NDP calls for investigation into ‘Jim Flaherty’s attempt to influence’ the CRTC

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

In the aftermath of a stern rebuke by the federal ethics commissioner, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has written a letter to the prime minister asking for a full investigation into Jim Flaherty's letter to the CRTC.

On Friday, the finance minister was criticized by Commissioner Mary Dawson for writing the letter to the federal broadcast regulator urging them to grant a radio licence to a company in his Whitby-Oshawa riding.

In her compliance order made public on Friday, Dawson said Flaherty violated the Conflict of Interest Act as well as federal accountability guidelines for ministers for including his "Minister of Finance" title in the signature section of the letter.

"It is improper for you, as Minister of Finance and Minister responsible for the Greater Toronto Area, to have written a letter of support on behalf of a constituent to an administrative tribunal in relation to its decision making," Dawson wrote.

[ Related: Ethics commissioner says Flaherty broke the rules ]

The CRTC was also critical of the letter in an email to the Globe and Mail.

"While ministers are not precluded from representing their constituents in their capacity as Members of Parliament, they are prohibited, under section 9 of the Act, from using their positions as public office holders to seek to influence decision making so as to improperly further the private interests of another person," spokesperson Jocelyne Brisebois wrote.

"As the facts are clear and an order has been made, the Commissioner will not be launching an investigation."

In response to the public scolding, Flaherty's office issued this statement/apology late Friday morning.

"The letter to the Secretary General of the CRTC on behalf of a constituent was fully intended to be written and sent in my capacity as Member of Parliament for Whitby-Oshawa. It was drafted in my community office and printed on my M.P. letterhead, and in fact, I insisted the M.P. reference be added to the text to emphasize the point. However, due to an oversight my Ministerial title was used in the signature block. This is regrettable and I can assure the Ethics Commissioner that this will not happen again."

The apology wasn't enough for the NDP, however, who released their own statement with some strong words from leader Thomas Mulcair.

Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair has written to Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling for an investigation into Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s attempt to influence the CRTC’s decision about a local radio station’s license application.

'The Conservative Party promised accountability over six years ago. It’s time to close the gap between promises and reality,' said Mr. Mulcair. 'It’s time to take the first step by investigating the actions by Mr. Flaherty.'

The Conservative government’s guidelines for ministerial accountability clearly state that “ministers must not intervene, or appear to intervene, with tribunals on any matter requiring a decision in their quasi-judicial capacity, except as permitted by statute.

According to the National Post, Liberal MP and ethics critic Scott Andrews, also questioned the government's rules surrounding accountability.

"They make rules and then they break rules and say they don’t apply to them, and think they’ve done absolutely nothing wrong," he told the Post on Thursday.

"They’ve put a lot of words on paper but they’ve never lived up to them."

[ More politics: Idle No More gets support from alleged American terrorist ]

While Andrews stopped short of asking for Flaherty's resignation, the Post notes that Liberal David Collenette was forced to resign as defence minister in 1996 after he wrote to the federal immigration board on behalf of a constituent.

Anyone waiting for Flaherty to resign, however, is probably going to be disappointed.

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