PM fails to meet own deadline for disclosing gifts
Published Thursday, July 31, 2008 7:23AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 8:42PM EDT
OTTAWA - It appears Prime Minister Stephen Harper has failed to meet his own conflict-of-interest rules for declaring gifts received.
Harper has not publicly declared a gift since February, despite being required to do so within 30 days under new guidelines introduced by his minority Conservative government.
However, an official insisted the prime minister is in compliance with the rules because all gifts are in the "process" of being disclosed or still being appraised to establish their value.
"All items are either disclosed properly or are in the process of being disclosed," said the official, who asked not to be identified.
"Certain items have taken in excess of 30 days due to the time required for proper appraisal."
Under the new conflict rules in the Conservatives' public accountability legislation of 2006, all gifts Harper and his cabinet ministers receive valued over $200 must be reported within 30 days.
A compliance manager for Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson told The Canadian Press the office has not received notice of gifts received by Harper since his last report on Feb. 2. The last gift on that disclosure was a framed photo Harper received during a visit to Churchill, Man., in October 2007.
Previous gifts in that report include a desk decorated with antlers Harper received from U.S. President George Bush at a summit in Montebello, Que., Cuban cigars from the Cuban ambassador in Ottawa, and a New York Rangers jersey signed by Mark Messier.
Other gifts on Harper's list included presents from corporate gift-givers, including a Christmas hamper in 2006 from the chairman of Reimer World Corporation and a Christmas gift from the president of Nestle Canada.
The conflict of interest act carries an "administrative monetary penalty" not exceeding $500 for public office holders who fail to comply with the gift disclosure requirements of the act, and other provisions.
Opposition MPs blasted Harper.
"They came out with all that rhetoric about being the white knights on accountability but when it comes time, they're missing in action," said New Democrat MP Pat Martin, adding the prime minister has an obligation to lead by example.
"These little things are important symbolically and a cavalier attitude toward reporting sends a terrible message."
Liberal MP Mark Holland accused Harper of violating his own legislation.
The new act took effect in July 2007.