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The Duffy Affair: Ethics commissioner points to limitations in probe

Ethics commissioner Mary Dawson is telling Canadians her probe will be limited as she readies a third look at former chief of staff Nigel Wright who is involved in a potential conflict of interest when he gave then-Conservative senator Mike Duffy $90,172 to pay off inappropriate housing allowance claims.

Dawson stressed on Friday that her investigation would look at the Conflict of Interest act, not whether their conduct was questionable.

"We do have to find ourselves within the four corners of the Act and the code because it's not fair to the person being complained against just to not be aware what they were accused of," Dawson said Friday.

"Reputations are important so we take a fair bit of care to make sure we are not falsely concluding anything."

Dawson said her office can't police ethical matters. 

"Political activities are not particularly covered by either the act or the code," she said in the interview.

"It's important that people realize that maybe there is a lack there. Maybe it's not necessarily for this office to be looking after, but there should be some rules governing political behaviour."

Upon her third look at Wright, Dawson said her office will release a report covering the whole story. 

"I think when we issue any report it's a fulsome report," she said. "We try to get to the bottom of the whole situation."

Meanwhile, a group called Democracy Watch believes the ethics commissioner doesn't release full reports. 

"The Conservatives caused the Senate scandal, but they and the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois are all to blame for the weak, biased or ineffective lapdogs who are investigating the scandal," said Tyler Sommers, co-ordinator of Democracy Watch, in a statement earlier last week.

"Because they all failed during recent minority governments to choose strong watchdogs, and to pass measures to close loopholes and strengthen enforcement powers and requirements."

Both Dawson's office and Democracy Watch have asked for more powers for the ethics office, one a House of Commons committee reviewed but never released a report.

The government has claimed the ethics commission as its way of dealing with the scandal but given its limitations show it will lead to no real results. Do you have confidence in Dawson's probe into the Duffy affair? Share this article and join the discussion and let us know what you think: Facebook, Twitter, Google+.

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What started as a $90,172 claim of inappropriate expenses seen as an outrage as part of abusive senate behaviour quickly escalated to a scandal with many more questions than answers. Get up to date with the full timeline.
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