Prime Minister Stephen Harper is preparing to dump the ethics commissioner and is actively recruiting replacement candidates, CTV News has learned.
Former NDP Leader Ed Broadbent was among the government's top choices.
"The issue has been discussed with me," Broadbent told CTV. But with his wife fighting cancer, Broadbent turned down the job.
"Although I think it's a terrific job and an important job, it is certainly not one for me at this point in my life," he said.
The news of a possible shake-up comes just days after ethics commissioner Bernard Shapiro announced he would look into conflict-of-interest allegations against Harper.
Shapiro said he would investigate whether Harper breached the parliamentary ethical code for MPs by appointing David Emerson to his cabinet two weeks after Emerson won his B.C. riding as Liberal.
At the time, Harper's communications director Sandra Buckler said the prime minister is "loath to co-operate with an individual whose decision-making ability has been questioned and who has been found in contempt of the House."
Buckler was referring to the fact that Shapiro was found in contempt of the House of Commons last year when a parliamentary committee ruled that he made inappropriate comments during an interview. At the time, parliamentarians said Shapiro revealed information about an inquiry into Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai.
The Tories have complained that Shapiro turned down their request to investigate Liberal Tony Valeri's landholdings during the election campaign. Shapiro said as commissioner, he couldn't act between sittings of Parliament.
That should put the kibosh on any of Shapiro's work on the Emerson matter to date. Who would have believed the report of an Ethics Commissioner in whom Parliament, let alone PMO, already has expressed its complete lack of faith in?
All their manufactured outrage aside, the opposition parties had no interest in Shapiro issuing a report which would have either exonerated Harper and Emerson completely, or condemned the practice of floor-crossing. The first would have blown back on the opposition; the second would have been considered an impermissible interference in Parliament's right to set and judge its own rules. The Liberals especially would not have wanted their hands tied by that report.
In any event, Shapiro's reputation for fairness lies in tatters. That, more than anything, was the point of Harper's refusal to co-operate with his investigation. And now he gets the opportunity to turn the frustration of an investigation into a victory for transparency and ethics--no mean political feat!