Summary of the 100 Undemocratic and Accountability Loopholes in Canada’s Government

In part because the federal Conservatives failed to keep more than 30 of their 2006 government accountability and democratic reform election promises

AND

because no federal government in the history of Canada has even attempted to close the 100 undemocratic and accountability loopholes listed below, these loopholes will continue to undermine the federal government’s accountability and democratic decision-making systems, and keep Canada from being the world’s leading democracy, until they are closed.

Democracy Watch leads the campaigns to close the loopholes and make Canada the world’s leading democracy.

To see a detailed Report Card on the 100 loopholes, click here
To see
how the federal political parties failed to make promises in the 2011 federal election to close the loopholes, click here
To see how the Ontario political parties failed to make promises in the 2011 provincial election to close the loopholes, click here
To see how the Quebec political parties failed to make promises in the 2012 provincial election to close the loopholes, click here
To see all the reasons for cleaning up Canada’s federal good government and corporate responsibility systems, and links to many related reports, click here



Citizen Empowerment / General Government Accountability loopholes Whistleblower Protection loopholes
Honesty in Politics loopholes Election loopholes
Cabinet appointments and hiring loopholes Money in Politics loopholes
Government Ethics loopholes Government Spending loopholes
Lobbying Regulation loopholes Open Government loopholes
Senate accountability loopholes


Citizen empowerment / General Government Accountability loopholes:

  • establish (using the very low-cost, effective method that has worked very well in the U.S.) broad-based, well-resourced, democratically structured citizen watchdog groups for airlines, banks and insurance companies, telecommunication companies, and for investors in publicly traded companies (for details, go to Democracy Watch’s Citizen Association Campaign webpage);
  • pass a “meaningful public consultation” law (based on the October 2002 Code of Good Practice on Policy Dialogue established under the 2001 Accord Between the Government of Canada and the Voluntary Sector),  and through referendums on significant issues, to ensure Canadians have a strong, direct and regular say in government policy-making (as in Sweden), and to decrease the undemocratic, unethical influence of high-powered lobbyists (for details, go to Democracy Watch’s Voter Rights Campaign webpage);
  • for every law, code, rule, policy or guideline set out below, the commissioner or agency that enforces it must be empowered and required to penalize violators even if the violator resigns or retires or switches jobs (with a penalty such as a significant fine or significant reduction of a pension or other benefit);
  • change the federal Inquiries Act to allow a majority of party leaders to launch an inquiry and to require approval by a majority of party leaders for setting the terms of reference for an inquiry, and for the selection of an inquiry commissioner or commission, and also to allow citizens to initiate an inquiry through a petition containing signatures from at least 10% of Canadians;
  • in return for using publicly owned airwaves, TV and radio stations should be required by the CRTC to air competing views whenever any show discusses an issue, and should also be required to air any advertisement that is factual and non-discriminatory (currently, TV and radio stations are allowed to refuse to air ads if they don’t want to, and usually citizen group ads, not corporate ads, are rejected — For more details, go to the website for the Campaign for Democratic Media which is a network of citizens and citizens groups inclunding Democracy Watch);
  • the federal Privacy Act (and similar provincial laws) must be changed to eliminate the requirement to keep secret the identity of public servants who violate laws, regulations, codes and other good government rules, and searchable webpages should be established allowing voters to track what MPs, their staff and senior government officials are doing (including how they vote and attendance in the legislature), who is lobbying them, and reasons for their actions;
  • the Parliament of Canada Act should be changed to set out specific conditions that must be met before the Prime Minister can shut down Parliament (technically called “proroguing Parliament”), so that prorogation would only occur if a government has fulfilled all its past pledges, or the national situation changes in very significant, measurable ways, or an election is called;
  • political parties, riding associations, MPs and Senators should be covered by the federal Privacy Act to help ensure that they do not misuse information they gather about voters;


Honesty in Politics loopholes:

  • lying to the public by everyone in federal politics is still legal and, as a result (of course), not penalized (in part because the Conservatives broke their election promise to include all ethics rules for Cabinet ministers, their staff and senior public servants in the new Conflict of Interest Act by deleting the rule that was in the past Code that required these key policymakers to “act with honesty” (NOTE: the Conservatives put the “honesty” rule in the Accountable Government Guide for Ministers (Section V and Annexes E-I –  which is enforced by the Prime Minister, and therefore never actually enforced)) — so an “honesty-in-politics” law needs to be passed with high fines as the penalty for any political leader and party that breaks election promises (unless emergency conditions force the promise-breaking), and as the penalty for any federal politician, staffperson and anyone in the federal government (even if they retire or resign) who misleads voters in between elections (NOTE: the honesty-in-politics law must also override the current full immunity politicians and witnesses have when speaking in Parliament (the House of Commons, the Senate, and committees)) — for details, see January 2010 op-ed (archive website) and/or go to Democracy Watch’s Honesty in Politics Campaign webpage;
  • politicians should only be allowed to switch parties between elections if they can prove clearly that their party has broken election promises, or switched directions on significant policies, or if their party leader does not resign after being found guilty of ethical or other legal violations — in all other cases, the politician would have to resign and run in a by-election or (if a general election is called before the by-election is held) in a general election (NOTE: politicians expelled from a party’s caucus would not have to resign because expulsion is not the politician’s decision — however, to respect voter rights any politician expelled should be required to consult with voters in his or her riding about whether they should sit as an independent or join another party; to ensure that justifiable reasons for a politician’s switching decision are not abused as a convenient excuse (as they often have been in the past), Democracy Watch also proposes that the federal government’s Ethics Commissioner be given the power to decide whether the switching is valid, and; if the reason a politician has been expelled from caucus is that politician has been found guilty of unethical or illegal behaviour, then the Ethics Commissioner should be given the power to penalize the politician with suspension or removal from Parliament — for details, go to Democracy Watch’s Honesty in Politics Campaign webpage;

