List of key changes Democracy Watch has won for you


1. More than 110 democratizing changes won to 16 key federal laws and 6 key federal policies addressing bank accountability, government ethics, honesty in politics, money in politics, open government, corporate responsibility and voter rights; 3 historic federal court rulings won on government ethics (archive website) and money in politics (archive website) issues; and also helped win the passage of a stronger political finance limits law in Manitoba and Nova Scotia; the passage of lobbyist disclosure laws in Ontario, Alberta, B.C., Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador; and the passage of a stronger lobbyist disclosure and ethics enforcement law in Québec.

2. National TV, radio or newspaper coverage of Democracy Watch campaigns on average 10-15 times each month (along with regional and local media coverage on average 30-40 times each month), every month since April 1994 — and copies of Democracy Watch’s news releases and responses to its campaign activities also regularly appear in blogs across Canada (Go to List of Democracy Watch’s Media and Public Appearances and also see Selected television interviews and Quotations by Media and Others About Democracy Watch) and,


3. Publication of More Canada Firsts: Another Collection of Canadian Firsts and Foremosts in the World (by Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch: 1999); and Democracy Watch’s leading advocacy also featured in the following books and international reports:

  • Bank Heist (Walter Stewart, 1997);
  • The Myth of the Good Corporate Citizen (Murray Dobbin: 1998);
  • Chips and Pop: Decoding the Nexus Generation (Robert Barnard et al: 1998);
  • The Banks (Les Whittington: 1999);
  • Paper Boom (Jim Stanford: 1999);
  • Imagine Democracy (Judy Rebick: 2000);
  • Watchdogs and Gadflies: Activism from Mainstream to Marginal (Tim Falconer: 2001);
  • The Vanishing Country: Is It Too Late to Save Canada? (Mel Hurtig: 2002);
  • Paul Martin: CEO for Canada? (Murray Dobbin: 2003);
  • Elections (John C. Courtney: 2004);
  • in the following report: 2004 Global Corruption Report (archive website) (Democracy Watch Coordinator Duff Conacher wrote the article on Canada);
  • The Law of Government (by former Democracy Watch board members Craig Forcese and Aaron Freeman (NOTE: approximately half of this book is taken from what they learned as Democracy Watch board members): 2005);
  • in the following report: 2007 Global Integrity Report (archive website) (Democracy Watch Coordinator Duff Conacher prepared the Integrity Indicators Scorecard for Canada);
  • The People’s House of Commons: Theories of Democracy in Contention (David E. Smith: 2007);
  • The Truth About Canada (Mel Hurtig: 2008);
  • in the following report: 2008 Global Integrity Report (archive website) (Democracy Watch Coordinator Duff Conacher prepared the Integrity Indicators Scorecard for Canada);
  • Losing Confidence (Elizabeth May: 2009)
  • Parliamentary Democracy in Crisis (eds. Peter H. Russell and Lorne Sossin: 2009);
  • Harperland: The Politics of Control (Lawrence Martin: 2010), and;
  • in the following report: 2010 Global Integrity Report (Democracy Watch Coordinator Duff Conacher prepared the Integrity Indicators Scorecard for Canada)
  • Democratizing the Constitution (Peter Aucoin et al, 2011).


4. As a result of Democracy Watch’s Anti-Trust Campaign (archive website), the federal government has implemented most of the campaign’s proposals, including:

  • increased funding and powers for the Competition Bureau to help enforcement of the federal Competition Act;
  • a right for individuals to take a company directly to the Competition Tribunal for breaking some measures of the Competition Act,and;
  • a $15 million penalty for airlines who break some measures in the Competition Act.


5. As a result of Democracy Watch’s Bank Accountability Campaign (launched in April 1994), and its organizing and coordination of the Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition (CCRC), a nation-wide coalition of 100 citizen groups that since 1997 has advocated for increased bank accountability in Canada, had most of Democracy Watch’s proposals have been implemented by the federal government, including:

