Integrity Matters, Mark Sutcliffe

Wow. Did Brigitte Pellerin ever get it wrong in her Citizen column on the mayor’s London trip.

When your agent and now Mayor Mark Sutciffe were at the Citizen, you were allowed to take a cup of coffee from a source … and that’s it.


Because not only do you need to approach opinion, reporting and public policy from an unbiased position, you must appear to be objective or being objective is of no purpose.

The reason for this is that, unless you’re getting a knitted scarf from grandma, the person giving the gift expects some kind of payback … in business at least. At the Citizen, reporters used to receive bottles of wine or gift baskets or free this and that, which, I hope, journalists didn’t take. You could return it or give it to the office manager who at Christmas would raffle them off with the returns going to charity.

Once your agent received a spectacular gift basket from a business on which I had just written a story. That was very tempting to take. All kinds of goodies. But your agent trotted it off the office manager and asked her if she would send it to The Mission. No doubt it was well-received there. Did my heart good, if not my tummy.

This isn’t heroic by any means. It’s what any self-respecting journalist would do. My integrity is more important than a high blood-sugar reading. That said, some didn’t follow the rules.

The mayor must be above bias. The City of Ottawa must be above bias. Both should do things because they represent the public and should not be beholden to anyone. That’s why campaign donations from developers are problematic. That’s why partnering (and in the city’s case, very unprofitably) with developers at Lansdowne is a gruesome problem. The same developers that the city is ‘partnering’ with are the same developers who will go to planning committee seeking approvals on projects other than Lansdowne.

So the cost of the mayor’s trip was covered by Ottawa Tourism. That’s a problem. The tourist industry operates in some areas of municipal jurisdiction. That’s a conflict of interest in anybody’s book. Pellerin should know better. She should really know better given the field in which she is freelancing.

So defending the mayor is one thing. Defending the mayor doing something wrong is another thing. And not mentioning that in the defence is the wrong thing. That’s the crux of the issue. And this call is not close.

Pellerin makes some valid points in the column such as the mayor’s free time is his to do what he pleases. I don’t care if he runs in a marathon on his trip … fill your boots. Run such a trip past the integrity commissioner before the mayor departs (where is the integrity commissioner on this?).  Be diligent in your work and don’t spend like crazy. Let the voters measure your integrity. Run marathons (or perhaps a bit less) because it sets an example of a healthy life.

“We don’t have to nickel-and-dime politicians all the time,” Pellerin says. It’s not a matter of being cheap or luxurious. It’s about not taking freebies from people who might want something from you in the public-policy realm in return. Not good.

Both Pellerin and Sutcliffe should know better. That they don’t is not a matter of ignorance. It’s something else. And to do it publicly is a ridiculously careless mistake.

Ken Gray


City Hall’s The Leafs Of Politics: QUOTABLE

Tulip Fest In Our Ottawa DNA: PATTON

Transit Board’s Mandate Full Of Holes: THE VOTER

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1 Response

  1. Peter Karwacki says:

    Seems logical and reasonable to me…no gratuities while mayor…

    Now Suitcase has to demonstrate tje payoff to Ottawa.

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