Roundup: Blame Dawson or the system?

As the Bill Morneau imbroglio starts to fade behind the outrage du jour, being the Paradise Papers, Andrew Coyne decided to take another crack at the issue, this time taking a swing at Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson and her handling – or mishandling – of the whole affair from the beginning. The problem of course is that Coyne’s piece relies heavily on commentary from local civically illiterate crank and guaranteed quote machine Duff Conacher, for whom everything is evil and wrong, and why he hasn’t yet been labelled a vexatious litigant by the courts is beyond me. Regardless, it cannot be denied that yes, Dawson herself is a problem, but not the only problem.

A few days ago, Andrew Potter wrote a piece in the Globe and Mail about the whole sordid history of why we have the Commissioner position in the first place, and why it has always been a problem. And he’s right in pointing out that the point of this position has been politicized from the beginning, but as with so many of our watchdog or “Independent Officer of Parliament” positions these days, they exist as much to deflect problems onto as they do to act as the instrument by which the opposition can use as both a cudgel to launch their attacks, and a shield to hide behind if there is any counter-fire.

And to that end, we can’t simply blame Dawson herself – as much as she is and always has been part of the problem. Much of that lies on MPs themselves, who created the regime, wrote rules that don’t include ethics guidelines, and when presented with the litany of problems with the legislation, shrug and make minor tweaks without addressing the big stuff. And it happens constantly, so when imagined scandals happen, they can scream and rail that just following the rules isn’t good enough, but that the alleged transgressor must have known better and should have exceeded them. Never mind that it’s a nonsense frame to put around issues, but these are also the same rules that those MPs put into place. Saying that the rules they created for themselves aren’t good enough is galling, and one has to constantly ask why they didn’t create rules that were good enough in the first place if they knew that there were problems – and yes, they did know, because Dawson herself identified them. It’s childish politics, and just manages to make a farce out of their feigned outrage (not surprisingly).

Meanwhile, Conacher managed to get a whole piece out of the Star by complaining that the government is wrong in saying there aren’t enough qualified candidates for the Ethics and Lobbying Commissioner positions because he applied for the Lobbying Commissioner position and hasn’t been chosen. Err, that may be a reflection on you, Duff, and this exercise in your ego may be part of the reason why you’re not chosen.

Good reads:

  • From Vietnam, Justin Trudeau says that we won’t be rushed into signing onto a TPP-11 agreement (probably because they want to wait for more NAFTA terms).
  • The Speaker has used the new standing orders to split the votes on the latest budget implementation bill, so it looks like those rules are working.
  • After the hue and cry, only a few amendments were made to the Access to Information reform bill. Expect a much rougher ride in the Senate.
  • New Democrats are also planning to move amendments to the Arms Trade Treaty legislation, with the aim of closing supposed loopholes.
  • MPs and diplomats are fanning out across the United States to dissuade another wave of irregular migrants from trying to cross the border illegally.
  • It’s expected that as many as 1.4 million new status Indians could be on the rolls after Bill S-3 passes as amended by the Senate.
  • The MPs and senators on the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians have their clearances, signed their oaths, and are getting to work.
  • A program to help attract highly skilled tech workers from across the globe has already netted some 1600 applications in the first two months.
  • The government has pledged another $1.6 million for the PEARL Arctic research station, which will help monitor climate change.
  • There has been an increase in the number of homeless veterans, but that may be a reflection of greater outreach in identifying them.
  • The Clerk of the Privy Council is leaning on deputy ministers and departments to demonstrate what they’re doing to mitigate Phoenix pay problems.
  • Here’s a look at the success being had with the new treaty negotiation process with First Nations across the country.
  • Here’s an interesting Supreme Court ruling on the promise of anonymity not being a shield against obstruction of justice, and how that impacts Crime Stoppers.
  • Jagmeet Singh says he won’t be running in any of the upcoming by-elections. Colour me shocked.
  • Kady O’Malley cautions against calling the Paradise Papers revelations a Liberal scandal, as there are no actual direct or even indirect links at this time.
  • Jen Gerson relays a public post-mortem of the Energy East pipeline.
  • Colby Cosh writes about the fascinating tale of replacing the standard Kilogram from the artefact that defined it (with the help of Canada’s National Research Council).

Odds and ends:

The Hill Times profiles the Bloc Québécois couple who became the first sitting MPs to also become parents.

Here is Monique Bégin’s speech at the Parliamentarian of the Year awards, and it’s one for the ages.

One thought on “Roundup: Blame Dawson or the system?

  1. Maybe because just watched a rerun of “Homer Badman” so it’s on my mind, but you are letting the press off rather lightly in their own role?

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