September 19, 2002
Federal ethics plan may cover spouses: Bill on a fast track: Breadth expected to prompt backlash from Senators, MPs
OTTAWA - Spouses of MPs and senators could be forced to disclose their personal financial holdings under an ethics package the Prime Minister is hoping to fast-track through Parliament.
Government insiders are anticipating controversy over the proposal, which is still being debated, and can also expect resistance if they move to include aspects of the code of conduct in legislation -- rather than only in House rules -- because of fears it could lead to MPs and Senators defending themselves in court.
Anne Cools, a Liberal Senator, has been one of the most vocal critics of the code since it was first proposed by Mr. Chretien in June. She said there is no evidence of ethical breaches by MPs or Senators, and if the Prime Minister is having trouble with his Cabinet, he should deal with poor performers directly.
"On the question of an officer of Parliament created by legislation, I would have an enormous problem with any legislation creating an officer of Parliament which would have the effect of subjecting parliamentarians to it," she said.
Ms. Cools said she has been warning her colleagues that legislation could lead to MPs and Senators having to defend themselves in court.
"We are living in a highly litigious community and the phenomenon of Parliament is that Parliament is supposed to be the master of its own proceedings and that Parliament answers to no higher body," she said.