Ethics watchdog fires a shot across the bow
And Ford and Chow's kumbaya moment
ABOVE THE FOLD
CONFLICT-OF-INTEREST CRACKDOWN — Integrity Commissioner J. DAVID WAKE wants MPPs to beef up conflict-of-interest rules, particularly when it comes to gift-giving — something that has come under the microscope after Premier DOUG FORD’s daughter’s buck-and-doe drama.
Here are the highlights from Wake’s annual report that dropped Tuesday:
Look a gift horse in the mouth: There are strict rules for MPPs accepting gifts, lest they be unduly influenced — but Wake says it’s high time to look at whether extended family members and friends should be under scrutiny, too.
Riding associations, meanwhile, are exempt from providing “gifts” to their MPPs, including cash to supplement their income.
“Should this be continued?…Should sponsored travel continue to be governed under the gift rule or should it be set up as a specific category under the Members’ Integrity Act, much like the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons? I suggest it is time to address these questions.”
His recommendation: Consider expanding and standardizing the definition of family members under the code, and establishing a timeline for ministers’ staff to notify the commish about a conflict of interest or gift.
Bad optics: Wake re-upped his call for the Legislature to expand his mandate to include not just a legit conflict of interest, but perceived ones too. That’s something NDP captain MARIT STILES was hoping for via a private member’s bill that was (unsurprisingly) shot down by the majority-enjoying PCs.
“Appearances of a conflict of interest are often the result of misinformation, but, unless addressed, they can lead to a lack of public faith in our institutions,” Wake said.
Air dirty laundry in public: As it stands, Wake can only launch an investigation into an MPP’s sketchy conduct if one of their fellow legislators files a complaint. He’s looking to change that.
“In some jurisdictions, commissioners can act on their own initiative based on information provided to them from other sources, including members of the public.”
Blowing the whistle: Wake also wants to streamline the “awkward two-step” of disclosure of wrongdoing, something only public servants can do. Wake wants to expand that to government contractors, and gain the “discretion to open an investigation without first having to refer the matter to the discloser’s Ethics Executive [a.k.a. their integrity commish] or other senior official and suggest they refer it back.” He’s also calling for public reporting on such matters, a la the feds.
THE MORNING AFTER — DOUG FORD and OLIVIA CHOW are having a kumbaya moment.