OTTAWA - The Information Commissioner of Canada has found evidence of "systemic interference" with access to information requests by three Conservative staff members, and suggests bringing in the police.
But Public Works Minister Diane Finley, who oversees the department where the interference occurred before her time, won't be sending the matter to the Mounties. Her office linked the findings against the three staffers to a related case that did not result in criminal charges.
"They chose not to pursue the matter further and the minister agrees with the RCMP," said spokeswoman Alyson Queen.
Suzanne Legault delivered her second report Thursday following an investigation into cases that date back to 2009 in the office of cabinet minister Christian Paradis, who held the Public Works portfolio at the time.
She had already found against one staff member, Sebastien Togneri, in a previous investigation that was sparked by a Canadian Press access-to-information request.
Togneri resigned in 2010 after The Canadian Press reported he had been involved in other cases of meddling. Colleagues Marc Toupin and Jillian Andrews also turned up in emails tabled with a parliamentary committee.
Legault looked at five additional cases, finding Togneri interfered in all of them, Toupin in one and Andrews in one. The records ranged from the sensitive asbestos file, to U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Canada.
Andrews currently works as a senior aide in the office of Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq. It is not clear if Toupin is still in the government's employ.
"These staffers inserted themselves in various ways into a process that was designed to be carried out in an objective manner by public servants," Legault wrote in her report.
"Consequently, the rights conferred under the Act were compromised."
Legault also described how she had to resort to using her powers to order the production of documents, after the department refused to divulge records held within the minister's office. Five months later, they turned over the files.
Ministerial records are not covered by the Access to Information Act, but the Supreme Court has found that they can be reviewed if they deal with departmental matters and if senior offi.
It turned out that those records — emails between political staffers — did deal specifically with departmental business. They helped to form Legault's finding against Toupin.
In an interview, Legault explained why Canadians should care about the investigation.
"The reason why we have an objective, non-partisan process in the Access to Information Act is to make sure that the Act is a key instrument in holding our govenrments to account," she said.
"It cannot and must not be that political staffers or politicians thwart the intent of the Act and prevent Canadians from holding governments to account when they're entitled to disclosure of information."
Legault says there is evidence a possible offence has been committed.
The act forbids anyone to "direct, propose, counsel or cause any person" to conceal a record, with a maximum penalty of $10,000 and two years in jail. No one has yet been convicted under the section.
But Legault again noted her dismay that she cannot refer matters to the Attorney General of Canada for investigation herself.
In the case of Togneri, former Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose referred the matter to the Mounties, but no charges were ever laid.
The department also undertook to make changes to how it handles access to information after the Togneri report, which Legault said were "laudable initiatives."
She made a pointed reference to the responsibility of ministers and top bureaucrats to make sure the access to information system is protected. She said that a culture of "pleasing the minister's office" had been fostered among public servants.
"The integrity and neutrality of the access system depends on strong leadership from the top," she wrote.
"Ministers and senior managers must ensure their employees know their responsibilities with regard to access to information, and the limitations on their roles."
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On April 1, 2014, members of Parliament received a 2.2 per cent pay increase, bringing the basic pay of each MP up to $163,700 from $160,200 the year prior. But while that base salary is the same for every member, certain MPs are afforded the chance to make much more. The full list of indemnities, salaries and allowances can be found <a href="http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/lists/Salaries.aspx?Menu=HOC-Politic&Section=03d93c58-f843-49b3-9653-84275c23f3fb" target="_blank">here.</a>
Member of the House of Commons
Tory MP Brad Butt (Mississauga-Streetsville) is an example of an MP who earns just the base salary afforded to all MPs. <strong>2014 Salary: $163,700</strong> There are currently 308 MPs.
