HAFF Committee Report
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HOUSE OF COMMONS
The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has the honour to present its
1. Pursuant to its mandate under Standing Order 108(3)(a)(iii), the Committee has considered matters related to the inclusion of a code of conduct in the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. Although the Committee has held several meetings and made great progress, we have not yet finalized the Code and so present this Interim Report in order to keep Members fully informed.
2. On October 23, 2002, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. John Manley, tabled in the House of Commons a proposed parliamentary ethics initiative, thus fulfilling a commitment made by the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Jean Chrétien, in the House of Commons in May 2002. The proposals were, in large part, based on the 1997 report of the Special Joint Committee on a Code of Conduct, commonly called the Milliken-Oliver report after its co-chairs.
3. There were two parts to the ethics initiative tabled in October 2002. One was a draft bill amending the Parliament of Canada Act to establish the position of Ethics Commissioner, among other matters. The second was a proposed Code of Conduct for Parliamentarians intended for inclusion as a schedule to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. Although the Senate is also studying the initiative, this report will deal solely with the proposals as they relate to Members of the House.
4. The ethics proposals were taken up for review by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. In the course of our study, we heard from a variety of witnesses, held a roundtable for Members who are not on the Committee and, just before the Christmas break, we circulated a working document in order to keep Members informed of our thinking to that point. More witnesses followed in January. After a detailed examination of the proposed Code, we released and circulated in March 2003 a report in draft form so that all Members would have a chance to comment before we finalized our recommendations to the House. Early in April 2003, the Committee held a second roundtable to solicit Members’ views. Then on April 10, 2003, we presented a report to the House on the matters raised in the draft bill. This second report, an interim one, deals with the proposed Code. Both reports were adopted only after carefully considering the written and oral comments from Members, a significant number of which were accepted. Meanwhile, Bill C-34 to establish the position of Ethics Commissioner was introduced in the House, referred to the Committee and reported with one amendment on June 11, 2003.
THE NEED FOR A CODE
5. As we stated in previous documents, the Committee has concluded that a Code is desirable and should be adopted. We feel that as a group Members of the House of Commons have been, and will continue to be, ethical in their public lives. We believe that a Code will provide assistance and guidance for Members and act as a preventative measure. It would be naïve to maintain that conflicts of interest could never be an issue for Members. Yet the current rules are not sufficiently clear, modern and complete to guide Members of the House of Commons in the 21st century.
THE ORIGINAL CODE
6. The Committee supports the general approach of the Code as presented in the original initiative. This general approach consists of:
ä guiding principles;
ä rules of conduct that include confidential disclosure of private interests and a public summary;
ä an independent Ethics Commissioner to serve as adviser to Members and to investigate allegations that the rules have been violated; and
ä general oversight by the House itself.
7. Within that framework, however, we have concluded that a number of changes should be made to the Code as originally proposed. Our redrafted version of the Code may be found at the end of this report. Most of the changes we recommend are relatively minor; some are merely drafting questions. Several, however, are more substantive and they will be explained in detail.
8. The two most important changes we propose are to include the spouses, common-law partners and dependent children of Members in the disclosure régime, and to eliminate the role of a committee as intermediary between the Ethics Commissioner and the House and as a possible investigator of complaints. Each of these changes will be discussed in turn.
DISCLOSURE FOR FAMILY MEMBERS
9. The Committee gave notice in its December document that any Code should include spousal – that is, family – disclosure. We noted at that time that it was an important protection for Members, a recognition of the reality of the modern family, and consistent with the practice in other jurisdictions. We have not changed our minds.
10. We wish to reassure Members, however, that disclosure for “family members” is not open-ended. The term is clearly defined in the Code to include only the spouse or common-law partner of a Member, and dependent children of either of them. The latter are defined as children under 18 years of age, and those older than that who are primarily dependent on the Member or the Member’s partner.
11. The disclosure regime that we recommend for members of the Member’s family is identical to that for Members. Disclosure of all private interests will be made to the Ethics Commissioner, who may wish to meet with the Member, and family members if they are willing. Based on the confidential disclosure, the Ethics Commissioner is in a position to advise on the Member’s obligations under the Code. The Ethics Commissioner then prepares a summary of the private interests that is made public.
12. We listened carefully to the Parliamentary Spouses Association when they objected to public disclosure. Indeed, we know that some Members themselves have their doubts that it is either necessary or wise. We have concluded, however, that public disclosure, for Members and close family, is both of those things.
13. Requiring Members to disclose their private interests (both confidentially and publicly) while ignoring the interests of their family members would create a significant loophole in the system. We note that one of the principles of the Code is “to provide a transparent system by which the public may judge” that Members place the public interest ahead of their private interests. Not disclosing family interests is not transparent and, as was pointed out by one witness, could leave it open for the public to suspect the worst.
14. We all recognize in today’s world that many spouses have independent careers and assets. This is an argument for disclosure, not against it. It would be rare to find a spouse who did not know at least the general nature of the other’s financial affairs. Thus, the situation of a spouse is relevant when assessing the situation of a Member. It is also undeniable, however independent the careers may be, that each spouse contributes to the well being of the household. And, of course, on marriage breakdown, the assets are usually equally divided.
