Ethical politician shouldn’t be oxymoron

There was a time when cabinet ministers resigned their positions if questions were raised about their conduct.

There was a time when cabinet ministers resigned their positions if questions were raised about their conduct that had a whiff of truth to them. It’s become clear over the last few months that the moral obligation to do the right thing in B.C. is extinct.

It’s always been standard practice for the opposition to try to get a minister to resign, and most attempts have rightly failed. But when enough evidence builds, cabinet ministers should step aside until the issue is fully investigated.

To be fair, the multiculturalism minister resigned before John Dyble found that he had breached the Standards of Conduct. But, it’s not unreasonable to surmise that the premier herself was fully informed, engaged, and involved in the development of election-oriented activities that crossed the line between party politics and the public service. It’s willful blindness to believe otherwise.

Questions also abound about senior cabinet ministers. We’ve seen changes to liquor tax laws designed to favour political party donors; attempts to interfere in casino approval decisions; ministerial promises about government contracts; the inappropriate use of direct awards; and ministers participating in shady deals with foreign investors.

Any one of these situations should have been sufficient for the minister responsible to step aside, but when Premier Clark’s office is blurring the lines between party politics and the public service, it’s hard for her to demand a higher standard of moral behaviour from her cabinet.

We have a Conflict of Interest Commissioner in B.C., who recently recommended adding “an ethics and integrity dimension” to the Members’ Conflict of Interest Act, but acting ethically as a politician means more than keeping your private affairs separate from your duties. It means acting with integrity and honesty at all times, and we haven’t seen that this session.

We need an oversight commissioner with teeth, but what we really need are politicians who feel obligated to do the right thing.

Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.