OTTAWA - The ethics watchdog for the House of Commons wants to tighten the rules around the gifts MPs receive, saying politicians don't always seem to understand the principles involved.
Conflict of interest and ethics commissioner Mary Dawson said in her annual report Thursday that she wants the disclosure limit on gifts slashed to $30 from $500.
Anything worth more than $30 would have to be declared.
Dawson said there's a persistent misconception among MPs that as long as the gift is under $500, it's OK to accept it.
"As I have said on numerous occasions in my annual reports ... the monetary value is not the determining factor as to whether or not a member may accept a gift or other benefit," said Dawson.
"Whether it is acceptable is determined solely on the basis of whether it could be reasonably seen to have been given to influence the member, whatever its value."
Dawson added that MPs often don't regard free meals and drinks at the many receptions they attend as gifts, although she has been clear that they are gifts. She suggests MPs should put forward an exception to the gift rules if they don't agree.
Another area of concern for Dawson involves public office holders, including ministers, senior political staff and top bureaucrats.
She said that although those senior officials are supposed to tell her about offers and acceptances of employment before they leave their jobs, she only received 15 disclosures over the last year from the 292 public office holders who had left government.
"Although some reporting public office holders may retire, return to school or take time off after they leave public office, I wonder whether more than 15 may have had an offer of employment in hand at the time they left office," Dawson said.
The commissioner also came across other missing information when she asked this year for the latest financial statements from officials who hadn't updated their file in four or more years.
She discovered that some had invested in assets that they weren't allowed to hold. They were forced to sell those to abide by the Conflict of Interest Act.
Dawson says she now wants to make public office holders file a financial statement every year.
Cheapest And Best MPs To Work For
<a href="http://www.hilltimes.com/sexy-and-savvy/hill-life-people/2012/04/23/baird-voted-best-cabinet-minister-in-question-period/30519?page_requested=1" target="_hplink">The Hill Times has released its annual Politically Saavy Survey</a> and the list includes the names of the best and cheapest MPs to work for in Ottawa. (CP)
3. Best MP To Work For - Harold Albrecht - 2 per cent
2. Best MP To Work For - Stephen Harper - 2 per cent
1. Best MP To Work For - Peter Stoffer - 7 per cent
3. Biggest Scrooge To Work For - Pierre Poilievre - 4 per cent
2. Biggest Scrooge To Work For - Peter Goldring - 5 per cent
1. Biggest Scrooge To Work For - Stephen Harper - 9 per cent
Top 10 Most Expensive MP Pensions
Welcome to the $3 million club. The following 10 MPs will each receive an estimated total lifetime pension of more than $3 million if they retire in 2019. All the <a href="http://taxpayer.com/sites/default/files/CTFMP-PensionReport-WEB.pdf" target="_hplink">estimates come from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation</a> and are based on an MP retiring in 2019 and ceasing to receive their pension at age 80. The numbers if the MPs retire in 2015 are also included in the caption to each slide.
10. Michael Chong - $3,124,903
Conservative MP Michael Chong would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $2,684,816 if he were to retire in 2015.
9. Peter Van Loan - $3,194,114
Conservative MP Peter Van Loan would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $2,462,029 if he were to retire in 2015. (CP)
8. Rona Ambrose - $3,330,876
Conservative MP Rona Ambrose would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $2,429,149 if she were to retire in 2015. (CP)
7. Rob Anders - $3,643,873
Conservative MP Rob Anders would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $3,034,089 if he were to retire in 2015. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
6. Denis Coderre - $3,701,989
Liberal MP Denis Coderre would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $3,288,821 if he were to retire in 2015. (Graham Hughes/CP)
5. Scott Brison - $3,723,666
Liberal MP Scott Brison would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $3,113,881 if he were to retire in 2015.
4. James Moore - $3,795,386
Conservative MP James Moore would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $2,893,658 if he were to retire in 2015. (Althia Raj)
3. Gerry Byrne - $3,996,498
Liberal MP Gerry Byrne would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $3,450,711 if he were to retire in 2015.
2. Jason Kenney - $4,318,507
Conservative MP Jason Kenney would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $3,416,779 if he were to retire in 2015. (CP)
1. Stephen Harper - $5,596,474
Prime Minister Stephen Harper would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $5,456,109 if he were to retire in 2015. Harper's numbers are based on the PM not buying back into the program for his service as a Reform Party MP between 1993-1997. In order to make a political statement, Harper did not contribute to the pension program during his time as a Reform MP. After returning to Parliament Hill in 2002, Harper could have retroactively contributed to the program for his service from 1993 to 1997. According to the PMO, Harper has not and will not make those contributions. MPs are not obligated to disclose this information. If Harper were to choose to buy back in for those years, his numbers would change. If he were to buy back in and retire in 2019 he would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $6,216,858 and $6,233,568 if he were to retire in 2015. His numbers also include the special allowance he will receive as Prime Minister. An earlier version of this story used the numbers based on Harper buying back in for the 1993 to 1997 period. After being contacted by the PMO with the prime minister's pledge not to do so, the numbers were updated. (CP)