National Post (Latest Edition)

Wealth of all MPS should be made public


- sabrina Maddeaux

The U.S. Federal Reserve is looking a lot like a big ol’ corruption swamp. Last week, two regional Fed presidents resigned after it came to light that they made ethically questionab­le multi-million dollar stock trades during the pandemic. Then, it was discovered Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida traded between $1 million and $5 million out of a bond fund into stock funds the day before the Fed said it would “act as appropriat­e to support the economy” in February 2020.

But that’s not all. Just as Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s term comes up for renewal — a renewal that was considered a bipartisan shooin — it turns out he owned the same type of assets his central bank bought during COVID-19. Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who’s leading the charge for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to open an insider trading probe, calls Powell “a dangerous man to head up the Fed.”

If anything similar occurred in Canada during the pandemic, when the Bank of Canada (BOC) also poured unpreceden­ted stimulus into the economy via large-scale asset purchases, we’ll never know. This is because, unlike in the U.S., our central bank officials don’t have to publicly disclose their investment­s. The same goes for MPS, who also unlike their U.S. counterpar­ts, don’t have to make public financial disclosure­s.

Many Canadians may not realize the investment transactio­ns of everyone from President Joe Biden to Senator Bernie Sanders and every single member of Congress are easily searchable online. They’re entirely out in the open for the public to review. When it comes to preventing conflicts of interest and self-enrichment, this seems like a bare minimum standard of transparen­cy.

Meanwhile, most Canadian politician­s and public officials choose to keep their finances shrouded in secrecy — and the law allows them to do it, no questions asked, barring a rather weak conflict of interest code that says MPS who have a private interest that may be affected by a matter before the House of Commons or a committee they’re a part of should disclose it and abstain from debating or voting on it. However, this relies on MPS correctly identifyin­g and choosing to share conflicts, and only requires they disclose the “general nature” of the private interest, which still allows for a layer of obfuscatio­n. There’s also no easily accessible public registry where viewing politician­s’ potential conflicts is just a Google search away.

The United Kingdom also posts an annual public registry of MP’S financial interests. Ministers in France have had to publicly disclose their wealth and personal holdings since 2013. Australian MPS also must disclose not just their financial interests in a publicly-available registry, but also their spouse’s assets.

Even in these countries with disclosure rules, there are frequent public scandals over perceived and real conflicts of interest. In the case of the Fed, these officials knew their transactio­ns could be scrutinize­d, and yet they made them anyway. Various Australian scandals have led to a push for even more stringent disclosure rules and enforcemen­t, with some saying they should meet the same standards as company directors.

Now imagine the level of corruption possible when politician­s have little to no fear that their holdings and trades could be scrutinize­d by the media and public. Even the most ardent Canadian exceptiona­lists would be hard-pressed to argue our MPS and central bank officials are so much more moral, honest, and high-principled than their counterpar­ts around the world they don’t require even the most basic level of oversight.

Canadians should have the right to know what BOC Governor Tiff Macklem holds in his portfolio. They should also know the wealth of prime ministers, MPS, and senators, as well as when they purchase or trade large assets. We also deserve more transparen­cy when MPS choose to moonlight — and almost half of them do — while holding public office.

As the cliché goes, with great power comes great responsibi­lity. It’s time we stopped allowing Canadian politician­s and public officials to enjoy the former without the latter.

 ?? BLAIR GABLE / REUTERS ?? Canadians should have the right to know what Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem holds
in his portfolio, Sabrina Maddeaux writes.
BLAIR GABLE / REUTERS Canadians should have the right to know what Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem holds in his portfolio, Sabrina Maddeaux writes.
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