  • in January and September 2010, the implementation of a few regulations requiring more full and plain-language disclosure of the cost of borrowing on a credit card — For more information, click here;
  • the passage in April 2007 of Bill C-37 which strengthened the federal Canadian Bank Act by increasing fines, and requiring the clearing of cheques more quickly (although many further changes are needed, click here for details)
  • as a result of Democracy Watch’s and the CCRC’s advocacy, banks have been forced to lower many service charges and, as a result, the average price for services has dropped from 76 cents in 1996 to 50 cents in 2005 saving Canadians more than $5 billion in service charges over that 9-year period;
  • the CCRC led the successful citizen campaign in 1998 to stop two proposed bank mergers, and has had most of its proposals adopted by the federal government, including passage of Bill C-8 in June 2001 which includes:
    • a requirement that Canada’s big banks and other financial institutions annually disclose detailed information about their lending to business;
    • a ban on banks coercing customers into buying a product they don’t want;
    • a requirement that banks give 4 to 6 months notice, and consult with the local community, before closing a branch;
    • a requirement that Canada’s big banks and other large financial institutions produce annual, publicly available Public Accountability Statements (the first Canadian corporate sector ever required to produce such statements);
    • a requirement that banks open low-cost accounts and cash cheques for anyone (especially people with low-incomes) who presents basic identification;
    • the creation of a new government regulatory agency, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, to enforce the above new rights and responsibilities;
    • the creation and strengthening of the independence of bank ombudsmen to handle complaints about unfair service, and;
    • a ban on bank mergers until September 2004 while the federal government’s bank merger review process is strengthened.


6. As a result of Democracy Watch’s Citizen Association Campaign (launched in April 1994) Democracy Watch has won:

  • public endorsement by former federal Industry Minister John Manley, and the 1998 federal Task Force on Financial Services, and the House of Commons Finance Commitee and the Senate Banking Committee, of Democracy Watch’s proposal of an innovative method for organizing a citizen group to act as a watchdog over the Canada’s big banks and other financial institutions, and;
  • in fall 2006, endorsement by an Ontario government committee of Democracy Watch’s proposal to use the method to create a citizen watchdog group for the investment industry


7. As a result of Democracy Watch’s Corporate Responsibility Campaign (launched in April 1994), and its organizing and coordination of the Corporate Responsibility Coalition, a nation-wide coalition of more than 30 citizen groups that advocates for corporate responsibility in Canada, Democracy Watch has had some of its proposals adopted by the federal government, including:

  • passage of Bill C-45 in March 2004 that changed the Criminal Code to make it easier to hold corporations accountable for crimes;
  • passage of Bill C-13 in March 2004 which:
    • creates a new Criminal Code offence of improper insider trading;
    • provides whistleblower protection to employees who report unlawful conduct; and
    • increases the maximum sentences for existing fraud offences and establishes a list of aggravating factors to aid the courts in sentencing.
  • passage of Bill S-11 in November 2001 which lowers the barriers to shareholders of corporations proposing corporate responsibility measures to other shareholders


8. As a result of Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign, and its organizing and coordination of the Government Ethics Coalition, a nation-wide coalition of more than 30 citizen groups that advocates for stronger lobbying and ethics rules in Canada, Democracy Watch has had some of its proposals adopted by federal, provincial and municipal governments, including:

