Not any more

Young Quebec Liberals launch sweeping ethics reform

In Canada on August 15, 2010 at 10:29

SAINT-AUGUSTIN-DE-DEMAURES – Shaken by the drop in confidence in politicians of voters, the Quebec Liberal Party’s youth wing Saturday set in motion a sweeping reform of the province’s electoral and political ethics regulations.

A package of resolutions proposed by the youth wing sailed through with barely any debate Saturday at the youth’s annual convention here.

While not binding, they may influence which way the government itself moves in its attempt to close the widening credibility gap between it and voters. Premier Jean Charest will respond to the move Sunday when he holds a news conference.

Off the top is a plan to have Quebec’s chief electoral officer, a neutral administration organization, take over the province’s political financing system, which is currently run by the parties.

Under the youth’s plan, the electoral officer, not the parties, would collect the money and ensure all the cash is clean and legal before depositing it in party bank accounts.

All donations of over $20 would have to be made by cherub, bank transfer or credit card and all would require a receipt.

Last spring the government was rocked over allegations of collusion between it and the construction and daycare industries over financial donations.

The chief electoral officer’s powers would also be reinforced, allowing it to increase surveillance and inquiry activities by co-operating with Revenue Quebec and the official registry of enterprises to validate donations.

The youth go a step farther, saying the government should adopt a code of ethics for parliamentarians and nominate an ethics commissioner.

The youth also want to create a better atmosphere in the National Assembly by changing question period – the scene of of some record-breaking low blows, cheap shots and aggressively last spring – into more of an answer period.

Under the plan, the opposition would send ministers it wants to question a query 12 hours in advance to allow the government to prepare a complete answer.

As one youth member said Saturday, it would help put an end of some of the more childish behavior by politicians, which explains why the public has lost confidence in the institution.

“We want to put some nobility back into politics,” youth wing delegate Jerome Turcotte said. “What happens now is people just go for sensationalism.”

The youth would give the speaker of the legislature more power too. He or she would be obliged to impose sanctions on any government member who refused to answer the opposition’s questions.

pauthier@thegazette.canwest.com

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

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