Journalism ethics: Can I get swag from a charity event?

My Brooks
Those are my feet and the Brooks running shoes I paid for myself — all of which I hope to put to good use as a “Celebrity Ambassador” running in a 10K run to be held this spring in Ottawa.

Last week, I got a request to help an Ottawa-based charitable organization by being one of several  ‘celebrity ambassadors’ for an event they’ll have in the spring. The event is a 10K run. The organizers asked me to raise awareness about the event through my Twitter account, Facebook page, and this blog. There was no “ask” to mention the event in any newspaper copy or on my television program.  The event’s sponsors include a national sporting goods retailer and a sporting goods manufacturer. Event Ambassadors are offered the chance to get a new pair of running shoes, a new pair shorts and socks, and a shirt from this manufacturer. There was no request to endorse either the retailer or the manufacturer.

So, given Leslie Roberts, Amanda Lang, etc. I asked my Facebook followers if they would think worse of me as a journalist if I accepted the job of “celebrity ambassador” and took the shoes, shorts, and shirt.

I was floored at the number and quality of responses.

Continue reading Journalism ethics: Can I get swag from a charity event?

Background on Cash and his CBC cash

In our papers today, we report : “NDP MP draws fire over CBC conflict of interest”

We started working on that story after reviewing Cash’s “Disclosure Summary”, a document all MPs file with the Commissioner of Ethics and Conflict of Interest and which is published on the commissioner’s Web site. You can review right here. Among other things MPs are required to disclose are any contracts with the federal government. Cash disclosed: Continue reading Background on Cash and his CBC cash

MP Kirsty Duncan's earnings on the speaking circuit

MP Kirsty Duncan
MP Kirsty Duncan is one of three MPs — all of them Liberals — to earn speaking fees since becoming an MP (Mike Hensen/London Free Press)

As we reported last week, just three MPs have reported earning outside income through speaking fees. All three are Liberals. Leadership candidate Justin Trudeau disclosed that he has earned $277,000 in speaking fees since become an MP in 2008. His leadership rival Marc Garneau has had one speaking engagement since becoming an MP and was paid $10,000 for that engagement – an engagement, his campaign team were keen to point out, that he contracted to do before he became an MP. The other MP is Kirsty Duncan of Etobicoke North. Duncan was first elected in the general election of 2008, the same election that brought both Trudeau and Garneau to Parliament for the first time. She is currently her party’s environment critic.

MPs are not forbidden from giving speeches for a fee and, if they earn more than $10,000 a year doing it, they must inform the House of Commons ethics commissioner about the existence of this income. There is no requirement to disclose the amount of income earned or the client for their speaking engagements. In that sense, both Trudeau and Garneau exceeded the disclosure requirements in the MP’s conflict of interest code.

Duncan has reported income from speaking fees in her public disclosures with the ethics commissioner in each of 2009, 2010, 2011 which means that for each of those years, she earned at least $10,000 from her speaking engagements.

Earlier this week, we asked Duncan if she, too, would go above and beyond the disclosure requirements of the conflict of interest code and disclose the clients, dates, and income associated with her speaking engagements. Here is her reply:

Prior to seeking office I was a scientist, and the topics I speak on are related to my expertise:

  • the expedition I led to the Arctic to try and discover the cause of the 1918 Spanish Flu
  • climate change and health: I previously taught climate change, climatology, and meteorology, and have worked tirelessly on address our most pressing environmental issue, which is climate change. I served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which jointly won the 2007 Nobel prize with Albert Arnold Gore Jr.
  • the links between the environment and human health

I called the Ethics Office immediately after I was elected. I was told that no one had ever done this. MPs must always meet legal responsibility, but, I believe should go further and meet ethical responsibility, which I have. I was advised that there was no issue with my continuing to speak.

Since being elected in 2008 I’ve spoken less than ten times to events, including the Global Knowledge Millennium Summit, India; the Ontario Hospital Association;  SAGIA  Global Competitiveness, Saudi Arabia; and Soroptomist International, Montreal. In my first elected term, I had 5 1/2 days off work.

I don’t feel comfortable releasing the amounts as I haven’t spoken with the organizations to have their consent to release these amounts.

Carroll to ETHI committee: Relax, I'll be there when I'm better

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics wishes to have Adam Carroll appear before it on the Vikileaks30 matter. Carroll is the former Liberal party staffer who confessed to being behind that Twitter account. Here is the response to the committee’s request from Carroll’s lawyer Paul Champ: Continue reading Carroll to ETHI committee: Relax, I'll be there when I'm better