15. Family disclosure forms a part of all of the provincial systems that feature disclosure (virtually all), and was recommended in the Milliken-Oliver report. In jurisdictions where it is well established, there is no evidence that public disclosure – by either Members or members of their family – has deterred good people from entering politics.
16. We were reassured by the testimony of three provincial or territorial Commissioners who advised us that family disclosure had not posed a problem for them or their clients in practice, and was felt necessary to properly administer the rules. They emphasized that without such disclosure they did not have a complete picture of a Member’s affairs on which to base sound advice. Noting that spouses currently disclose confidentially to him, the current Ethics Counsellor, Howard Wilson, also supported such disclosure. He stated that the interests of a spouse are particularly important when they have an active career or significant interests that could impact on the position of the Minister.
17. We recognize, and have some sympathy for, the view that public disclosure constitutes an intrusion into personal privacy. We feel, however, that the degree of intrusion may have been exaggerated. The Committee was reassured when it examined the public disclosure statements of several Ontario legislators. We note that no values are disclosed, so it is impossible to gauge the net worth of an individual, and no purely personal interests, such as the family home, car, cottage and so on are made public. The same would hold true under our proposed Code.
18. It is important to emphasize that the Code will place no obligations directly on family members. Disclosure is the responsibility of the Member, who will disclose to the best of his or her knowledge, information and belief. The Member will, however, be under an obligation to make reasonable efforts to determine such information.
THE ROLE OF THE COMMITTEE
19. Both the Milliken-Oliver report and the Code as introduced provide for a committee to play a very major role in dealing with complaints that Members have not lived up to their obligations under the Code. It was proposed that the Ethics Commissioner would investigate and report to the committee. In serious cases where the facts were disputed and no agreement on a remedy was reached between the Ethics Commissioner and the Member involved, the committee would actually conduct its own inquiry, and then report to the House.
20. Although in our earlier working document for Members, the Committee felt that the existence of a committee had a number of attractions and could play an important role, upon further reflection we have now concluded that this model contains some serious flaws. Members are concerned about the possibility of excessive partisanship and complexity that the committee process could introduce. Although we received some excellent suggestions on ways to minimize partisanship (for example, by changing the composition of the committee and by choosing only senior people), we fear that they may be less than fully successful.
21. Nor do we regard a committee as essential. We look to the Canadian provinces in this regard. None has a committee with that kind of mandate interposed between the Ethics Commissioner and the legislature. Although the British House of Commons has a committee structure, they are struggling with ways to improve it, in the process possibly adding more layers of complexity.
22. We also have doubts that a committee is an effective mechanism to conduct a detailed, factual inquiry in which an individual’s rights and reputation may be at stake, and in which procedural fairness is important. Committees are not used to that kind of inquiry. They are excellent at taking the public pulse on a current issue or a bill; they provide a forum where important public policies can be discussed and through which Members can provide advice to the government. However, we feel that the conduct of all inquiries involving complaints about Members and the Code should be left to the Ethics Commissioner.
23. Such an enforcement structure would enhance the Ethics Commissioner’s independence and authority, and make it easier to safeguard confidential information. It would also simplify what was a rather complex process.
24. Our recommendation does not mean that there would be no role for a committee vis-à-vis the Ethics Commissioner. We propose that general oversight of the Code and the work of the Ethics Commissioner would fall to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Its work would include reviewing the Ethics Commissioner’s annual report, reviewing rules that the he or she may propose and reporting the rules to the House for final approval. Moreover, we recommend that the Committee conduct a comprehensive review of the Code every five years. We have chosen this Committee because it is the senior House standing committee and, because of its membership, is in an excellent position to assess the views and experiences of Members.
THE ROLE OF THE ETHICS COMMISSIONER
25. At this point it is appropriate to discuss one change in the Code that the Committee is not recommending. The Committee received a very thoughtful presentation from Marlene Jennings, M.P., who argued that the advisory and investigative roles of the Ethics Commissioner should be split into two. That is, one person would be responsible for receiving Members’ disclosures, drafting the public summaries and advising them on their obligations, and another would be responsible for investigating complaints about contraventions of the Code.
26. While the Committee recognizes that this is the model that has been developed for some other oversight bodies, we are not convinced that it is essential in our context, although we would expect the Ethics Commissioner to organize his or her office to separate the different functions to a certain degree. We fear that the advisory role of the Ethics Commissioner – probably the most important role, according to the provincial Commissioners who testified before the Committee – could be undermined should a different person appointed to investigate come to a contrary conclusion as to appropriate behaviour. There is also the question of expertise: we believe that the person who works with Members on a daily basis and provides confidential opinions on the interpretation of the Code should be the person to interpret that Code if a complaint is made.
27. It should be kept in mind that the Ethics Commissioner does not make final decisions; he or she makes recommendations to the House, which is the final arbiter. If the House disagrees with a recommendation of the Ethics Commissioner following an inquiry, it can refuse to implement the recommendation or can send the report back with directions.
