The hiring of former Agriculture Minister Evan Berger immediately following last year’s provincial election brought to the surface more ethical quandaries for many Albertans.
Berger failed to win his riding, but was subsequently rehired and the government went so far as to set up his office within view of the successful candidate, Wildrose MLA Pat Stier’s office.
The Wildrose Official Opposition MLAs Shayne Saskiw and Jeff Wilson submitted changes to Alberta’s Conflict of Interest Act review committee last week in an attempt to eliminate the possibility of this kind of unethical hiring from reoccurring.
In an attempt to strengthen the act and the Ethics Commissioner’s powers, Saskiw and Wilson who sit on the committee, submitted several other recommendations which include:
— Allowing the Ethics Commissioner to initiate an investigation by requiring more clarity with respect to the rules governing the financial disclosure of MLAs.
— More clearly outlining how the Commissioner reports and publishes the results of investigations that discover any violations under the act.
— Broadening the language of what would constitute who would be included when defining people who are considered “associates” of an MLA, i.e., relatives and friends.
— Toughening up the “cooling off” period for former ministers and political staff, moving re-employment by the government from a six-month waiting period to 12 months.
These recommendations are similar to current regulations in place within the Canadian and B.C. governments.
With seven of the eleven Conflict of Interest Act review committee members being from the government side of the house, it was no surprise that they voted to maintain the status quo.
The changes included repealing subsection 24 (6), which effectively gags MLAs from speaking out on issues of ethical conduct in the Legislature.
This decision reaffirms the 41-year culture of entitlement that continues to be fostered within the Alberta government.
Ethical scandals appear to be a serious problem throughout the province of Alberta and without serious changes to our laws that govern ethical behaviour, they will continue unabated.
Justice Critic Shayne Saskiw commented on the proposed changes saying, “Albertans can be assured that the Wildrose is committed to running a clean, ethical and accountable government that plays by the rules.”
“We know from the evidence that no matter who is in charge of the government party, it’s clear that this government is more interested in serving itself than doing the right thing,” Wilson added, obviously frustrated by the resistance to the proposed changes.
Unfortunately, the unethical behaviour is not confined to the provincial level of government, in fact in some cases it has appeared even at board levels. The acceptance of unethical behaviour by our provincial government has become the yardstick for those involved to justify their own lack of ethics.
The Wildrose caucus is committed to proposing changes to the rules that govern how MLAs and the government in Alberta conduct themselves.
By eliminating the possibility of ethical breaches, we will create a more accountable and transparent government.
— From The Legislature