Federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion is stepping down later this month because of persistent health issues, ending a five-year run in the post.
Mr. Dion announced his exit in a statement on Tuesday, saying he will leave on Feb. 21. There are two years left in his seven-year term.
His announcement arrived the same day as his latest report, which concludes that Liberal MP Greg Fergus, the parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, breached the Conflict of Interest Act by writing a letter to Canada’s broadcast regulator in support of a television channel’s application for mandatory carriage.
“The role of Commissioner is a fitting one from which to retire after 43 years of public service. Regrettably, I cannot continue to discharge the responsibilities of the position because of persistent health issues,” Mr. Dion said in his statement.
He did not elaborate on his health issues. In 2019, he took a leave of absence that he attributed to “medical reasons.”
“It is my hope that I have contributed in some measure to transparency and accountability in support of Canadian democracy,” Mr. Dion added.
“Those in public office have a sacred duty to always act in the interest of the public they serve. I commend regulatees for taking their obligations under the conflict of interest regimes seriously and working with the Office to achieve and maintain compliance.”
As an independent officer of Parliament, the ethics commissioner administers the Conflict of Interest Act, as well as the Conflict of Interest Code for MPs. Mr. Dion said in his statement that many MPs have used training opportunities offered by his office.
“Their willingness to learn and follow the rules confirms my belief that the vast majority are honest people who want to do the right thing,” he said.
But in a news release accompanying his report on Mr. Fergus, Mr. Dion said he has observed senior officials acting in ways that make them appear unaware of their ethical obligations.
His report recommends that the government consider mandating that all ministers and parliamentary secretaries receive training from his office.
During Mr. Dion’s time as commissioner, he made assessments of the conduct of Mr. Trudeau, former finance minister Bill Morneau and others.
Mr. Dion became ethics commissioner in 2018 after a career that included posts at the Justice Department, the Privy Council Office and the National Parole Board, where he was chair. Prior to his appointment as commissioner, he was chair of the Immigration and Refugee Board.
In a statement, Melanie Rushworth, the communications director for the commissioner, said Mr. Dion had advised the Privy Council late last year of his need to retire for medical reasons.
She said she could not comment on how many files will be left open when Mr. Dion departs.
Mr. Dion’s predecessor was Mary Dawson, the first ethics commissioner. She served from 2007 to January, 2018.
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