SPPA Professor Robert Shepherd comments in this Montreal Gazette article on the new salary range for the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

Article by Christopher Nardi

OTTAWA — The Liberal government is cutting the pay of the next person hired to oversee its ethical issues by more than $110,000 per year, even though the outgoing ethics commissioner recently criticized the government for not taking ethics “more seriously.”

The promised salary starts at $228,900 and can reach up to $269,200.

What the job posting doesn’t advertise: that’s a $110,000, or 33 per cent, pay cut, the National Post has learned.

Up to now, all three of Canada’s ethics commissioners, Mary Dawson, Mario Dion and current interim appointee Martine Richard, were paid the same salary as a Federal Court judge, which is $338,800.

As an independent officer of Parliament, the ethics commissioner’s selection process is overseen by the Privy Council Office (PCO), though the appointment is ultimately made on the advice of cabinet and must be approved by a resolution in the House of Commons following consultation with every leader of a recognized federal party.

Robert Shepherd, professor at Carleton University’s School of Public Police and Administration, says it’s hard to explain why the government suddenly felt the need to significantly cut the ethics commissioner’s job. He suspects it was a “technocratic” decision by PCO to bring the salary in line with some other officers of Parliament.

Photo of Robert Shepherd“The question that I have for Privy Council is, no one is complaining about the $338,000 (salary). So why, in this case, are we dropping it by $100,000?” he said in an interview.

He believes it will have a serious negative impact on the office’s reputation and ability to attract someone like Mario Dion again, thus diminishing its effectiveness.

The law states eligible candidates must either be former judges or members of a federal or provincial board, commission or tribunal with relevant experience.

“It’s just going to lower completely the status of the office, not because of the salary, but because of the likely persons that are going to be looking to apply for that position,” Shepherd said. “The effect may be that the office will be less effective than it was before with a more junior person at the helm.”

He also said it sends the signal that the government is giving even less value to the office than it did before.

“The optics of this is that ‘We’re just not attaching as much importance to the place as we did before,’ ” he said.

Read full article in the Montreal Gazette.