Canada finance minister apologizes after reprimand

Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:21pm EST
 
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty apologized on Friday for breaking ethics rules when he lobbied on behalf of a constituent who wanted to set up a radio station, and said it was an "oversight" that would not happen again.

Flaherty acted after Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson told him on Thursday that he had been wrong to send regulators a letter in his capacity as finance minister, and formally ordered him to refrain from writing similar letters without her approval.

Her order is an embarrassment for a Conservative government that came to power in early 2006 promising greater accountability in politics.

Flaherty urged the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission last March to grant a radio license to a company based in his parliamentary constituency of Whitby-Oshawa, just east of Toronto. The rules allow regular legislators to lobby regulators, but ministers may not in their capacity as cabinet members.

"The letter ... was fully intended to be written and sent in my capacity as member of Parliament for Whitby-Oshawa," Flaherty said in statement emailed to Reuters. "However, due to an oversight my ministerial title was used in the signature block. This is regrettable and I can assure the ethics commissioner that this will not happen again."

Flaherty's constituent did not win the license to operate the radio station.

Dawson sent Flaherty a formal compliance order late on Thursday telling him that "it is improper for you as minister of finance" to have written to the regulators.

"I therefore order you to refrain from writing any similar letters in the future without seeking approval from my office," she said. Flaherty has been finance minister since the Conservatives took power.   Continued...

 
Canada's Finance Minister Jim Flaherty speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa December 14, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie