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Opposition calls for ethics commissioner to resign over handling of Grewal tapes investigation

[PoliticsWatch Updated 2:30 p.m. June 17, 2005]

OTTAWA  — Two opposition MPs say Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro should resign after he ruled this week that he would not expand his investigation of the Grewal tapes to include the Prime Minister's chief of staff. 

The NDP had asked Shapiro earlier this month to include Prime Minister Paul Martin in his investigation of Grewal's allegations that Martin chief of staff Tim Murphy and Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh offered him and his wife, Tory MP Nina Grewal, patronage positions in exchange for their abstaining on the crucial budget vote last month. 

Both Murphy and Dosanjh say no offer was made and the secret tapes Grewal made of some of the meetings with the two Liberals show an explicit offer was never made. 

However the tapes show the discussions centred around how Grewal and his wife could save face by abstaining on a crucial vote. 

Shapiro was asked to expand his investigation to include the PM after he said Murphy did not come under his authority because he was not a member of Parliament. 

"I think it's totally, utterly, completely unacceptable and Mr. Shapiro should resign," Broadbent told reporters after question period on Friday. "I've said many times, I don't question Mr. Shapiro's motives at all. But I think he has done a bad job, it's a serious position and he should now leave it."

Broadbent said his problems with Shapiro go beyond his handling of the Grewal tapes. 

"I've followed him carefully at the committee stage. On decision after decision he's made simply the wrong decision."

Those include Shapiro's handling of the conflict of interest allegations surrounding former immigration minister Judy Sgro. 

Earlier this month, Shapiro told a parliamentary committee that he was allowing Sgro and others named in his investigation to vet his report before it was publicly released. 

Broadbent was critical of Shapiro's investigation of Sgro because it appears that he has separated the actions of her staff from her, violating the concept of ministerial responsibility. 

Conservative MP Peter MacKay joined Broadbent in calling for Shapiro's resignation. 

"He's a wet noodle on this issue," he said. "He has shown anything but leadership and independence on what's been taking place as far as the investigation is concerned. And, yes, I think he should resign."

MacKay noted that the Grewal tapes include an excerpt in which Murphy briefly mentions how Shapiro could lift a cloud over Grewal's head involving a separate complaint by issuing an interim report. 

Shapiro later reacted strongly to what Murphy said on the tapes, and said Murphy had no influence over him.

"He expressed some dismay over that comment from Tim Murphy and yet his action indicates he's very much in compliance with the government's activities that it doesn't even warrant an investigation," MacKay said. 

The Tory MP suggested that Shapiro was starting to remind him of former ethics counsellor Howard Wilson, who the opposition parties accused of being a lap dog of the prime minister for his tendency to clear cabinet minister after cabinet minister involved in apparent conflicts of interest. 

"He's looking like the same type of toothless, anemic Chihuahua instead of a watchdog that we should have in that role," he said. 

Shapiro was named Canada's first independent ethics commissioner last year. 

In that role, he is responsible for the administration of the code of conduct for MPs as well as the prime minister's ethical guidelines for cabinet ministers and other public office holders.

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