Ottawa, March 25, 2021
Yesterday, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion appeared before the United Kingdom independent Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) to discuss the workings of Canada's federal ethics regime and to note the similarities and differences between Canada's regime and the Seven Principles of Public Life (also known as the Nolan Principles) that underpin the U.K. rules.
Chaired by Lord Jonathan Evans of Weardale, the CSPL asked the Commissioner about his role and part in building public trust and informing public debate on ethical standards. The discussion included explanations of the Commissioner's role in applying Canada's two regimes, the Conflict of Interest Act (Act) and the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons (Code), and the role the Office has in helping uphold public confidence in the integrity of public life at the federal level.
During his testimony, the Commissioner expanded on his explanations to ensure that the CSPL was aware of the existence of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, a position he held from 2011 to 2014, and the Commissioner of Lobbying, both independent officers of Parliament and respectively responsible for investigating wrongdoing in the federal public sector and regulating federal lobbying activities. He also mentioned the Canadian Conflict of Interest Network (CCOIN), which includes federal, provincial and territorial commissioners who have similar roles to his in each of Canada's provinces and territories.
The discussion also included the importance of the independence and the non-partisan role of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner in Canada, the political challenges of regulating ethical and conflict of interest standards, and the investigation processes. Of specific interest to the CSPL was the full independence given to the Commissioner to initiate and publish investigations that is provided for under both the Act and the Code in Canada.
In the interest of openness and transparency regarding the work of and evidence before the CSPL, including that of Commissioner Dion, testimony is available on its YouTube channel.
QUOTES FROM COMMISSIONER DION
“The rules are written in plain language. For Member who want to abide by the Code, it would only require a few hours of reading. My advice to them is that each year they should sit down, take a couple of hours, go through the Code, note any questions they may have and give us a call. They should be guided by their conscience as well."
“Independence of my position is a good thing. It helps to build credibility of political institutions and the people who work in those institutions."
Commissioner Dion's appearance is now available on YouTube.
The U.K. Committee on Standards in Public Life was established in 1994 and is independent of Parliament and government. Its role is to advise the British Prime Minister on arrangements for upholding ethical standards of conduct across public life in England. The CSPL not a regulator and cannot investigate individual complaints.
The CSPL set out Seven Principles of Public Life in its first report in 1995: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. The Principles are widely known across the public sector and apply to anyone who works as a public office holder.
The CSPL is chaired by Lord Jonathan Evans of Weardale and includes seven members. It began its review of the institutions, processes and structures that support high standards of conduct in September 2020. On March 10, 17 and 23, 2021, the CSPL held online evidence sessions, via Zoom and livestreamed on YouTube.
More information about its current study is available on their website and on Twitter (@PublicStandards). Online evidence before the CSPL is available on its YouTube channel.
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