28. Our conclusion, as with the decision on the role of the committee, also has the virtue of simplicity. If experience later leads us to conclude that we were wrong on either point, or indeed on any aspect of the Code, we can make changes.
OTHER SUBSTANTIVE CHANGES
29. The title chosen by the Milliken-Oliver committee for its Code, and in the initiative tabled in October, was “Code of Conduct.” In our December document, we questioned whether that was the best title. Did the word “conduct” imply too much? Might some observers take that title as an invitation to question non-official parts of Members’ lives? Moreover, when Members carry out their official duties there are many aspects of “conduct” that, although important, do not come within the scope of this Code. We have in mind such aspects as comportment in Question Period, relationships with constituents and staff, attendance and participation in Committees, and so on. None of these are regulated by the Code.
30. As we studied it closely, we realized that the Code was really a document to deal with conflict of interest. Why, then, not call it that – the Conflict of Interest Code? In choosing that name, we are not being revolutionary. The various government bills that were introduced beginning in 1988 all had the term “conflict of interest” in their titles, and the Prime Minister’s Code uses it.
Attempts (section 11)
31. In addition to the requirements regarding disclosure and declaration of private interests, the Code contains key rules against furthering private interests, using influence, and using insider information. The way the Code was originally drafted, a Member would need to have succeeded in doing any of the prohibited acts before contravening the rules. We feel that this creates a significant loophole. Moreover, it was not the way that the Milliken-Oliver report conceived the rules. We therefore recommend that Members also be prohibited from attempting to violate such core rules.
Declaration and procedure regarding a private interest (sections 12 and 13)
32. As originally proposed, a Member who had reasonable grounds to believe that he or she had a private interest in a matter before the House or a committee would, if present during consideration of the matter, disclose the general nature of the private interest in writing to the Clerk of the House. The Clerk would forward it to the Ethics Commissioner, who would make it public.
33. The Committee identified a number of weaknesses with this provision: there was no immediate disclosure at the time of consideration of a matter; continued participation in its consideration was implicitly permitted; and the Member was not precluded from voting.
34. We propose that all of those weaknesses be corrected. The Member would still disclose the general nature of the private interest in writing to the Clerk, but the rule would make it clear that Members’ disclosure would be immediate and they would be prohibited from participating in any way in matters in which they have a private interest, including voting.
Gifts and other benefits (section 14)
35. We have recommended two changes to the sections governing gifts and other benefits. First, we believe that the provisions should also apply to members of the Member’s family, on the principle that you should not be able to do indirectly that which you are forbidden to do directly. Second, for those gifts and other benefits that are acceptable, we recommend that the limit for public disclosure be raised from $250 to $500. This change would reflect current reality, and is in line with the more recent statutes in the provinces and territories.
36. A provision was also added that any disclosure relating to sponsored travel does not have to be disclosed as a gift or personal benefit.
Sponsored travel (section 15)
37. The Committee recommends expanding these provisions by also requiring the disclosure of the name of any person who accompanies the Member on a sponsored trip and by requiring the value of the benefits to be disclosed, along with supporting documents for transportation and accommodation. To be consistent with the section on gifts and personal benefits, the Committee also recommends that the monetary threshold for disclosure be raised to $500.
38. In the interests of transparency, the Committee also recommends that the Ethics Commissioner prepare every year a consolidated statement relating to Members’ sponsored travel, to be sent to the Speaker for tabling.
Government contracts (sections 16 and 17)
39. The Code as originally presented was conceptually unclear regarding owning securities in a public company that contracted with the government – how could that make a Member a party to a contract with the government, as the original Code implied? That provision has been deleted. In its place is new section 17. It permits owning securities in a public corporation that contracts with the government unless the holdings are so significant that the Ethics Commissioner feels that they are likely to affect the Member’s obligations under the Code. In effect, the provision recognizes that there could be rare cases where holdings in public companies could be similar to holdings in private corporations. In these circumstances, the Member is permitted to use a trust on such terms as the Ethics Commissioner determines. The terms are not mandated, as they are for partnerships and private corporations, because securities in public companies are different by their very nature.
Opinions (section 26)
40. One very important role of the Ethics Commissioner will be to advise Members on a confidential basis, when asked, about their obligations under the Code in specific situations. Members of the Committee recommend that the Ethics Commissioner should have the right to publish these opinions for the guidance of other Members, provided that no details that could identify the Member are included.
The inquiry process (section 27)
41. The Committee recommends removing the requirement that a request for an inquiry be by way of affidavit. There is a tradition in the House that a Member’s word is taken at face value. Instead, we recommend that Members identify the alleged non-compliance with the Code, and the reasonable grounds for believing that it has been contravened.
42. The Committee also recommends that the Ethics Commissioner have the power, when it is in the public interest, to conduct an inquiry on his or her own initiative.
43. Members of the Committee were concerned that the process established by the Code should be allowed to proceed without undue fanfare once set in motion. A new provision therefore states that Members should respect the process established by the Code and permit it to take place without commenting further on the matter, although it should be noted that Members have not made a final decision on this proposal.
