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June 17, 2005
NDP: Ethics Commissioner A Lapdog, Not A Watchdog

Despite their last-minute partnership on a budget amendment with the Liberal Party that allowed Paul Martin to hold onto power, the NDP has lost patience with Parliament's ethics commissioner for dragging his feet on investigating their Grit allies. NDP leadership has called for the resignation of Bernard Shapiro and the appointment of a more active ethics watchdog:

Parliament's independent ethics watchdog is an incompetent "wet noodle" who should be replaced, critics say.

Bernard Shapiro, named ethics czar by the Liberals last year, has been asked in recent months to look into at least two cases of alleged conflict in the Liberal cabinet.

He has not released final reports in either case, and has been cast by the opposition as a bumbling foot-dragger.

Now, the NDP says Shapiro has declined to expand an inquiry into the controversial Grewal tapes affair to include the prime minister.

They have demanded an explanation, and MP Ed Broadbent says he will formally call for Shapiro's resignation next week.

This development should shake the Martin coalition, and perhaps NDP leader Jack Layton as well. All political calculations have included NDP as a coalition partner in the Liberal minority government. If the NDP breaks away, having accomplished what they wanted on the budget already, the Liberals cannot withstand another confidence motion. Martin could prorogue Parliament, but he will have to reconvene it sometime next year -- and in the meantime, these ethics issues will continue to fester.

The NDP is not the only critical voice being reported about Shapiro and his lack of response. The Tories, through deputy leader Peter MacKay, referred to Shapiro with the "wet noodle" epithet, but their displeasure with Shapiro is understandable given the politics involved. The Tories also want the Grewal tapes investigation expanded into the Prime Minister's office, as his chief of staff played a central role in that scandal. However, much more troubling are the allegations and possibility of court action from Democracy Watch, a non-partisan group which has accused Shapiro of acting out of a conflict of interest with the Liberals:

Duff Conacher, spokesman for the public interest group Democracy Watch, is even more critical.

"I think it's generous to say incompetence when it amounts to bias."

The group plans to press Shapiro to step aside while his work over the last year is independently reviewed. If he refuses, Democracy Watch will ask a court to order such a probe by the end of July, Conacher said.

He has repeatedly assailed Shapiro for appointing Borden Ladner Gervais, a law firm with close Liberal ties, to investigate allegations that former Immigration Minister Judy Sgro was in conflicts of interest. She resigned in January to clear her name. But Shapiro, citing various delays and legal snags, has still not released his final report.

Conacher says Shapiro has shown a disturbing tendency to protect public officials rather than investigate legitimate complaints of rule-breaking.

Just when it looked like Martin had escaped vote-counting for the summer, it looks like he may have to gird up for battle again. If he can't convince the NDP to back off, deal-making alone appears highly unlikely to save the Liberal grip on power. Either Martin will have to endure an ethics probe that may well develop even more revelations of corruption and scandal, or he will have to prorogue Parliament and force the entire nation to wait it out until next year.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 17, 2005 5:00 PM

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» Bernard Shapiro is clueless from Stephen Taylor - Conservative Party of Canada Pundit
Bernard Shapiro isn't exactly sure of what his job entails. From CBC News: Bernard Shapiro originally insisted he had no mandate to probe Murphy's behaviour. But he now concedes his interpretation of his powers may be wrong and that he is sti... [Read More]

Tracked on June 17, 2005 11:14 PM

» Bernard Shapiro -- Is he Buckets of Grewal? from Angry in the Great White North
Could Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro be the mysterious blogger Buckets of Grewal? I only say that because it would explain why Shapiro is not getting any work done. [Read More]

Tracked on June 18, 2005 5:32 AM

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