The Ethics Commissioner is ready to talk about the remuneration of elected officials

The Ethics Commissioner is ready to talk about the remuneration of elected officials

The Ethics Commissioner is ready to talk about the remuneration of elected officials

Photo: Francis Vachon A report on the application of the National Assembly's code of ethics was tabled three years ago by Ariane Mignolet.

Ethics Commissioner Ariane Mignolet wishes to be heard in a parliamentary committee to discuss, in particular, the measures to be put in place to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest concerning the remuneration of MEPs.

Ms. Mignolet tabled a report three years ago on the application of the National Assembly's code of ethics in which she recommends, among other elements, the establishment of an independent mechanism to establish the working conditions of elected officials. .

Contrary to what was planned, the Commissioner has still not yet been invited to a parliamentary committee after the tabling of the document, whose twenty or so recommendations, particularly on remuneration, could modify several aspects of the code of ethics.

In an interview with Devoir, Ms. Mignolet acknowledges that the pandemic has disrupted parliamentary work, but she still hopes that she will be able to meet with MPs to discuss her report. “I would like it to be called for study,” she said last Friday.

The day before, the elected members of the National Assembly had mandated two former deputies and a human resources specialist to make a proposal concerning the remuneration of elected officials.

Ms. Mignolet remained very cautious in commenting on this new initiative, which aims to prevent elected officials from placing themselves in a situation of apparent conflict of interest by determining their own working conditions.

“ I see that it is not unanimous among parliamentarians, “she justified.

Québec solidaire (QS) dissociated itself from this decision supported by the other parties. QS MP Ruba Ghazal considers it inappropriate that the two former mandated MPs are still receiving a transitional allowance from the National Assembly after renouncing to stand in the last elections. Ms. Ghazal also wants all MPs' compensation to be taken into account.

Not negative

Ms. Mignolet declined to comment on the risks of an appearance of conflict of interest that could arise from the fact that the two former elected members, the PQ Martin Ouellet and the Liberal Lise Thériault, still have a financial link with the parliamentary institution.

“Already, former parliamentarians, they know parliamentary work, she said. It is not something that is negative in itself.

In her report, Ms. Mignolet writes that an independent mechanism would make it possible to fully respect the ethical rules set out in the code of ethics.

[Deputies in the electoral campaign ] manage budgets and they are half in the campaign, half in their role, and the border is a little blurred

— Ariane Mignolet


His observation is based on an analysis that his predecessor, Jacques Saint-Laurent, had made on this subject. He pleaded for the establishment of a permanent independent committee with decision-making powers on the working conditions of MPs.

“The possibility cannot be ruled out that a reasonably well-informed person will question the existence of a situation of conflict of interest, when Members decide on their own working conditions and their remuneration, whatever they are,” he wrote in an excerpt quoted by his successor in her most recent report.

Ms. Mignolet did not want to specify the importance she attaches to the extent of the decision-making powers the committee should have neither on its permanent nature.

“The discussions on this, I prefer to have them with the parliamentarians themselves within the framework of the study of the report of implementation”, has she said.

Ministers and companies

After the tabling of her report, Ms. Mignolet had already had the opportunity to comment on one of her recommendations aimed at giving her more latitude to judge the risks of conflicts in the event that ministers hold interests in private companies that have contractual ties with the State.

“Obviously, this does not open the door to all ministers being able to hold interests, it will depend on the minister's responsibilities, she said. repeated in interview at Devoir. There are plenty of elements that can be taken into account, what I ask is flexibility to assess the situation. »

This issue has been felt more acutely by the numerous disputes of Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon, who has been blamed for assets he has been slow to dispose of.

Among her other recommendations, Ms. Mignolet also seeks the power to enforce the code of ethics during election campaigns.

Currently, the deputies fall into a gray zone which is not provided for by the code as soon as the National Assembly is dissolved by the lieutenant-governor, on the day the campaign is launched.

“They manage budgets and they are half in the campaign, half in their role, and the boundary is a bit blurred”, says the Commissioner.

This situation increases the risk of Parliament's resources being used to partisan ends, which is prohibited by the code of ethics.

Even if her powers are non-existent during the campaign, Ms. Mignolet does not prevent herself from intervening informally when the situation requires it.< /p>

“I pick up the phone and, if I see a situation, I explain it,” she says.

This kind of intervention was not necessary when of the last election campaign, she assures, without being able to remember exactly what happened for that of 2018. “I did not have any major situations, affi rm the commissioner. There are always small cases, but not worth mentioning. »