Canada finance minister apologizes after reprimand for lobbying

Fri Jan 18, 2013 10:58am EST

* Flaherty formally reprimanded for lobbying regulators

* Wrote letter supporting constituent seeking radio license

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty apologized on Friday after he was formally reprimanded for lobbying regulators on behalf of a constituent who wanted to set up a radio station.

Mary Dawson, Canada's ethics commissioner, bluntly told Flaherty that he had been wrong to send regulators a letter in his capacity as finance minister and ordered him to refrain from writing similar letters without her approval.

Her harsh reprimand is an embarrassment for a Conservative government which came to power in early 2006 promising greater accountability in politics.

Flaherty had urged the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission last March to grant a Toronto radio license to a company based in his parliamentary constituency of Whitby-Oshawa. Regular legislators are allowed to lobby regulators but cabinet ministers are not.

"The letter ... was fully intended to be written and sent in my capacity as Member of Parliament for Whitby-Oshawa," Flaherty said in statement emailed to Reuters.

"However, due to an oversight my Ministerial title was used in the signature block. This is regrettable and I can assure the Ethics Commissioner that this will not happen again," he added.

Flaherty's constituent did not win the license to operate the radio station.

Dawson sent Flaherty a compliance order late on Thursday telling him that "it is improper for you as Minister of Finance" to have written to the regulators.

"I therefore order you to refrain from writing any similar letters in the future without seeking approval from my office," she said.