The Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner was created under the Federal Accountability Act. This omnibus legislation received Royal Assent on December 12, 2006. The part that relates to the Office, the Conflict of Interest Act, came into effect on July 9, 2007.
The Office, however, has several direct ancestors that predate this legislation, and its origins can be traced back to the 1970s.
The federal conflict of interest
regimes in effect today have their roots in
a Green Paper called Members of Parliament and Conflict of Interest
was issued in 1973 by the Honourable Allan MacEachen, then President of the
Privy Council. The Green Paper set out an analysis of a gap between evolving
public standards and formal rules governing MPs’ conduct. It also included a
set of proposals to encourage public and parliamentary debate on conflict of
Conflict of interest guidelines for Cabinet ministers were introduced by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. They included prohibitions on the use of insider information for private gain, restrictions on outside activities and a requirement that ministers either divest or publicly declare certain assets. Some of the guidelines, such as a prohibition on corporate directorships, reflected informal policies that had been in place for a number of years. Others, such as the requirement to publicly declare certain assets, were borrowed from other jurisdictions.
Guidelines for various groups of public servants and Governor-in-Council appointees were also announced. They were similar to those for ministers; more specific requirements for senior Crown corporation and agency officials were set by the minister responsible.
Plans to appoint Canada’s first federal conflict of interest administrator were announced.
An Assistant Deputy Registrar General was named and an office was established within the former Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs. In addition to maintaining a registry of public declarations, the office provided conflict of interest advice to ministers and other public officials.
1970s and 1980s
The conflict of interest guidelines administered by the Office of the Assistant Deputy Registrar General were modified several times. Most significantly, in 1985, the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders was issued, consolidating in one document the rules for ministers, parliamentary secretaries, ministerial staff, all public servants and Governor-in-Council appointees.
In April, an amendment to the Parliament of Canada Act came into force, creating a new office and the new position of Ethics Commissioner. This office was no longer part of the public service but a separate parliamentary entity. The first Commissioner was appointed.
The Ethics Commissioner administered the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders, and also assumed responsibility for a new Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons (Members’ Code), which came into effect in October 2004. The Members’ Code built on various conflict of interest rules that were included in the Parliament of Canada Act and the former Senate and House of Commons Act.
It also created the new position of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, replacing the previous position of Ethics Commissioner. The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner administers the Conflict of Interest Act and continues to administer the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons. Mary Dawson was appointed Commissioner in July 2007.
Mary Dawson was appointed Commissioner in July 2007.
Mario Dion was appointed Commissioner in January 2018.
For more information about the predecessor offices, click here.