A View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – Are the Tories opening Pandora’s box? – Cornwall Ontario – October 27, 2010

Cornwall ON – Media reports indicate that the Prime Minister’s new Chief of Staff has asked to appear before the parliamentary ethics committee on November 2nd. Nigel Wright will be there to answer questions from MPs of all parties, not just opposition MPs, over opposition concerns that his position will put him in conflict of interest given his strong private sector ties.

Nigel Wright’s potential appearance raises some interesting questions:

  • Are we seeing a precedent set where future Chief of Staffs will be expected to appear before a committee to discuss their suitability for the job? Have American style confirmation hearings arrived in Canada?
  • Will future Chief of Staffs to the Prime Minister or ministers for that matter be expected to appear before any committee when called upon to do so?

The Conservatives have spent a great deal of time and political capital to make sure that staffers ignore committee requests to appear. For example, the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications refused to attend after being issued a summons to appear before the same committee. Has the government changed it’s position on this matter?

  • What happens if the committee votes that Wright is not suitable for the position because of a conflict of interest? Does Wright ignore the will of parliamentarians?
  • In the same situation, does the Prime Minister insist on appointing Wright over the objections of the all party committee? Harper could argue that the committee was playing partisanship games, but it still has the potential to be a communications disaster.
  • Wright has agreed to provide personal information, including the arrangements he has made with the ethics commissioner to the committee. What precedent does this set? Could a future minister or Prime Minister with a strong business background expect to be called before the committee to divulge their personal arrangements?
  • What personal information remains off limits to committee prying? Is this the wedge that future committees will use to insist on seeing more detailed personal information, not just arrangements made with the ethics commissioner?
  • Have the opposition members agreed to play fair and ask legitimate questions without trying to put the man on trial or have they prepared a Gwyn Morgan type reception for Mr Wright?

Wright’s appearance promises to be a major media event on the Hill. It remains to be seen how this will play out and whether or not Wright’s appearance will have repercussions for others down the road.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.



  1. A late-in-the-day attempt to appear transparent by this hyper-secretive government.

  2. EKOS Poll released this morning says:
    Conservatives 33.9%
    Liberals 27.8%
    NDP 15.1%
    Green Party 11.6%
    BLOC Quebecois 9.3%

  3. Author

    Well there’s some good news in there Stan. I think the longer the Harper government continues the less likely they’ll get a majority mandate.

  4. AngusReid: Con 37% Lib 26% NDP 19% BQ 10% Grn 6%

  5. I would like to know more about the person who will have the Prime Minister’s ear, it is a good move. He should keep the job no matter what the other parties say, its not like they all agree on anything anyway.
    Wait, they did agree that Bonhome should not be used by a magazine to represent possible wrong doing in Quebec. What a waste of time that was!

    With 5 plus parties, how is anyone going to get a majority?

  6. We’ll be looking for a Green Party majority in the next federal election. The Tories and the Liberals are too busy slagging each other off and will eventually consume themselves. The NDP? Ha, good luck! Theres no way anyone would want an NDP government again especially in Canada. The BLOC, forget it! That leaves the Greens with a majority.

  7. This pretty much a non-story …not the article, but this administrative waste of time and circus act for the media, and their readership.

    This has no effect on you, or I, or our nation’s business, not really.

    It’s just another distraction to keep us from examining the sad state of our government’s relentless waste of money, and it’s dreadful waste of young lives.

    There’s little that can be done about the waste of lives as the population continues it’s nationalistic and military chest thumping, and the money that is being thrown at war industries — approaching $250 billion, and not the mere $25 billion that Canada’s government would have us believe.

    We are in line to have serious cuts to social programs, and if your ready for it …pensions. Pensions will not only be reduced, but we will see the age raised to 67 or more. That is now a sure thing .. and unless government waste and graft is stopped, it will be imposed on us regardless of who wins the next election.

    And as distasteful as it may be, it is only a minority or coalition government that would not raise the pension age. So afraid of losing power they would search for some other cost cutting source.

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