Prime Minister of Canada
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, however, makes double the salary of your average MP. <strong>2014 Salary: $327,400 Car Allowance: $2,000</strong>
Speaker of the House of Commons
Tory MP Andrew Scheer (Regina—Qu'Appelle) earns the base salary, plus $78,300 for serving as Speaker. <strong>2014 Salary: $242,000 Car allowance: $1,000</strong>
Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair earns the base MP salary, plus $78,300 for leading the Official Opposition. <strong>2014 Salary: $242,000 Car Allowance: $2,000</strong>
Treasury Board President Tony Clement (Parry Sound–Muskoka), like other cabinet ministers, earns $78,300 on top of the base MP salary. <strong>2014 Salary: $242,000 Car Allowance: $2,000</strong> There are 39 cabinet ministers in Harper's government (including ministers of state who make slightly less).
Minister of State
Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre (Nepean-Carleton), like all other ministers of state, earns $58,700 on top of his base MP salary. But junior ministers do not received a car allowance. <strong>2014 Salary: $222,400</strong>
Leader of Other Parties
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and the leaders of the Green Party and Bloc Quebecois earn the base MP salary, plus $55,600 for serving as their party's top dog. <strong>2014 Salary: $219,300</strong>
Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Tory MP Peter Van Loan (York-Simcoe) earns $78,300 on top of the base MP salary. <strong>2014 Salary: $242,000 Car Allowance: $2,000</strong>
Oppostion House Leader
NDP MP Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster) earns the base MP salary plus a $40,600 pay bump for serving as Opposition House leader. <strong>2014 Salary: $204,300</strong> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/03/21/nathan-cullen-ndp-finance-critic-salary_n_5007937.html" target="_blank">Former NDP House leader Nathan Cullen recently took a $40,000 pay cut to move from that role to NDP finance critic.</a>
House Leader (Other Parties)
Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc (Beauséjour), earns the base MP salary plus $16,300 for serving as House leader for his party. <strong>2014 Salary: $180,000</strong>
Chief Government Whip
Tory MP John Duncan (Vancouver Island North) earns the base MP salary, plus $29,400 for serving as the Harper government's whip. <strong>2014 Salary: $193,100</strong>
Chief Opposition Whip
NDP MP Nycole Turmel (Hull—Aylmer) also earns an additional $29,400 for serving as the Opposition's whip. <strong>2014 Salary: $193,100</strong>
Tory MP Paul Calandra (Oak Ridges—Markham) is one of 31 parliamentary secretaries who gets a $16,300 pay bump on top of their salaries. <strong>2014 Salary: $180,000</strong>
UP NEXT: Pierre Poilievre Through The Years
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre rises in the House of Commons to apologize for making an obscene gesture yesterday, in Ottawa Wednesday June 14, 2006. (CP PHOTO/Tom Hanson)
Ottawa-area Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre smiles as he talks with reporters on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Tuesday Feb. 27, 2007. Poilievre referred to "extremist elements" in the Liberal party that want to ease anti-terror laws and shut down the Air India inquiry last week.(CP PHOTO/Tom Hanson) Canada
Democratic Reform Minister Peter Van Loan (right), with Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre looking on, makes an announcement on the introduction of the Accountability with Respect to Loans legislation at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec across the river from Ottawa, Tuesday May 8, 2007.(CP PHOTO/Fred Chartrand) CANADA ,
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre rises in the House of Commons to apologize for saying in a radio interview Wednesday that native people need to learn the value of hard work more than they need residential schools compensation, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday June 12, 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tom Hanson
With copies of the Conservative accountabilty booklets, Conservative M.P. Pierre Poilievre waits for the start of the Commons House affairs committee looking into allegations of Tory election spending misconduct during the last election, on Monday Sept. 10, 2007 in Ottawa. (CP PHOTO/Fred Chartrand)
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre speaks in the House of Commons during question period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday June 16, 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Pierre Poilievre, parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, leaves a news conference after speaking with the media about the gun registry in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday September 14, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday October 15, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Adrian Wyld
