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Wilkinson Leg Comm

Wilkinson Leg Comm

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Published by Charles Rusnell
Neil Wilkinson's statement before a Legislature committee last week.
Neil Wilkinson's statement before a Legislature committee last week.

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Published by: Charles Rusnell on Nov 30, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Mr. Wilkinson:
All right. I do have a statement that I would like to make, and it addresses some of the questions and comments that have been made here. I really want to conclude today by addressing a vital issue that has become the focus of the discussion in the Legislature and in the media. The issue here is the independence and integrity of both the office of the Ethics Commissioner and me personally. Last week Albertans witnessed an unprecedented attack on the officers of the Legislature right across the Commonwealth. This happened when the word
 “corrupt” was used in our Assembly to describe how
we carry out our sworn duties. If I seem a little bit upset by this, indeed I am.
People’s reputations matter, and this was hurtful in
the extreme. Yes, there was an apology in the Assembly, but to be frank, the damage was done. The media has also been caught up in this hysteria. At one point a major print outlet even set up a poll questioning whether Alberta needs a new Ethics Commissioner. Why? Well, b
ecause they didn’t like
the findings of our recent investigations. More punishment they wanted, harsher sanctions. But our findings are based not on that. Our findings are
based on the act, the facts, the evidence. They’re
2013-11-29 Legislative Offices -- UNOFFICIAL transcript 79
based on many, many judgments across this country and around the world that have passed down. We
look at those as well.
I’m not here to defend those investigations but,
rather, to defend the office against unjust and unfair attacks. Our office took the unusual step last week of placing an opinion piece in both the
Edmonton  Journal
and the
Calgary Herald.
Some of you, we know from the comments here, have seen it, and yes, we did get some outside reaction as well.
As a matter o
f fact, I’d like to turn it over to Brad to
pass some of that on to you, please.
Mr. Odsen:
I sent a copy of the piece along with the relevant portions of
to the ethics and conflicts-of-interest commissioners and lobbyist commissioners and registra
rs across Canada. Here’s
one response that I got, from Lynn Morrison, who is the Integrity Commissioner of Ontario:
Brad, I’m glad that the office of the Ethics Commissioner
responded, and I was glad to see that the Speaker stood
up for Neil’s integrity an
d good service. I agree with you that it is very troubling that a Member of the Legislative Assembly would have the belief and, worse, make a statement that officers of the Legislature across the Commonwealth are, quote, often corrupt. I am aware of no case where an officer of the Legislature of a province or federally fulfilling an ethics mandate has been found to be acting corruptly. I support any efforts you undertake to raise awareness among legislators about the nature of the institution of officers of the Legislature. Oversight offices like the Alberta Ethics Commissioner are an important part of our democratic system. It is essential that the public has confidence and trust in our
work, and it starts with ensuring that elected officials, who we serve, provide accurate information about our role, responsibilities, and obligations.
Mr. Wilkinson:
Thanks, Brad.
And that’s not all.
People on the street walked up to Brad, who wrote the
opinion piece, as you know, and were congratulating him for standing up to what one person described as bullies. I quote: who do these people think they are? That was the question Brad heard from a cashier at a convenience store. These remarks were clearly in my mind as I prepared this statement. Ordinary folks saw something they felt was way out of line.
This is not just my opinion. Read
and you’ll
see that the Speaker has condemned this, and the rule book which you often follow,
House of Commons Procedure and Practice
, says the following about this issue of privilege when it comes to speaking in the
House: “The consequences of its abuse can be
terrible. Innocent people could be slandered with no redress available to them. Reputations could be
destroyed on the basis of false rumour.” 
You don’t have to look far to see th
e unfairness of the situation and the injustices of these attacks.
Canada’s highest courts have repeatedly warned
against making allegations of bias against those who swear an oath to act
2013-11-29 Legislative Offices -- UNOFFICIAL transcript 80
impartially and without prejudice. Mr. Justice Côté summarized the opinions of other judges across

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