PARLIAMENT of CANADA
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REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Standing Committee on the Conflict of Interest for Senators

has the honour to present its

THIRD REPORT


Your committee, which is responsible on its own initiative for all matters relating to the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators, pursuant to rule 86(1)(r)(ii) of the Rules of the Senate, has undertaken a study on the provisions of the Code, and is pleased to report as follows: 

The Standing Committee on Conflict of Interest for Senators exercises general and constant oversight over the conflict of interest regime applicable to Senators. As part of this mandate, the Committee ensures that the provisions of the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators are clear and current. In this regard, the Committee is now proposing six amendments to the Code.

The objectives of these amendments are: 

 

Senators’ Employment, Profession or Business 

Current Provisions 

Every Senator must file annually with the Senate Ethics Officer a confidential disclosure statement pursuant to section 28 of the Code which lists the confidential disclosures Senators are required to make. At present, there is no provision in section 28 for the direct disclosure of a Senator’s employment, profession or business, though this information is disclosed indirectly through the disclosure of sources of income.

 

Proposed Amendment 

In addition to the existing disclosures made under section 28, the Committee proposes that a Senator’s employment, profession or business be disclosed to the Senate Ethics Officer regardless of the annual income.

 

Rationale 

This amendment would increase the transparency, accountability and public confidence in the conflict of interest regime applicable to Senators. It would also avoid any misunderstanding about the outside activities of Senators.
 

 

Senators’ Public Disclosure Summaries 

Current Provisions 

Currently, the Code limits public disclosure of a Senator’s sources of income, assets and liabilities to matters which could relate to the parliamentary duties and functions of the Senator or could lead to a conflict.

 

Proposed Amendment 

The Committee recommends that the public disclosure of sources of income, assets and liabilities be no longer limited to matters the Senate Ethics Officer has determined to be related to the parliamentary duties and functions of the Senator or otherwise relevant. The Committee proposes, therefore, to include in the Senators’ public disclosure summaries: 

Similarly, a Senator’s employment, profession or business would also be included in the Senators’ public disclosure summaries.

 

Rationale 

This amendment would avoid any misunderstanding about the outside activities of Senators. This amendment would also increase the transparency of the conflict of interest regime applicable to Senators.

 

Online Access to Senators’ Public Disclosure Summaries 

Current Provisions 

The Senate Ethics Officer prepares a public disclosure summary for each Senator based on the information provided by the Senator in his or her annual disclosure statement. At present, the public disclosure summaries of Senators are made available to the public in the office of the Senate Ethics Officer during business hours, and by fax upon request.

 

Proposed Amendment 

The Committee proposes that, in addition to the existing measures through which they are made available to the public, the public disclosure summaries of Senators be posted on the Senate Ethics Officer’s Website.

 

Rationale 

This amendment would adapt to contemporary realities the provisions of the Code through which public disclosure summaries are made available to the public by utilizing modern means of communication as in other jurisdictions.

 

Confidential Disclosure Relating to Spouses and Common-Law Partners 

Current Provisions 

Senators’ disclosure obligations with respect to family members are currently limited to contracts with the Government of Canada and gifts and other benefits when these are acceptable in accordance with the Code, and these are disclosed confidentially to the Senate Ethics Officer and are included in the Senators’ public disclosure summaries.

 

Proposed Amendment 

The Committee proposes that, with respect to his or her spouse or common-law partner only, and not other family members, a Senator disclose confidentially to the Senate Ethics Officer the information that he or she, himself or herself, discloses confidentially to the Senate Ethics Officer only. This information includes, for example, outside activities such as employment and profession and the nature, but not the amount, of any source of income over $2,000 annually, and the nature, but not the value, of any assets and liabilities over $10,000. This disclosure would remain confidential to the Senate Ethics Officer only. This disclosure would be to the best of the Senator’s knowledge, information and belief ascertained by the Senator’s reasonable inquiries.

 

Rationale 

This amendment would enable the Senate Ethics Officer to provide meaningful advice about real and potential conflicts of interests involving Senators’ spouses or common law partners.

 

Inquiry Reports of the Senate Ethics Officer

 

Current Provisions 

Under the current section 45 of the Code, the Senate Ethics Officer reports confidentially to the Committee upon the completion of an inquiry. The Committee may then conduct an investigation and report to the Senate. The report of the Committee and the report of the Senate Ethics Officer become public only when the Committee reports to the Senate.

 

Proposed Amendment 

The Committee proposes that an inquiry report from the Senate Ethics Officer become public as soon as it is received by the Committee and in the same form it is received. The name of the Senator who was the subject of an inquiry, as at present, would be kept confidential, at his or her request, if there was no breach of the Code.

 

Rationale 

This amendment would reinforce the independence of the Senate Ethics Officer by ensuring the integrity and public disclosure of his or her inquiry reports as is commonly done in other jurisdictions. It would also increase the transparency of the Code.

 

Declaration of Private Interest 

Current Provisions 

A Senator must make a declaration of private interest when he or she, or a family member, has a private interest that may be affected by a matter before the Senate or a committee of which the Senator is a member. The Code currently requires that the Senator be present at the consideration of the matter to make the declaration of private interest.

 

Proposed Amendment 

The Committee proposes to allow the Senator to make a written declaration of private interest without the requirement of being present at the consideration of the matter by the Senate or the committee.

 

Rationale 

This amendment would facilitate the declaration of private interest by a Senator.

 

Coming Into Force 

These proposed amendments lead to changes to sections 12, 27, 28, 31, 33, 45 and 46 of the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators. The Code, with the recommended amendments integrated, is attached as an Appendix to this report. Your committee recommends that these proposed amendments be adopted and that the Code come into force on October 1, 2012.

Conflict of Interest Code for Senators

Respectfully submitted,

TERRY STRATTON
Chair


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