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre poses with a bust of Sir John A. Macdonald after announcing the former Bank of Montreal building would be renamed in honour of Canada's first prime minister during a ceremony in Ottawa, Ont., Wednesday January 11, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday February 28, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre holds up copies of legislation as he responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Friday October 19, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Pierre Poilievre is sworn in as the minister of state for democratic reform during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday, July 15, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
The Honourable Pierre Poilievre, Minister of State (Democratic Reform), poses for a group photo after the swearing in of the federal cabinet at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday, July 15, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
Minister of State Pierre Poilievre stands in the House of Commons during Question Period, in Ottawa Friday, February 7, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Minister of State (Democratic Reform) Pierre Poilievre responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, February 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
UP NEXT: The Fair Election Act
"The Fair Elections Act will ensure everyday citizens are in charge of democracy, by putting special interests on the sidelines and rule-breakers out of business," says Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre. Read more about the Fair Elections Act <a href="http://www.democraticreform.gc.ca/eng/content/harper-government-introduces-fair-elections-act" target="_blank">here.</a>
Crackdown On Illegal Robocalls
The legislation proposes a <a href="http://www.democraticreform.gc.ca/eng/content/backgrounder-protecting-voters-rogue-callers" target="_blank">mandatory public registry</a> for mass automated election calls, jail time for those convicted of impersonating an elections official, and "increased penalties for deceiving people out of their votes."
No More 'Vouching' For Your Buddy
In the interest of cracking down on voter fraud, the bill would prohibit the practice whereby one Canadian vouches for another's identity at a polling station. In fact, voter information cards will no longer be accepted as proof of identity. <a href="http://www.democraticreform.gc.ca/eng/content/backgrounder-fair-elections-act-cracking-down-voter-fraud" target="_blank">But the government says voters will still have 39 forms of authorized ID to choose from in order to prove their identity and residence.</a>
Independence For The Elections Commissioner
The Commissioner of Canada Elections office, responsible for enforcing the elections law, will be moved under the mantle of the public prosecutor's office, not Elections Canada. Conservatives believe this will give the commissioner <a href="http://www.democraticreform.gc.ca/eng/content/backgrounder-independent-commissioner-sharper-teeth-longer-reach-and-freer-hand" target="_blank">more independence</a> as the Chief Electoral Officer will no longer be able to direct him to carry out investigations. In future, the commissioner would be appointed by the director of public prosecutions to a non-renewable, seven-year term. The legislation <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/02/04/fair-elections-act-poilievre-robocalls_n_4723565.html" target="_blank">also bars</a> former political candidates, political party employees, ministerial or MP staffers or employees of Elections Canada from being named commissioner. <a href="http://www.democraticreform.gc.ca/eng/content/backgrounder-independent-commissioner-sharper-teeth-longer-reach-and-freer-hand" target="_blank">Tories believe the legislation will give the commissioner "sharper teeth" and a "longer reach" to seek out stronger penalties for offences.</a>
More Donations Welcome
The ceiling for individual political donations would be raised to $1,500 from $1,200 and party spending limits would be increased by five per cent. Union and corporate donations are still banned, though.
The West Won't Have To Wait
A long-standing ban on the <a href="http://www.democraticreform.gc.ca/eng/content/backgrounder-fair-elections-act-respecting-democratic-elections-defending-freedom-speech" target="_blank">premature transmission of election results</a> will be lifted, meaning voters in Western Canada will get to know how things are shaping up out East before heading to the polls. Broadcasters can share results from Eastern Canada on election night, even if the polls aren't closed in the West. The government believes this change will uphold free speech.
New Rules On Political Loans
The legislation would raise the amount candidates can <a href="http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/02/04/conservatives-unveil-fair-elections-act-which-they-say-will-crack-down-on-illegal-robocalls/" target="_blank">contribute to their own campaigns to $5,000.</a> Leadership contestants will be allowed to give their own campaign up to $25,000.
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John Patrick Stanley