The Senate Ethics Officer is an independent, non-partisan Officer of the Senate. This independence is essential in order to ensure public confidence and credibility in the SEO and in the ethics and conflict of interest regime. A number of provisions of the Parliament of Canada Act and of the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators confer this status of independence and autonomy on the SEO, including the provisions concerning the appointment process, the security of tenure, financial autonomy, and the management of the Office of the Senate Ethics Officer.
The SEO has the rank of a deputy head of a department of the Government of Canada and has the control and the management of the Office, which he runs independently from the Senate and its Internal Economy Committee. The SEO hires his own staff. The Office is a separate employer distinct from the Senate and does not fall under its jurisdiction.
The SEO has the responsibility for preparing the estimate of the sums required to pay the charges and expenses of the Office. This estimate is separate from the estimates of the Senate. The Speaker of the Senate, after considering the estimate, transmits it as is to the President of the Treasury Board who lays it before the House of Commons with the estimates of the Government for the fiscal year. The Senate reviews the SEO’s proposed budget as a part of the annual review of the Main Estimates for the whole government. This procedure ensures the independence of the SEO and places the responsibility for the estimate of the Office on the SEO. It also emphasizes the direct relationship that Parliament has established between the SEO and the Senate itself, to which the SEO ultimately reports.
The independence of the SEO in respect of opinions and advice given to individual senators is also clear and is expressly provided for in the Code. This independence also applies to any preliminary reviews, inquiries and any inquiry reports.
These, and other provisions, ensure that the SEO is able to carry out his functions in an impartial manner, free from any outside influence or coercion.