Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Lorne Sossin


In 2017, Justin Trudeau become the first Prime Minister to be found in violation of Canadas parliamentary ethics laws. This incident alone demonstrated the need for a comprehensive study of the Canadian parliamentary ethics regime. The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner (COIEC) who administers this regime is broadly recognized as belonging in a category of parliamentary institutions called agents of parliament. The COIEC is the only one of nine such agents who denies that it should be categorized as an agent. Instead, the COIEC argues it is an Officer of the House of Commons a category that is heretofore unrecognized. Given the heightened interest in public sector ethics that has emerged, this dissertation analyzes what this Canadian institution is, how it works, where it belongs, what its limitations are and why. This is a unique institution whose design sets it apart from the recognized agents of parliament. The COIEC is responsible for two mandates: one (the Act) is legislative and the other (the Code) is a non-legislative mandate. Work under the Code is explicitly protected by parliamentary privilege, which shields it from judicial scrutiny. This allows the COIEC to exercise a level of independence from government and Parliament that is otherwise unprecedented among agents. I argue that the COIEC cannot be properly characterized as either an agent or an officer of either Parliament or the House of Commons as a result, and that this institutional design has allowed the COIEC to intentionally blend the administration of the two regimes. This blending of regimes has contributed to a strong assertion of operational independence that has been exacerbated by Parliaments reluctance to engage with the Office in good faith in relation to the many recommendations its commissioners have made towards the improvement of both the Act and Code. I explain the implications this has for the COIECs constitutional legitimacy and offer recommendations for how the mandates might be reformed and more thoughtfully delegated by Parliament.


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