  • in September 2010, the federal government changed some regulations in the Lobbying Act to require lobbyists to disclose their communications with MPs, senators and senior staff in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons and Senate, and to prohibit MPs and these other public office holders from becoming a registered lobbyist for 5 years after they leave office — To see details, click here (archive website);
  • in November 2009, the Commissioner of Lobbying issued, finally, a legally correct and effective enforcement guideline for Rule 8 of the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct following the Federal Court of Appeal of Canada’s historic March 2009 ruling (archive website) on Democracy Watch’s court challenge;
  • in March 2009, the Federal Court of Appeal of Canada issued an historic ruling (archive website) in Democracy Watch’s case stating that federal lobbyists violate the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct when they do anything for, or give anything to, politicians or government officials they are lobbying;
  • in fall 2008, the federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner released a world-leading Guideline on Gifts (including Invitations, Fundraisers and Business Lunches) that sets the standard Democracy Watch advocated;
  • on May 29, 2008, changes to the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators to make it illegal for a senator to take part in debates about a specific matter in which they have a private interest, and to make the Senate Ethics Officer slightly more independent;
  • on May 31, 2007, the passage of Bill C-48, which amends the Criminal Code of Canada to broaden and clarify the bribery and anti-government corruption sections of the Code to cover all government officials and “indirect” bribes and other corrupt acts as one step to bring Canada into compliance with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (archive website) (signed December 2003, in force as of December 2005)
  • on December 14, 2006, the passage of Bill C-2 (the so-called “Federal Accountability Act”) by the federal government, which makes the following key changes (To see Democracy Watch’s full review of Bill C-2, click here (archive website)):
    • protection from retaliation by an independent watchdog agency (the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner) for most government employees if they blow the whistle on government wrongdoing (the protection is not as strong as it should be, but it is protection that has never existed before, and is the first such comprehensive law in Canada);
    • MPs who have a trust fund/bank account for collecting donations outside the limits and disclosure system are required to shut down the trust fund/bank account;
    • federal Cabinet ministers, their staff, and some senior government officials will no longer be allowed to have dealings with the trustee that handles their assets in their “blind trust” set up to avoid conflicts of interest;
    • Dr. Bernard Shapiro, the current federal Ethics Commissioner, who in dozens of cases failed to enforce federal ethics rules, was replaced on July 9, 2007 by a Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, and the incompetent Deputy Ethics Commissioner Robert Benson (who was also formerly Deputy Ethics Counsellor to the biased and incompetent Ethics Counsellor Howard Wilson) has also been replaced (To see details about Democracy Watch’s court challenge of the Ethics Commissioner’s and Deputy Ethics Commissioner’s failure to enforce federal ethics rules in 2004-2005, click here (archive website));
    • the new Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner has new powers to investigate anyone covered by the federal ethics rules whenever there is evidence of a violation (in the past, the Ethics Commissioner often abused technical loopholes to refuse to investigate ministerial staff or to refuse to investigate if a complaint was not filed by an MP or Senator);
    • the federal Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders Code (which applies to Cabinet ministers, their staff, and senior government officials) is changed from a code into a law called the Conflict of Interest Act;
    • almost all senior politicians and senior government officials (including people serving on “transition teams” when the ruling party changes) are banned for 5 years from becoming a registered lobbyist after they leave office;
      • NOTE: the following lobbying law changes were finally implemented on July 2, 2008
    • lobbyists will be required to disclose each month the subject matter of some of their communications with senior politicians and senior government officials;
    • lobbyists are banned from contingency/success commission fee arrangements with their clients (to discourage lobbyists from trying to win policy changes at any cost, including using bribes);
    • the watchdog for lobbyists, who was a lapdog called the Registrar who is completely controlled by a politician, will be changed into a fully independent, fully empowered watchdog called the Commissioner of Lobbying;
    • the period during which Lobbying Act violations can be investigated and prosecuted is extended from two years to 10 years (to help ensure that violators who hide their violations do not escape accountability);
    • the fines for violating the Lobbying Act will be doubled from $25,000 to $50,000 on summary conviction, and from $100,000 to $200,000 if convicted by indictment.
  • in early February 2006, introduction of a strengthened Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders, including:
    • an extension of the ban from 1 year to 5 years on Cabinet ministers, some ministerial staff, and some senior public servants becoming lobbyists after they leave government;
    • a new avenue for the public to file complaints with the federal Ethics Commissioner, and;
    • more restrictions on federal politicians and senior public officials having any awareness of their financial assets while in public office.
  • passage in June 2005 of Bill C-15 which changed the federal Lobbyists Registration Act, increasing the disclosure requirements for federal lobbyists (including requiring more corporate lobbyists to disclose their activities in the lobbyist registry, and requiring disclosure by all registered lobbyists of their past work with the federal government);
  • creation in the fall of 2004 of the first ethics watchdog office for a Canadian city, in Toronto;
  • passage of Bill C-4 in March 2004 which changed the Parliament of Canada Actto:
    • creates a more independent federal ethics watchdog (the Ethics Commissioner) who reports to Parliament to investigate Cabinet ministers, and MPs who violate federal ethics rules, and who can’t be overruled by the Prime Minister ;
    • creates ethics rules for federal MPs and senators, and;
    • creates an ethics watchdog for Senators (unfortunately, the Senate decided to keep the Senate Ethics Officer completely under the control of a committee of Senators).
  • in July 2004, Democracy Watch won the first-ever court challenge of a Canadian government’s ethics enforcement system, when it successfully challenged the federal Ethics Counsellor’s rulings and structure of Ethics Counsellor office: See Decision of Federal Court in Democracy Watch v. Office of the Ethics Counsellor (July 9, 2004);
  • passage of lobbying disclosure laws in B.C., Nova Scotia, Ontario and Québec between 1998 and 2002;
  • passage in 1997 of the federal Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct and also an ethics code for lobbyists in Québec (including a ban on lobbyists and government contractors working for Cabinet ministers);
  • creation of ethics watchdogs to investigate lobbyists who violate their code of conduct at the federal level (in 1997 through changes to the federal Lobbyists Registration Act) and in Québec (in 2002);
  • creation in 1996 of a searchable registry of federal lobbying on the Internet, which has been copied in the four provinces that have passed lobbying disclosure laws, which makes it easy for people across Canada to track lobbying of these governments;
  • passage of Bill C-43 in 1995 which changed the federal Lobbyists Registration Act, requiring lobbyists to disclose more details about their “behind closed door” activities in Ottawa.