44. A number of Members and witnesses expressed concerns that the Ethics Commissioner might receive some complaints that could be considered frivolous or vexatious. A new provision addresses this by stating that when the Ethics Commissioner concludes that a complaint could be thus described, as well as one not made in good faith, or without sufficient grounds to warrant investigation, the Ethics Commissioner shall state that fact in dismissing the complaint, and shall in most cases, make the dismissal public. Members of the Committee have not finalized their views on precisely when a dismissal should be made public.
45. Finally, the Committee recommends a new provision stating that Members shall cooperate with the Ethics Commissioner with respect to any inquiry. This will emphasize the importance of the Code for the House and for Members, and reinforce the position of the Ethics Commissioner.
Report of the Ethics Commissioner (section 28)
46. As noted previously, the Committee recommends that the Ethics Commissioner report directly to the House, rather than to a committee. Thus, these provisions were re-drafted. It will be clarified that all reports will be made public immediately upon tabling in the House or, if the House is not sitting, upon presentation to the Speaker. A new provision entitled “mitigated contravention” enables the Ethics Commissioner to report that non-compliance with the Code was excusable; for example, the breach was inadvertent or made in good faith. In those cases, he or she may recommend that no penalty be imposed.
47. The Committee also recommends that there be an express provision permitting the Ethics Commissioner to make comments about the general interpretation of the Code and any recommendations for revision that he or she feels should be made.
48. Once the Speaker has tabled a report, the Committee recommends that the Member concerned should have a right to make a statement of up to 20 minutes in the House.
49. The provisions governing how the House of Commons deals with a report have also been clarified. A vote will only be mandatory when a breach does not present mitigating factors and a sanction is recommended.
EDITORIAL AND OTHER NON-SUBSTANTIVE
CHANGES TO THE PROPOSED CODE
50. “Must” has been changed to “shall” to accord with the drafting style of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons.
51. The word “Parliamentarian” has been changed to “Member” and all references to the Senate have been deleted; both changes reflect the fact that the Code is intended to be part of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons.
52. References to “ministers of state” have been removed to accord with the Standing Orders, which refer only to Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and Members.
Privileges preserved (original section 10)
53. A provision that the Code does not affect any of the privileges, immunities or powers referred to in the Parliament of Canada Act or those of the Speaker was removed on advice that its inclusion was not necessary.
“Blind trust” (section 19)
54. The word “blind” has been removed from the heading. Even on its own terms, the trust was not blind. The word was not used in the Milliken-Oliver report. The introduction to section 19(2) was clarified to indicate that the provision only applied to partnerships or private corporations that contract with the government and in situations in which the Ethics Commissioner had indicated that there would be a potential problem.
Meeting with the Ethics Commissioner (section 22)
55. This provision was modified to make it clear that the Ethics Commissioner has no power to actually require the members of the Member’s family to meet with him or her, and may only request a meeting.
COMING INTO FORCE OF THE CODE
56. In the Committee’s opinion, the beginning of a new Parliament is the best time to begin the mandatory disclosure of private interests, because all candidates would have been placed on notice of the new regime.
CHANGES TO THE STANDING ORDERS
57. The Committee recommends that the Standing Orders of the House of Commons be amended
(a) by deleting Standing Orders 21 and 22;
(b) by adding the following new subparagraph to Standing Order 108(3)(a):
“(viii) the review of and report on all matters relating to the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons.”;
(c) by replacing Standing Order 111.1 with the following :
“Where the Government intends to appoint an Officer of Parliament, the Clerk of the House, the Parliamentary Librarian or the Ethics Commissioner, the name of the proposed appointee shall be deemed referred to the appropriate standing committee, which may consider the appointment during a period of not more than thirty days following the tabling of a document concerning the proposed appointment.”; and
(d) by adding as an appendix the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons set out below; and
That the Clerk of the House be authorized to make any editorial changes required by the adoption of these amendments to the Standing Orders.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST CODE FOR MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
1. The purposes of this Code are to
(a) maintain and enhance public confidence and trust in the integrity of Members as well as the respect and confidence that society places in the House of Commons as an institution;
(b) demonstrate to the public that Members are held to standards that place the public interest ahead of their private interests and to provide a transparent system by which the public may judge this to be the case;
(c) provide for greater certainty and guidance for Members in how to reconcile their private interests with their public duties and functions; and
(d) foster consensus among Members by establishing common standards and by providing the means by which questions relating to proper conduct may be answered by an independent, non-partisan adviser.
2. Given that service in Parliament is a public trust, the House of Commons recognizes and declares that Members are expected
(a) to serve the public interest and represent constituents to the best of their abilities;
(b) to fulfil their public duties with honesty and uphold the highest standards so as to avoid real or apparent conflicts of interests, and maintain and enhance public confidence and trust in the integrity of each Member and in the House of Commons;
(c) to perform their official duties and functions and arrange their private affairs in a manner that bears the closest public scrutiny, an obligation that may not be fully discharged by simply acting within the law;
(d) to arrange their private affairs so that foreseeable real or apparent conflicts of interest may be prevented from arising, but if such a conflict does arise, to resolve it in a way that protects the public interest; and
(e) not to accept any gift or personal benefit connected with their position that might reasonably be seen to compromise their personal judgment or integrity except in accordance with the provisions of this Code.
