The fox shouldn’t be guarding the henhouse

Linda Leon Open letter to MP Ryan Leef: Thank you for working on a private member's bill to require situation-appropriate sentencing and treatment for those suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome disorder who run afoul of the law. This is a worthy project

COMMENTARY

by Linda Leon

Open letter to MP Ryan Leef:

Thank you for working on a private member’s bill to require situation-appropriate sentencing and treatment for those suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome disorder who run afoul of the law. This is a worthy project.

Another private member’s bill, C-520, Supporting Non-Partisan Agents of Parliament Act, introduced by MP Mark Adler, has not received the attention it deserves. This act addresses the activities of agents of Parliament and, once it receives royal assent, will pertain to the auditor general, the chief electoral officer, the commissioner of official languages, the privacy commissioner, the information commissioner, the Senate ethics officer, the public sector integrity commissioner, ministerial staff and parliamentary staff.

The act requires that these agents and staff declare any past political activities, future plans for political activities and that they act in a non-partisan manner.

Section 9, called “the examination of alleged partisan conduct,” states that “on written request to the office of an agent of Parliament by any member of the Senate or House of Commons that alleges that a person who occupies a position in that office has conducted their duties and responsibilities in a partisan manner, the agent of Parliament may examine the matter and take such steps as they consider necessary.”

Public servants are already required to behave in a non-political manner. So why does it need to be stated again? Is there something missing from current legislation or is this an attempt to make bogeymen out of public servants?

What does “partisan manner” mean? Every other term in this bill is explicitly defined. Why leave “partisan” open to interpretation, if not to invite witch hunts?

Conservative Party members began labelling all sorts of people as “partisan” as far back as 2006. The press, civil servants, scholars, experts and, not surprisingly, various agents of Parliament who stubbornly maintained professional standards in spite of being harassed, were and continue to be slandered this way.

If Dean Del Mastro is charged with breaking several laws around campaign expenses, it could only be because the chief electoral officer, Marc Mayrand, is “wearing a team jersey.” It couldn’t possibly be because Del Mastro committed crimes.

From the Conservative perspective there is an army of malcontents in various government departments who have nothing better to do than persecute innocent Conservatives. What a story!

“Partisan” is also a word attributed to anyone who makes impartial but inconvenient observations, who naively provides evidence-based advice and who speaks “off message.” It especially describes someone who has held Conservatives accountable for legitimately identified errors, as has the former parliamentary budget officer, Kevin Page.

This raises another question. Who is allowed to behave in a partisan manner? Jenni Byrne is the co-deputy chief of staff for the Prime Minister’s Office. Her salary is paid for by the public. She e-mails partisan hate ad/fundraising letters on behalf of the Conservative Party to supporters. I happen to know this because she used to send poison pen letters to me. The e-mails were sent during business hours.

Under the Westminister parliamentary system, government watchdogs stand alone in order to prevent political interference. Bill C-520 will remove the independence of these public agents.

The Conservative argument is that the agents should not be independent. It presumes that members of Parliament and the Senate are above bias and should be the ones watching the shop. According to this argument, the fox should guard the henhouse because the chickens are untrustworthy.

The Prime Minister’s Office has said that Bill C-520 reflects the Conservatives’ “principles of transparency and accountability.” This is from a government that was charged with contempt of Parliament over its refusal to disclose information on the Afghan detainees and the cost of its crime policy! Just how stupid do Conservatives think Canadians are?

Bill C-520 is a partner document of the Unfair Elections Act. Both bills seek to muzzle public servants, dismantle democratic safeguards and give free rein to the unscrupulous. Neither was written with the public good in mind.

That is why I like your private member’s bill on FASD. It puts your expertise to good use on behalf of the public. But, expertise has been trumped by what is called “common sense” in Conservative vernacular.

Your bill is unlikely to pass. Hopefully, once the Harper regime has died, your bill will be revisited. The idea has real merit.

A government that has to cheat, lie and stack the deck in order to maintain power is, by these very actions, unworthy.

Linda Leon is a Whitehorse freelance writer. She is not now, nor has she ever been, a member of any federal political party.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

adsf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Hans Gatt wins inaugural 2021 Yukon Journey

The Yukon Journey, a 255-mile race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse, kicked off on Feb. 24

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities