Sunday, May 30, 2010

Clement's silly season

This is just flip, Tony Clement spinning the conflict of interest allegations he's presently under: "Video flap is "silly season'' stuff: Clement."

The National Post editorial board, notoriously in the corner of the Conservatives, doesn't think it's silly season. Although they wouldn't come out and explicitly say it, the upshot of their editorial was that Clement should be relieved of his duties.

Clement and his defenders keep saying that Tony would have to have some financial interest in the company that he spoke on behalf of in the promotional video shown in China. But no, that's not quite correct. Section 4 of the Conflict of Interest Act says this:
For the purposes of this Act, a public office holder is in a conflict of interest when he or she exercises an official power, duty or function that provides an opportunity to further his or her private interests or those of his or her relatives or friends or to improperly further another person’s private interests.
Clement also throws in the condition that the company on whose behalf he spoke would have to be a financial supporter. On what basis does he state that? Surely a minister speaking in a video on behalf of one company to the exclusion of all others might further that one company's financial interests. It should be enough in our conflict of interest laws that a minister acts to the exclusion of all others to support one particular company's interests. A minister speaks on behalf of Canada, not for one company. The problem is the identification Clement provided, in that video, that he was Minister of Health. Not that he was the MP for Muskoka acting on behalf of a constituent.

On its face, this situation looks like a problem and it's not just partisans saying so. Clement seems to be going a little too far in mocking its scrutiny. In a week where we've heard lots of rhetoric from the government about ministerial responsibility, Clement's remarks directly contradict that supposed responsibility.