Earlier, we reported provincial New Democrat legislator John Horgan has introduced legislation aimed at "extending the provisions of the (Members' Conflict of Interest Act) to deputy ministers and government appointees, including ministerial staff and advisors and those in charge of public sector entities." But that legislation is selective in which provisions it extends. Under Mr. Horgan's bill, political aides and senior bureaucrats would be subject to the same lobbying and conflict of interest restrictions as legislators. But, unlike legislators, they won't be required to file annual financial disclosure statements accessible to the public. That's a surprising ommission on Mr. Horgan's part.
The reason: Ted Hughes, in his final report as British Columbia's conflict of interest commissioner, recommended "embracing senior officials within the requirements" of the Members' Conflict of Interest Act - with no apparent exceptions. Moreover, an influential 1996 review of Alberta's conflicts of interest legislation - entitled Integrity in government in Alberta - specifically recommended just such a disclosure system.
According to the review, "disclosure documents for 'policy officials' and for their spouses, minor children and direct associates should be made available to the public through the Office of the Ethics Commissioner. The Panel thought hard about this recommendation. It is a change in the terms and conditions of employment for important appointed officials in Alberta. Their personal financial lives and those of their families will be exposed to public scrutiny. In a perhaps unexpected way, they are defined as 'public figures'. At the end of the day, we concluded that disclosre, if it is to contribute signiicantly to public confidence in government, means disclosure to the public at large."