Mr. Speaker, three initiatives from the Prime Minister's eight point ethics plan have just been presented in the House: a draft bill to establish an independent ethics commissioner reporting directly to Parliament; a draft code of conduct for parliamentarians; and changes to the Lobbyists Registration Act.
In 1994 the government created the post of ethics counsellor, the first of its kind in a Commonwealth country, to implement our 1993 red book commitment and to fulfill the promise that we made to Canadians at that time.
Today we have introduced a draft bill that will go beyond the scope of our campaign promise. It establishes an independent ethics commissioner reporting directly to Parliament.
The ethics commissioner would be a senior officer of Parliament. He would be independent and would have broad powers for the investigation of ethical matters involving ministers.
MPs, Senators and the public would be able to file complaints about ministers with the ethics commissioner. The commissioner would report to the Prime Minister, to the person who has made the complaint, and to the minister being investigated.
The Prime Minister would be able to seek the ethics commissioner's advice on issues concerning ministers, as is the case with such officers at the provincial level. The ethics commissioner would also report annually to Parliament on these matters.
The ethics commissioner would also administer a code of conduct for all parliamentarians, including ministers.
I have also tabled a draft of the code of ethics, based on the Milliken-Oliver report of 1997. The ethics commissioner, who would administer the code, would report directly to the committees of the House and Senate in connection with the code, and would fall under their authority.
The draft parliamentary code is based on the Milliken-Oliver proposals with three modifications which address concerns that have already been raised by parliamentarians.
First, there is a single ethics commissioner for ministerial ethical issues and the code for parliamentarians. This is the approach used in the provinces, where it works well.
Second, there would be no disclosure of spousal interests under the code's disclosure regime to reflect the prevailing view, although disclosure of spousal interests would still apply to ministers and to parliamentary secretaries. This disclosure regime would, of course, be less detailed than what applies to ministers under the Prime Minister's requirements for public office holders. Ministers would continue to make a confidential report of interests for themselves and their spouses to the ethics commissioner. A summary of the information for ministers would continue to be made public.
The third change we have proposed to the Milliken-Oliver code is that only parliamentarians could complain against other parliamentarians in their respective House, and each House would administer the code in its respective Chamber.
The code would serve the interests of Canadians and of Parliament. It would modernize our present rules, as has already been done in the provinces, as well as in the U.K., France and Australia.
Under this code, the ethics commissioner would be an independent source of advice on ethical matters and would provide an independent complaint resolution mechanism.
A code for members must be non-partisan and must serve all members in all parties. The Milliken-Oliver code, on which this document is based, was prepared by an all party committee.
The Leader of the Opposition's September 18 document “Building Trust II” calls for a code for parliamentarians. The House leader of the Progressive Conservative Party put forward a motion in the last session calling for a code based on the Milliken-Oliver report. The leader of the New Democratic Party introduced a bill to implement the Milliken-Oliver report in the last session.
The draft ethics commissioner bill and code will be referred to the procedure and House affairs committee. These documents have also been--