9. In part as a result of Democracy Watch’s Honesty in Politics Campaign (launched in 2002), the following changes have been made:

  • on December 14, 2006, the passage of Bill C-2 (the so-called “Federal Accountability Act”) by the federal government, which created the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) position to help ensure truth in federal government budgeting


10. As a result of Democracy Watch’s Money in Politics Campaign (launched in spring 1999), the organizing and coordination of the Money in Politics Coalition, a nation-wide coalition of over 50 citizen groups that advocates for a democratic political finance system in Canada and has had some of its proposals adopted by the federal government, including:

  • in February 2010, the passage of changes to the Alberta Local Authorities Elections Act (in part spurred by media coverage of Democracy Watch’s proposals) that limit donations to city council and mayor campaigns to $5,000, and require disclosure of all donations of more than $100;
  • on December 14, 2006, the passage of Bill C-2 (the so-called “Federal Accountability Act”) by the federal government, which makes the following key changes (To see Democracy Watch’s full review of Bill C-2, click here (archive website)):
    • secret, unlimited donations of money, property or services made directly to candidates in federal elections are banned, and almost all donations of more than $500 will have to be disclosed within 4 months after each election (they were allowed and did not have to be disclosed as long as the candidate did not use the donation for their campaign) — NOTE: this measure does not come into effect until June 12, 2007;
    • donations from corporations, unions or organizations of any kind to any party or any type of candidate at any time are banned;
    • as of January 1, 2007, the annual limit on individual donations is decreased from $5,000 to $1,000 total to each party;
    • as of January 1, 2007, the annual limit on individual donations is decreased from $5,000 to $1,000 combined total to each party’s nomination race candidates, election candidates, and riding associations;
    • as of January 1, 2007, the annual limit on individual donations is decreased from $5,000 to $1,000 total to each election candidate who runs as an independent;
    • as of January 1, 2007, the limit on individual donations is decreased from $5,000 to $1,000 to each candidate during a campaign for the leadership of a party;
    • cash donations of more than $20 are banned, to ensure that there is a written record of almost all donations;
  • successfully intervening in February 2004 in Supreme Court of Canada case Harper v. Attorney General of Canada (Supreme Court of Canada decision in Harper v. Canada (Attorney General) (archive website) (May 18, 2004)) in support of Bill C-2 measures (see below) which limit paid advertising during election campaign periods by “third parties” (NOTE: The Supreme Court ruled on May 18, 2004 that limits are constitutional);
  • passage of Bill C-24 in June 2003 (in force as of January 1, 2004) which added to the Canadian federal Elections Act:
    • first-ever limits on donations by corporations, unions, other organizations and individuals;
    • first-ever disclosure requirements for party candidate nomination campaigns and party leadership campaigns;
    • quarterly disclosure of donations to political parties beginning in 2005 (in the past disclosure has been annual);
    • annual disclosure of donations collected by riding associations;
    • increased public financing of political parties;
    • disclosure of the amounts and terms of bank loans to federal political parties;
    • regular disclosure of donations to federal Liberal Party leadership candidates;
  • passage of Bill C-2 in June 2000 which added to the Canadian federal Elections Act limits on paid advertising spending during election campaign periods by so-called “third parties” (non-political parties or interest groups); and
  • in addition, the Money in Politics Coalition had most of its proposals added to the provincial elections law by the Manitoba government in August 2002 (including limits on advertising spending during election campaign periods by third parties; a ban on donations by corporations, unions and other organizations; and a limit on donations by individuals).


