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Liberals accuse Tories of delaying implementing Accountability Act 

[PoliticsWatch updated 5:35 p.m., February 19, 2007]

OTTAWA  — The Conservatives came under attack from the Liberals in question period on Monday because key provisions of the Federal  Accountability Act regarding government ethics are still not in place. 

The Accountability Act was the Conservatives' centrepiece legislation in the last election campaign and was called its No. 1 priority.  

The bill was passed by the Senate and received Royal Assent in December, but nearly two months later many parts of it have not been implemented.  

"The prime minister has still not acted to deliver on its key provisions," Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff said during question period. "Restrictions on lobbying: not yet in force. Conflicts of interest rules: not yet in force. A public appointments commission: promised, but nowhere to be seen.

"Why is the prime minister failing to deliver on his party's number one election promise?"

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in response that the government has "been moving quickly" on implementing parts of the act. 

"We hope to have most of them in force by around April 1," Harper said in question period. 

Mike Storeshaw, a spokesman for Treasury Board President Vic Toews, told PoliticsWatch the Accountability Act is a "very complex piece of legislation" that deals with amending dozens of existing laws meaning it will take a while before the final promulgation stage is completed. 

"It doesn't get proclaimed all at once. Some of these things happen more quickly than others

"We have been able to proclaim the new fraud provisions and we expect to be making more announcements and bringing the whole thing into effect," Storeshaw said. 

In an interview with PoliticsWatch, NDP MP Pat Martin said he met with Toews last week to discuss why certain parts of the bill have not been implemented.  

"He gave me straight answers," said Martin. "They're frustrated somewhat, too, at how complex it is."

Martin said he is awaiting a "legitimate timeline" from the government on the implementation process. 

"We don't smell a rat yet," Martin said, adding that he's holding off before accusing the government of foot dragging like the Liberals have done. 

Among the items being delayed is the creation of a public appointments commissioner to ensure that government appointments are made on the basis of merit and tough new regulations and restrictions for lobbyists requiring them to report their meetings with government officials and public office holders. 

Martin said the NDP won't accept "lengthy delays" on these two specific items. 

Both the NDP and the Liberals have been critical with the number of former Conservative politicians and insiders who have been appointed to various positions over the past year. 

During the election, Harper promised to end "patronage and cronyism" when it came to make selections for boards, agencies and Crown corporations. 

On Monday, the Liberals sent to reporters a list of 50 prominent Tories who have been appointed in the past year. 

Included on that list: Former Nova Scotia premier John Hamm, who was appointed chairman of the newly formed Assisted Human Reproduction Agency of Canada; former Mulroney cabinet minister Barbara MacDougall, has received two appointments over the last year; and Raminder Gill, a Tory candidate in the Toronto riding now held by floor-crosser Wajid Khan, was recently appointed to the Immigration Review Board. 

NDP Leader Jack Layton said the Tories have clearly changed their tune on appointments since they've been elected. 

"I think maybe they're enjoying the fact that they can make appointments now more than they thought they would," he told reporters after question period. 

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