3. (1) The following definitions apply in this Code.
« conjoint de fait »
“common-law partner”, with respect to a Member, means a person who is cohabiting with the Member in a conjugal relationship, having so cohabited for a period of at least one year.
« commissaire »
“Ethics Commissioner” means the officer appointed under section 72.01 of the Parliament of Canada Act.
« époux »
“spouse”, with respect to a Member, does not include a person from whom the Member is separated where all support obligations and family property have been dealt with by a separation agreement or by a court order.
Furthering private interests
(2) A Member is considered to further a person’s private interests, including his or her own private interests, when the Member’s actions result, directly or indirectly, in any of the following:
(a) an increase in, or the preservation of, the value of the person’s assets;
(b) the extinguishment, or reduction in the amount, of the person’s liabilities;
(c) the acquisition of a financial interest by the person;
(d) an increase in the person’s income from a source referred to in subsection 22(2);
(e) the person becoming a director or officer in a corporation, association or trade union; and
(f) the person becoming a partner in a partnership.
(3) For the purpose of this Code, a Member is not considered to further his or her own private interests or the interests of another person if the matter in question
(a) is of general application;
(b) affects the person as one of a broad class of the public; or
(c) concerns the remuneration or benefits of the Member as provided under an Act of Parliament.
(4) The following are the members of a Member’s family for the purposes of this Code:
(a) the Member’s spouse or common-law partner; and
(b) a child of the Member, or a child of the Member’s spouse or common-law partner, who has not reached the age of 18 years or who has reached that age but is primarily dependent on the Member or the Member’s spouse or common-law partner for financial support.
Application to Members
4. The provisions of this Code apply to conflicts of interest of all Members of the House of Commons when carrying out the duties and functions of their office as Members of the House, including Members who are ministers of the Crown or parliamentary secretaries.
5. A Member does not breach this Code if the Member’s activity is one in which Members normally and properly engage on behalf of constituents.
Jurisdiction of the Board of Internal Economy
6. Nothing in this Code affects the jurisdiction of the Board of Internal Economy of the House of Commons to determine the propriety of the use of any funds, goods, services or premises made available to Members for carrying out their parliamentary duties and functions.
Activities outside Parliament
7. Nothing in this Code prevents Members who are not ministers of the Crown or parliamentary secretaries from any of the following, as long as they are able to fulfill their obligations under this Code:
(a) engaging in employment or in the practice of a profession;
(b) carrying on a business;
(c) being a director or officer in a corporation, association, trade union or non-profit organization; and
(d) being a partner in a partnership.
Rules of Conduct
Furthering private interests
8. When performing parliamentary duties and functions, a Member shall not act in any way to further his or her private interests or those of a member of the Member’s family, or to improperly further another person’s private interests.
9. A Member shall not use his or her position as a Member to influence a decision of another person so as to further the Member’s private interests or those of a member of his or her family, or to improperly further another person’s private interests.
10. (1) A Member shall not use information obtained in his or her position as a Member that is not generally available to the public to further the Member’s private interests or those of a member of his or her family, or to improperly further another person’s private interests.
Information not to be communicated
(2) A Member shall not communicate information referred to in subsection (1) to another person if the Member knows, or reasonably ought to know, that the information may be used to further the Member’s private interests or those of a member of his or her family, or to improperly further another person’s private interests.
11. A Member shall not attempt to engage in any of the activities prohibited under sections 8 to 10.
Disclosure of a private interest
12. (1) A Member who has reasonable grounds to believe that he or she or a member of his or her family has a private interest that might be affected by a matter that is before the House of Commons or a committee of which the Member is a member shall, if present during consideration of the matter, disclose orally or in writing the general nature of the private interest at the first opportunity. The general nature of the private interest shall be disclosed forthwith in writing to the Clerk of the House.
(2) If a Member becomes aware at a later date of a private interest that should have been disclosed in the circumstances of subsection (1), the Member shall make the required disclosure forthwith.
(3) The Clerk of the House shall send the disclosure to the Ethics Commissioner, who shall file it with the Member’s public disclosure documents.
Debate and voting
13. A Member shall not participate in debate on or vote on a question in which he or she has a private interest.
Prohibition: gifts and other benefits
14. (1) Neither a Member or any member of a Member’s family shall accept, directly or indirectly, any gift or other benefit, except compensation authorized by law, that is related to the Member’s position.
(2) A Member or a member of the Member’s family may, however, accept gifts or other benefits received as a normal expression of courtesy or protocol, or within the customary standards of hospitality that normally accompany the Member’s position.