11. In part because of Democracy Watch’s Open Government Campaign (launched in May 2000), and Democracy Watch’s co-coordination of the Open Government Canada coalition (a coalition of 10 citizen groups which pushed until June 2002 for stronger access-to-government-information laws in Canada), the federal government has made the following changes:

  • on December 14, 2006, the passage of Bill C-2 (the so-called “Federal Accountability Act”) by the federal government, which makes the following key changes (To see Democracy Watch’s full review of Bill C-2, click here (archive website)):
    • the Access to Information Act has been extended to dozens of government institutions that were previously not covered by the Act;
    • a written report of all polls and surveys conducted by federal government institutions must be created, and must be disclosed within 6 months of receipt of the report;


12. In part as a result of Democracy Watch’s Voter Rights Campaign, the federal government has made the following changes:

  • on May 25, 2010, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled (archive website) in Democracy Watch’s court case clarifying for the first time ever in the world that, in a parliamentary system of government, laws must be specifically and strongly worded in order to have the legal effect of restricting the Prime Minister’s executive powers (in this case, the law was aimed at restricting the Prime Minister’s power to advise the Governor General to dissolve Parliament and call an election);
  • on March 17, 2010, passage by the House of Commons of a motion introduced by the federal NDP that restricts prorogation of Parliament by the Prime Minister to 7 days unless the House of Commons approves a longer prorogation;
  • on March 16, 2010, passage by the House of Commons of a motion introduced by the federal Liberals that directs the House of Commons Board of Internal Economy to change the rules to restrict the mailing of pamphlets (called “10-percenters”) to within an MP’s riding;
  • on December 14, 2006, the passage of Bill C-2 (the so-called “Federal Accountability Act”) by the federal government, which makes the following key changes (To see Democracy Watch’s full review of Bill C-2, click here (archive website)):
    • the period during which Elections Act violations can be investigated and prosecuted is extended from three years to 10 years (to help ensure that violators who hide their violations do not escape accountability);
    • a Parliamentary Budget Office was created that (like the U.S. General Accounting Office) provides independent analyses of government budget estimates and the state of the nation’s finances (NOTE: the PBO was finally established in May 2008);
    • a Procurement Ombudsman will be created to review the fairness of government contracting processes (NOTE: the Procurement Ombudsman was finally created in September 2007);
    • a Public Appointments Commission, which will help ensure a merit-based nomination process for Cabinet appointees, will possibly be created (it is only a possibility, as the Bill C-2 gives Cabinet the choice of whether or not to establish and maintain the Commission — NOTE: as of Fall 2010, the Commission had still not been created);
    • all Officers of Parliament (ie. the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, the Auditor General, the Chief Electoral Officer, the Information Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner, the Commissioner of Lobbyists, and the Public Service Integrity Commissioner) will now be appointed only after consultation with all parties and passage by majority vote of a resolution in the House of Commons;
    • a fairly independent Director of Public Prosecutions will be created to handle prosecutions involving federal government politicians and officials (so that the Minister of Justice does not attempt to stop prosecutions that affect the Minister’s government)
  • setting up of the Links Page to Databases of Contracts Given by All Federal Government Departments from October 2004 on (Please note, the database only contains information about contracts worth more than $10,000)
  • setting up of the Database of Contracts Awarded Between 2002-2004 by Federal Public Works and Government Services (PWGSC) Department
  • setting up of the Links Page to Databases of Travel and Hospitality Expense for Federal Cabinet Ministers, Their Staff, and Senior Government Employees


13. Democracy Watch has made more than 100 presentations before parliamentary committees (To see transcripts of some of the presentations, click here (archive website)) and has had many more meetings with key Canadian and international policy-makers.

14. Democracy Watch has also published more than 40 detailed reports and discussion papers, all setting out key democratic, good government and corporate responsibility reforms for Canada.

15. Finally, in 1994, Project Censored Canada selected Democracy Watch’s editorial on the impact of corporate crime as one of the top 10 most under-reported stories in Canada that year.