* Flaherty formally reprimanded for lobbying regulators
* Wrote letter supporting constituent seeking radio license
* Main opposition leader demands formal investigation
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, Jan 18 Canadian Finance Minister Jim
Flaherty apologized on Friday for breaking ethics rules when he
lobbied on behalf of a constituent who wanted to set up a radio
station, and said it was an "oversight" that would not happen
Flaherty acted after Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson told
him on Thursday that he had been wrong to send regulators a
letter in his capacity as finance minister, and formally ordered
him to refrain from writing similar letters without her
Her order is an embarrassment for a Conservative government
that came to power in early 2006 promising greater
accountability in politics.
Flaherty urged the Canadian Radio-television and
Telecommunications Commission last March to grant a radio
license to a company based in his parliamentary constituency of
Whitby-Oshawa, just east of Toronto. The rules allow regular
legislators to lobby regulators, but ministers may not in their
capacity as cabinet members.
"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."
Flaherty's constituent did not win the license to operate
the radio station.
Dawson sent Flaherty a formal 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. Flaherty has been finance minister since the
Conservatives took power.
Dawson's website shows she has issued only four such orders
in the past three years, and Flaherty is the only cabinet member
to have received one.
Thomas Mulcair, head of the main opposition New Democratic
Party, said he has written to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to
demand a probe into Flaherty's letter.
"The Conservative Party promised over six years ago that
'The time for accountability has arrived'," Mulcair said in a
statement. "It's time to close the gap between promises and
reality. It's time to take the first step by investigating the
actions by Mr. Flaherty and start holding your ministers to
account when they break the rules."
Last March, Dawson ruled that Industry Minister Christian
Paradis had violated ethics rules by telling bureaucrats to set
up a meeting with a former Conservative legislator who wanted to
do business with Ottawa. She did not issue a compliance order