Statement: gift or other benefit
(3) If gifts or other benefits that are accepted under subsection (2) exceed $500 in value, or if the total value of all such gifts or personal benefits received from one source in a 12-month period exceeds $500, the Member shall, within 30 days after receiving the gifts or other benefits, or after that total value is exceeded, file with the Ethics Commissioner a statement disclosing the nature of the gifts or other benefits, their source and the circumstances under which they were given.
(4) Any disclosure made pursuant to the requirements of section 15 does not need to be disclosed as a gift or other benefit under subsection (3).
Statement: sponsored travel
15. (1) If travel costs of a Member for a trip that arises from or relates to his or her position exceed $500 and those costs are not wholly paid from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or by the Member personally, his or her political party or any interparliamentary association or friendship group recognized by the House of Commons, the Member shall, within 30 days after the end of the trip, file a statement with the Ethics Commissioner disclosing the trip.
Content of statement
(2) The statement shall disclose the name of the person or organization paying for the trip, the name of any person accompanying the Member, the destination or destinations, the purpose and length of the trip, the nature of the benefits received and the value, including supporting documents for transportation and accommodation.
(3) By January 31 of each year, the Ethics Commissioner shall prepare a list of all sponsored travel, including the details set out in subsection (2), and the Speaker shall lay the list upon the Table when the House next sits.
16. A Member shall not knowingly be a party to a contract with the Government of Canada under which the Member receives a benefit.
17. (1) A Member is not prohibited from owning securities in a public corporation that contracts with the Government of Canada unless the holdings are so significant that the Ethics Commissioner is of the opinion that they are likely to affect the Member’s obligations under this Code.
(2) If the Ethics Commissioner is of the opinion that the Member’s obligations under this Code are likely to be affected under the circumstances of subsection (1), the Member may comply with the Code by placing the securities in a trust under such terms established in section 19 as the Ethics Commissioner considers appropriate.
Partnerships and private corporations
18. A Member shall not have an interest in a partnership or in a private corporation that is a party to a contract with the Government of Canada under which the partnership or corporation receives a benefit unless the Ethics Commissioner is of the opinion that the interest is unlikely to affect the Member’s obligations under this Code.
19. (1) Sections 16 and 18 do not apply to a contract that existed before the Member’s election to the House of Commons, but they do apply to its renewal or extension.
(2) Section 18 does not apply if the Member has entrusted his or her interest in a partnership or in a private corporation that is a party to a contract with the Government of Canada under which the partnership or corporation receives a benefit to one or more trustees on all of the following terms:
(a) the provisions of the trust have been approved by the Ethics Commissioner;
(b) the trustees are at arm’s length from the Member and have been approved by the Ethics Commissioner;
(c) the trustees may not consult with the Member with respect to managing the trust, but they may consult with the Ethics Commissioner;
(d) the trustees may, however, consult with the Member, with the approval of the Ethics Commissioner and in his or her presence if an extraordinary event is likely to materially affect the trust property;
(e) in the case of an interest in a corporation, the Member shall resign any position of director or officer in the corporation;
(f) the trustees shall provide the Ethics Commissioner with a written annual report setting out the nature of the trust property, the value of that property, the trust’s net income for the preceding year and the trustees’ fees, if any; and
(g) the trustees shall give the Member sufficient information to permit the Member to submit returns as required by the Income Tax Act and give the same information to the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.
Interest acquired by inheritance
(3) Sections 16 to 18 do not apply to an interest acquired by inheritance until the first anniversary date of the acquisition.
20. (1) A Member shall, within 60 days after the notice of his or her election to the House of Commons is published in the Canada Gazette, and annually on or before a date established by the Ethics Commissioner, file with the Ethics Commissioner a full statement disclosing the Member’s private interests and the private interests of the members of the Member’s family.
(2) Information relating to the private interests of the members of the Member’s family shall be to the best of the Member’s knowledge, information and belief. The Member shall make reasonable efforts to determine such information.
(3) The Ethics Commissioner shall keep the statement confidential.
Content of disclosure statement
21. (1) The statement shall
(a) identify the assets and liabilities of the Member and the members of the Member’s family and state their value;
(b) state the income that the Member and the members of the Member’s family have received during the preceding 12 months and are entitled to receive during the next 12 months, and indicate the source of that income;
(c) state all benefits that the Member and the members of the Member’s family, and any private corporation in which the Member or a member of the Member’s family have an interest, have received during the preceding 12 months, and those that the Member and the members of the Member’s family or corporation are entitled to receive during the next 12 months, as a result of a contract with the Government of Canada, and describe the subject-matter and nature of each such contract;
(d) if the statement mentions a private corporation,
(i) include any information about the corporation’s activities and sources of income that the Member is able to obtain by making reasonable inquiries;
(ii) state the names of any other corporations with which that corporation is affiliated; and
(iii) list the names and addresses of all persons who have an interest in the corporation.
(e) list all corporations, associations and trade unions in which the Member or a member of the Member’s family is a director or officer and all partnerships in which he or she or a member of his or her family is a partner; and
(f) include any other information that the Ethics Commissioner may require.
