professionals; training; and assessments.