Ethics Commissioner Investigating Federal Health Minister Over Luxury Car Service with Liberal Party Ties

Peter Zimonjic of the CBC reports that the federal Health Minister is being investigated by the Ethics Commissioner over whether she violated section 7 of the Conflict of Interest Act by incurring over $7000 in expenses using a luxury car service owned by someone who campaigned for her during the 2015 federal election:

According to section 7, “No public office holder shall, in the exercise of an official power, duty or function, give preferential treatment to any person or organization based on the identity of the person or organization that represents the first-mentioned person or organization.”

In response to a request by Conservative MP Collin Carrie to investigate the federal Health Minister, the Ethics Commissioner wrote back stating that she has begun an investigation to determine whether the Minister contravened section 7 of the Act.

Pursuant to section 44 of the Act, the Commissioner will now investigate the matter, and make public a report setting out the facts in question as well as the Commissioner’s analysis and conclusions in relation to the investigation.

Green Party Sanctioned for Distributing Misleading Polling Data

CBC reports on a compliance agreement entered into on July 22nd by the Green Party of Canada:

In the compliance agreement the Party acknowledged that:

  • deliberate use of unreliable polling data intended for internal use, which use did not meet the informational requirements of the Elections Act—as well as the erroneous presentation of the polling data as being the latest results when subsequent polling data was trending down—was misleading; and
  • It constituted an attempt to induce a person to vote or not to vote for a particular candidate using a pretence or contrivance, and as such, an offence under paragraph 482(b) of the Act.

Here is the notice of the compliance agreement from the Commissioner’s website:

Another reminder of the importance of political parties retaining legal counsel during elections and working closely with them to ensure compliance with the Elections Act!

“Company owned by former B.C. government director pleads guilty to Elections Act violation”

CBC reports on a company that has pleaded guilty to one count of making an unreported political contribution in connection with providing

“Partisan interests difficult to avoid in electoral reform debate”

Éric Grenier explores the politics of electoral system reform:

One aspect of the reporting on the preferential ballot that continues to be pushed by journalists and pollsters is the idea that you can somehow accurately predict how the system would work in the future based on past elections. This is an exercise in speculation, and I take issue when it is passed off as any kind of reliable scientific prediction of how this electoral system works.

The above article refers to an earlier analysis that predicts what the result of the 2015 federal election would have been under a preferential ballot system, based on polling of peoples’ second choices.

The flaw with this analysis is that it misses the fundamental point that if you change the rules of the game, it will be played differently by political parties. When you change to a preferential ballot system, political parties and campaigns will change too. Parties and candidates will continue to try to win, but the path to victory will be different under different rules.

Trying to predict the results of elections under a different system is no more than speculation, and it should be recognized as such. This article is both an exploration and an example of how politics is difficult to separate from electoral systems

“Electoral reform: a primer”

CBC News sets out a very brief summary of some of the alternatives that will be studied by the Parliamentary committee looking into electoral reform:

The “benefits” and “drawbacks” descriptions are unfortunately very lazily done. If journalists are going to explore the strengths and weaknesses of electoral systems it deserves much more detail and evidence than a couple summary statements or quotes lifted from supporters or opponents of particular systems. Better to not have added this at all and leave the serious policy analysis to those who do it justice.

“New election technology could bring end to searching voter lists, speed up result times”

CBC news reports on the e-poll books and vote tabulators that were tested by Elections Ontario in a February by-election and the efficiencies they can bring to the administration of elections:

Andrew Coyne on Post-Employment Conflict of Interest Restrictions

Andrew Coyne with a sarcastic take on “a chorus of voices” that are criticizing the post-employment provisions of the Conflict of Interest Act (Canada):

I take some issue with his description of lawyering (and journalism) as weaselly; I certainly don’t think that applies to the kind of law I practice, and weaselly is more of a personality trait that can apply to someone in any career. But this piece is meant to provoke a chuckle so we lawyers shouldn’t take it personally!

“Rex Murphy: The Liberal government does not have the right to unilaterally change our voting system”

Rex Murphy opined in the National Post yesterday on the process of how the electoral system should be changed in Canada:

Murphy states that the Government does not have the “right” to change Canada’s voting system without first holding a referendum, but that is not correct. Everyone may have an opinion on whether a Government has the moral authority to change the electoral system, and there may indeed be some changes to the system that the Government does not have the right to do (e.g. those that violate section 3 of the Charter or involve amendments to the Constitution).

But despite Murphy’s objections to the Government proceeding unilaterally on electoral reform, it is indeed possible for them to do so. I for one don’t expect a nation-wide referendum on electoral reform any time soon.