Source of income
(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(b), a source of income is
(a) in the case of income from employment, the employer;
(b) in the case of income from a contract, the party with whom the contract is made; and
(c) in the case of income arising from a business or profession, that business or profession.
(3) The Member shall report in writing any material change to the information required under subsection (1) to the Ethics Commissioner within 30 days after the change.
Meeting with the Ethics Commissioner
22. After reviewing a Member’s statement filed under section 20, the Ethics Commissioner may require that the Member meet with the Ethics Commissioner, and may request the attendance of any of the members of the Member’s family, if available, to ensure that adequate disclosure has been made and to discuss the Member’s obligations under this Code.
23. (1) The Ethics Commissioner shall prepare a disclosure summary based on each Member’s statement filed under section 21 and submit it to the Member for review.
(2) Each summary is to be placed on file at the office of the Ethics Commissioner and made available for public inspection during normal business hours.
Content of disclosure summary
24. (1) The summary shall
(a) subject to subsection (3), set out the source and nature, but not the value, of the income, assets and liabilities referred to in the Member’s statement filed under section 20;
(b) identify any contracts with the Government of Canada referred to in the Member’s statement filed under section 21, and describe their subject-matter and nature;
(c) list the names of any affiliated corporations referred to in that statement; and
(d) include a copy of any statements of disclosure filed by the Member under subsections 14(3) and 15(1).
Categorization of interests
(2) An interest in a partnership or corporation may be qualified in the summary by the word “nominal”, “significant” or “controlling” if, in the opinion of the Ethics Commissioner, it is in the public interest to do so.
Items not to be disclosed
(3) The following shall not be set out in the summary:
(a) an asset or liability with a value of less than $10,000;
(b) sources of income if the total amount of income from all sources was less than $10,000 during the 12 months before the relevant date;
(c) real property or immovables that the Member uses as a principal residence or uses principally for recreational purposes;
(d) personal property or movable property that the Member uses primarily for transportation, household, educational, recreational, social or aesthetic purposes;
(e) cash on hand or on deposit with a financial institution that is entitled to accept deposits;
(f) fixed-value securities issued or guaranteed by a government or by a government agency;
(g) a registered retirement savings plan that is not self-administered or self-directed;
(h) investments in a registered retirement savings plan that is self-administered or self-directed that would not be publicly disclosed under this section if held outside the plan;
(i) an interest in a pension plan, employee benefit plan, annuity or life insurance policy;
(j) an investment in an open-ended mutual fund;
(k) a guaranteed investment certificate or similar financial instrument; and
(l) any other asset, liability or source of income that the Ethics Commissioner determines should not be disclosed because
(i) the information is not relevant to the purposes of this Code, or
(ii) a departure from the general principle of public disclosure is justified in the circumstances.
25. A Member shall not take any action that has as its purpose the circumvention of the Member’s obligations under this Code.
Request for opinion
26. (1) In response to a request in writing from a Member on any matter respecting the Member’s obligations under this Code, the Ethics Commissioner may provide the Member with a written opinion containing any recommendations that the Ethics Commissioner considers appropriate.
(2) The opinion is confidential and may be made public only by the Member or with his or her written consent.
(3) An opinion given by the Ethics Commissioner to a Member is binding on the Ethics Commissioner in relation to any subsequent consideration of the subject-matter of the opinion so long as all the relevant facts that were known to the Member were disclosed to the Ethics Commissioner.
(4) Nothing in this section prevents the Ethics Commissioner from publishing opinions for the guidance of Members provided that no details are included that could identify the Member.
Request for an inquiry
27. (1) A Member who has reasonable grounds to believe that another Member has not complied with his or her obligations under this Code may request that the Ethics Commissioner conduct an inquiry into the matter.
Form of request
(2) The request shall be in writing and shall identify the alleged non-compliance with the Code and set out the reasonable grounds for the belief that it has not been complied with.
Direction by House of Commons
(3) The House of Commons may, by way of resolution, direct the Ethics Commissioner to conduct an inquiry to determine whether a Member has complied with his or her obligations under this Code.
Initiative of Ethics Commissioner
(4) The Ethics Commissioner may, on his or her own initiative, and on giving the Member concerned reasonable written notice, conduct an inquiry to determine whether the Member has complied with his or her obligations under this Code.
Respect for the inquiry process
(5) Once a request for an inquiry has been made to the Ethics Commissioner, Members should respect the process established by this Code and permit it to take place without commenting further on the matter. [Some Members of the Committee have serious concerns about the possibility of excessive partisanship and adverse publicity arising from the inquiry process. The foregoing has been proposed as one way of addressing these concerns, but the issue needs to be discussed further to see if the provision will serve the purpose, or if there are other means of doing so.]
(6) If the Ethics Commissioner is of the opinion that a request for an inquiry is frivolous or vexatious or was not made in good faith, or that there are no or insufficient grounds to warrant an inquiry or the continuation of an inquiry, the Ethics Commissioner shall so state in dismissing the request. The Ethics Commissioner shall make the dismissal public if requested by the Member who was the subject of the request, or if he or she believes it is in the public interest to do so. [This provision also reflects a concern about the possible negative impact of publicity. The foregoing is suggested as one way of striking a balance between the interest of a Member against whom an unwarranted complaint has been brought, and the need for a process that is transparent and in the public interest, but the Committee believes that the issue deserves further consideration.]
