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Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

January 11, 2006

Book Explores Questions of Government Scandal, Ethics

A book co-authored by a University of Guelph political scientist that looks at public opinion of government scandal, corruption and ethics has been reissued to coincide with the upcoming federal election.

The second edition of A Question of Ethics: Canadians Speak Out, which includes new text and analysis about the Gomery report on the sponsorship scandal written by Guelph’s Prof. Maureen Mancuso, provost and vice-president (academic), was released by Oxford Press this month.

First published in 1998 to wide acclaim, the book addresses conflict of interest, patronage, lying, gifts and gains. It’s based on a poll of more than 1,400 Canadians that remains to date the only study of what citizens think about the behaviour of their elected representatives.

Mancuso was the principal investigator for a team of five political scientists who conducted those first nationwide surveys of politicians, journalists and the general public. “This information remains especially relevant today,” she said.

“Our data represent a snapshot of the ethical views of Canadians at the very time the sponsorship program started down the path toward scandal. It was those attitudes and expectations that were ignored and violated by the officials who turned the program into a morass of abuse and mismanagement. Did they misunderstand their responsibilities and the expectation of the public, or did they simply ignore them?”

Some findings include:

• 68 per cent would prefer that politicians tell the truth about an issue rather than avoid discussing it.

• 60 per cent believe ministers should not accept campaign donations if there is an apparent conflict of interest.

• 57 per cent feel MPs should have higher ethical standards than the average person.

“The sponsorship scandal was an almost ‘perfect storm’ in that it encompassed all four of the main types of unethical behaviour: gifts, gain, lying and conflict of interest,” Mancuso said. “It’s also a potentially defining moment in the history of how we react to and deal with official misbehaviour. Elected leaders need to know that the public is paying attention and that they continue to speak out about ethics. The public can have a long memory; even after apparent abuses are corrected, they are remembered for a long time.”

Mancuso, who chaired U of G’s Department of Political Science from 1996 to 2000, has served as a consultant to the Canadian House of Commons on legislative codes of conduct and conflict-of-interest legislation, testifying before committees considering new laws. Most recently, she organized a symposium that brought together leading scholars, writers and leaders in ethics and democracy to discuss the nation’s state of public affairs and public perceptions.

“As an academic, you always welcome the chance to influence public policy by putting forward your point of view and research and showing how it has practical applications,” she said.

Mancuso earned her BA at McMaster University, her MA at Carleton and a D.Phil. in politics from Nuffield College at the University of Oxford. She was a parliamentary intern in the House of Commons in 1984. She was appointed associate vice-president (academic) in 2000 and to her current position in 2004.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rebecca Kendall, Ext. 56982.

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