As the rhetoric about the income trust leak heats up, I believe that objectivity is being lost by some on the political stage. I also believe that the importance of the appearance of propriety in our financial markets and Ministry of Finance cannot be overstated. While we here at home see the newest Liberal scandal as a chance to capitalize for election purposes, international investors, the people who invest in our economy, may not feel as wonderful, especially if they got burned in the deal.
The fact that we are in a federal election campaign gives Prime Minister Paul Martin a little retaliatory power. He can simply brush off the latest hint of corruption and excuse it as partisan politics, charged by a run for his job. The facts that are coming to light, however, are very, very troubling and certainly have this man convinced that something just isn’t above board here.
Take for instance the fact that the man who heads the company that runs the Toronto Stock Exchange, Richard Nesbitt, made a huge profit on stocks that were affected by the upcoming announcement. In the hours before Mr. Goodale would release the details of his plan, Mr. Nesbitt purchased over $750,000 worth of stock in the TSX Group, his first purchase since becoming CEO in 2004. His prize? A profit of over $100,000 in 24 hours. The troublesome feeling doesn’t stop there. Mr. Nesbitt also sits on the board of Market Regulation Services Inc., the organization which monitors and regulates trading on the TSX. That is the company which polices the TSX for the purpose of preventing and investigating improprieties.
We have heard insider after insider reveal that they had received a heads up from someone in government, or a Liberal strategist, or someone from this office or that office. Fund manager after fund manager, banker after banker. It is abundantly clear that something unethical transpired here, of that there is no doubt in the mind of anyone who can draw a conclusion.
Mr. Ralph Goodale has repeatedly stated that he knows nothing, and that he has done nothing wrong. At this point in the game, that is definitely no longer the most important criteria as to whether he should remain in his capacity as finance minister. As a minister, Mr. Goodale must take full responsibility for those in his charge and for those who work in his office. While no one can control what another person does, there is an accepted standard of conduct for ministers in his situation.
By refusing to step aside during what is not simply a probe or inquiry, but a criminal investigation, Mr. Goodale does Canada’s Ministry of Finance and its global reputation a disservice. Not because of the allegations of improprieties, but because he refuses to step aside while the investigation is carried out. In refusing to do this, Mr. Goodale has missed the golden opportunity to do the right and ethical thing. He also sends out an unspoken statement, that he is more worried about his future than about the office that he holds.
Perhaps he fears that stepping aside temporarily would lend weight to the accusations against him, I do not know. But I do know that he would have garnered a lot more respect from the international and financial community if he removed himself from his office in the meantime.
In his defence, many have come out in support of Ralph, and many, even of other political stripes, have stood up to lend support to his honesty and character. I don’t dispute either of those, nor do I question this man’s honesty. I simply think that he should have willingly stepped out for the sake of his office. That would have been the right thing to do, regardless of whether an election is pending or not.