Inquiry to be private
(7) The Ethics Commissioner is to conduct an inquiry in private and with due dispatch, provided that at all appropriate stages throughout the inquiry the Ethics Commissioner shall give the Member reasonable opportunity to be present and to make representations to the Ethics Commissioner in writing or in person by counsel or by any other representative.
(8) Members shall cooperate with the Ethics Commissioner with respect to any inquiry.
Report to the House
28. (1) Forthwith following an inquiry, the Ethics Commissioner shall report to the Speaker, who shall present the report to the House of Commons when the House next sits.
(2) The report of the Ethics Commissioner shall be made available to the public upon tabling in the House of Commons, or, if the House is not sitting, upon its receipt by the Speaker.
(3) If the Ethics Commissioner concludes that there was no contravention of the Code, the Ethics Commissioner shall so state in the report.
(4) If the Ethics Commissioner concludes that a Member has not complied with an obligation under the Code but that the Member took all reasonable measures to prevent the non-compliance, or that the non-compliance was trivial or occurred through inadvertence or an error in judgement made in good faith, the Ethics Commissioner shall so state in the report and may recommend that no sanction be imposed.
(5) If the Ethics Commissioner concludes that a Member has not complied with an obligation under the Code, and that none of the circumstances in subsection (4) apply, the Ethics Commissioner shall so state in the report and may recommend appropriate sanctions.
(6) The Ethics Commissioner shall include in the report reasons for any conclusions and recommendations.
(7) The Ethics Commissioner may include in his or her report any recommendations arising from the matter that concern the general interpretation of the Code and any recommendations for revision of the Code that the Ethics Commissioner considers relevant to its purpose and spirit.
Right to speak
(8) Within five sitting days of the tabling of the report of the Ethics Commissioner in the House of Commons, the Member who is the subject of the report shall have a right to make a statement in the House immediately following Question Period, provided that he or she shall not speak for more than 20 minutes.
(9) A motion to concur in a report referred to in subsections (3) or (4) may be moved during Routine Proceedings. If no such motion has been moved and disposed of within 10 sitting days after the day on which the report was tabled, a motion to concur in the report shall be deemed to have been moved and adopted at the expiry of that time.
Report to be considered
(10) A motion respecting a report referred to in subsection (5) may be moved during Routine Proceedings, when it shall be considered for no more than two hours, after which the Speaker shall interrupt any proceedings then before the House and put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment, every question necessary to dispose of the motion. During debate on the motion, no Member shall speak more than once or longer than ten minutes.
(11) If no motion pursuant to subsection (10) has been previously moved and disposed of, a motion to concur in the report shall be deemed to have been moved on the 15th sitting day after the day on which the report was tabled, and the Speaker shall immediately put every question to dispose of the motion.
(12) The House may refer any report back to the Ethics Commissioner for further consideration, with or without instruction.
Suspension of inquiry
29. (1) The Ethics Commissioner shall immediately suspend the inquiry into a matter if
(a) there are reasonable grounds to believe that the Member has committed an offence under an Act of Parliament, in which case the Committee or Ethics Commissioner shall refer the matter to the proper authorities; or
(b) it is discovered that
(i) the act or omission under investigation is also the subject-matter of an investigation to determine if an offence under an Act of Parliament has been committed, or
(ii) a charge has been laid with respect to that act or omission.
(2) The Ethics Commissioner shall not continue his or her inquiry until the other investigation or the charge regarding the act or omission has been finally disposed of.
30. (1) The Ethics Commissioner may propose rules for the administration of this Code to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
Tabling of rules
(2) Any rules approved by the Committee shall be reported to the House and shall come into effect when the report is concurred in by the House.
Note: the foregoing requires the House to concur in the report of the Committee before the Ethics Commissioner’s rules may come into effect. The alternative would be to add another provision, as follows:
(3) If no motion for concurrence has been moved and disposed of within 10 sitting days after the day on which the report was tabled, then the report shall be deemed to be concurred in.
Retention of documents
31. The Ethics Commissioner shall retain all documents relating to a Member for a period of 12 months after he or she ceases to be a Member, after which the documents shall be destroyed unless there is an inquiry in progress under this Code concerning them or a charge has been laid against the Member under an Act of Parliament and the documents may relate to that matter.
32.The Ethics Commissioner may undertake educational activities for Members and the general public regarding this Code and the role of the Ethics Commissioner.
33. The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs shall, within five years of the commencement of the Code and every five years thereafter undertake a comprehensive review of its provisions and operation, and shall submit a report thereon, including a statement of any changes the Committee recommends.
Part of the Standing Orders
34. This Code shall form part of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons.
A copy of the relevant Minutes of Proceedings (Meetings Nos. 5, 6, 8 to 13, 17, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26, 27, 29, 30, 33, 54 and 55) is tabled.