February 22nd, 2018

Banning media coverage of ethics probes a bad idea, openness groups say

By The Canadian Press on February 9, 2018.

Interim public sector integrity commissioner Mario Dion waits to appear before the Commons estimates committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday December 13, 2011. Pro-transparency groups are panning the new federal ethics watchdog's suggestion he should be able to prevent the media from reporting on his probes. In testimony this week, conflict of interest and ethics commissioner Mario Dion said that for many Canadians an allegation against a public office holder is akin to a finding of wrongdoing.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA – Pro-transparency groups are panning the new federal ethics watchdog’s suggestion that he should be able to prevent the media from reporting on his investigations.

In testimony this week, conflict of interest and ethics commissioner Mario Dion said that for many Canadians an allegation against a public office holder is akin to a finding of wrongdoing.

Dion floated the notion he be given authority to issue confidentiality orders to stop parliamentarians from talking about a complaint and to prevent media outlets from reporting on it.

Duncan Pike of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression says weakening transparency and keeping Canadians in the dark won’t solve the problem Dion identifies.

Duff Conacher, a founder of the group Democracy Watch, wondered if Dion has evidence to back up his assertion that publicity about an alleged ethical breach makes people think a politician is guilty.

Chantal Gagnon, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister’s Office, had no comment on Dion’s remarks.

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