Group calls on federal Lobbying Commissioner to rule on May 2016 complaint about travel junkets that lobbyists have given to MPs and senators for years

Group calls on federal Lobbying Commissioner to rule on May 2016 complaint about travel junkets that lobbyists have given to MPs and senators for years

Ethics Commissioner just disclosed new travel list showing 32 Liberal, Conservative and NDP MPs took trips paid for by registered lobbyists in 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, March 28, 2017

OTTAWA - Today, Democracy Watch called on federal Commissioner of Lobbying Karen Shepherd to rule on the complaint it filed last May about the gifts of paid travel that various lobbying organizations have given to MPs (and a few senators) since spring 2009. Democracy Watch believes the gifts violate a rule in the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct that prohibits lobbyists from doing anything that would put an MP, senator or other public office holder in even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson just released the 2016 sponsored travel list, and it shows that 32 Liberal, Conservative and NDP MPs took trips paid for by registered lobbyists. Another 11 Liberal, Conservative and NDP MPs took a trip sponsored by the Chinese International Economic Cooperation Association. In its complaint last year, Democracy Watch requested that the Commissioner of Lobbying investigate the Association and a few other groups that gave so many MPs trips each year it seems like they possibly should be registered as lobbyists.

Democracy Watch’s complaint listed 16 businesses and lobby organizations from various sectors that are registered in the federal Registry of Lobbyists and that, since 2009 according to the Sponsored Travel reports and registry of federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson, have paid for trips by MPs (and in one case, also by senators). Sometimes the MP’s spouse or staff has accompanied the MP or senator on the trip, and often the trips have cost thousands of dollars.

As well, the complaint listed six other lobby organizations that are not registered in the Registry of Lobbyists but have given many paid trips to many MPs (and, in one case, also to senators) from 2009 to 2016. The complaint requested an investigation to determine whether any of these organizations have done enough lobbying to require that they should have registered their lobbying under the Lobbying Act at any time in the past seven years.

“Federal ethics rules say it is illegal for lobbyists to do anything that puts an MP or government official in even an appearance of a conflict of interest, and paying for an MP’s trip that costs thousands of dollars definitely crosses that line,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Unfortunately the Commissioner of Lobbying has continued her very weak enforcement record by failing to rule on Democracy Watch’s complaint about these unethical trips.”

Democracy Watch is also concerned about Commissioner Shepherd’s very weak enforcement record, and its position is that in order to have proper enforcement of the Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists’ Code Commissioner Shepherd must be replaced by someone who has a demonstrated strong enforcement attitude and record. Ethics Commissioner Dawson also has a very weak enforcement record (including ruling in 2010 that it is fine for Cabinet ministers to have lobbyists who are lobbying them raise thousands of dollars for them).

The Trudeau Cabinet and MPs soon appoint a new Ethics Commissioner and Commissioner of Lobbying, and Democracy Watch filed a complaint about the Cabinet reappointing the two commissioners in December. Democracy Watch is calling for a new appointment system that matches Ontario’s best-practice system for provincial judicial appointments, in which an independent committee conducts a merit-based search for a short-list of candidates, with Cabinet required to choose from the committee’s list.

“Cabinet ministers are in a conflict of interest when choosing their own watchdogs, and the only way the Trudeau Liberals can keep their promise of merit-based Cabinet appointments is to change the federal appointment system to Ontario’s independent and effective judicial appointment system,” said Conacher.

Democracy Watch also called on MPs and senators to act with integrity, finally, and eliminate the rules in their ethics codes that say they are allowed to accept the gift of paid travel from anyone. Democracy Watch and the nation-wide, 31-member group Government Ethics Coalition will continue pushing for these and other key changes to federal ethics rules, and enforcement and penalties, so that Canadians will finally have the ethical government they deserve.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign and Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign

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