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Cabinet appointments and hiring loopholes:

  • there is still no guarantee of an end to cronyism and patronage appointments by the federal Cabinet because the Conservatives broke their election promise to “Establish a Public Appointments Commission to set merit-based requirements for appointments to government boards, commissions and agencies, to ensure that competitions for posts are widely publicized and fairly conducted” (In fact, the FAA does not require Cabinet to create the Commission (it only allows Cabinet to do so) and since a parliamentary committee rejected  Prime Minister Harper’s first nominee for Commission chair, the Prime Minister has derailed the Commission);
  • the Public Appointments Commission’s mandate must be extended to cover also, through a special process, the search and nomination processes for the more than 1,000 judges the federal Cabinet appoints to provincial superior and federal trial and appeal courts;
  • at least a majority of opposition party leaders must be required to approve the appointment by the Cabinet of anyone who is in a law enforcement position (for example, all of the Officers of Parliament, the Environment Commissioner, the new Procurement Ombudsman, the new Parliamentry Budget Officer, the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Commissioner for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, commissioners of the Military Police Complaints Commission, judges, and the approximately 2,000 key members of federal regulatory agencies, boards, commissions, tribunals, and other enforcement agencies) to ensure these key decision-makers are non-partisan, skilled and impartial;
  • no Officer of Parliament or other accountability watchdog should be allowed to serve more than one, multi-year term to ensure that they do not spend their time in office trying to please parliamentarians in an attempt to win approval for another term in office (NOTE: the FAA allows the following Officers of Parliament to be re-appointed again and again: Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Commissioner of Lobbying, Chief Electoral Officer, Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, Parliamentary Budget Officer, Procurement Ombudsman, Commissioner for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, and commissioners of the Military Police Complaints Commission);
  • the Public Service Employment Act must be changed to require the Public Service Commission: to consider more than one person for an appointment in order for the appointment to be considered to have been made on the basis of merit; to use an advertised appointment process for every appointment, and; to use a specific, well-established, effective assessment process for every appointment;
  • the new Public Sector Integrity Commissioner or Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner should be given the power to conduct audits of hiring practices throughout the federal government (currently the Public Service Commission has this power, and is in a conflict of interest because it also manages hirings within the public service);
  • as Justice Gomery recommended, deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers should be selected through a merit-based process (conducted by the proposed Public Appointments Commission (if it is established) or by the existing the Public Service Commission), instead of by Cabinet ministers, so that they are dedicated primarily to upholding the law and the public trust, as opposed to doing whatever ministers’ want even if it is illegal or unethical;

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Ethics enforcement system loopholes:

  • the federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner cannot review a complaint about a Cabinet minister, their staff, a senior government official, an MP or their staff acting in a generally unethical way (for example, violating a code, policy or guideline that applies to them), and as a result these codes, policies and guidelines are not independently enforced (NOTE: the Conservatives deleted the general ethics rules that were in the past ethics Code when they passed the new Conflict of Interest Act and put the rules in the Accountable Government Guide for Ministers (Section V and Annexes E-I — which is enforced by the Prime Minister, and therefore never actually enforced));
  • the Conflict of Interest Act must be changed to allow the Commissioner to conduct an investigation and rule on alleged violations of the Act and other codes, policies and guideline even if the police are investigating a public office holder for a violation of a different law (currently, the Commissioner is required to suspend the investigation until the police investigation is completed);
  • MPs are still allowed to maintain a trust fund/bank account for collecting secret, unlimited donations in between elections as long as the money in the account is only used to benefit people other than the MP and organizations other than the MPs’ riding association — such accounts must be banned as they essentially allow MPs to use money to buy the support of voters; (PLEASE SEE related measures about trust funds maintained by riding associations and political parties, and auditing MPs financial statements and accounts, set out below under Money in Politics loopholes)
  • Cabinet ministers, ministerial staff, and senior public officials are still allowed to be involved in policy-making processes that help their own financial interests (because the Conservatives broke their election promise to “Close the loopholes that allow ministers to vote on matters connected with their business interests” and also cut the rules from the existing Code that prohibit “apparent and potential conflicts of interest” and “having even the appearance of an obligation to someone who could benefit” from a decision or action) — NOTE: the new Conflict of Interest Act includes a definition of “private interest” (which was added to the ethics rules by Paul Martin on his first day as Prime Minister) that allows ministers and other senior officials to be involved in policy-making processes even though they have financial interests in the policy area as long as the policy matter is of “general application” — this definition must be changed because almost everything ministers and senior officials deal with is of general application, and the rules prohibiting “apparent and potential conflicts of interest” and “having even the appearance of an obligation to someone who could benefit” must be put back in the rules in the Act to ensure ministers and senior officials act ethically at all times (NOTE: the Conservatives moved the “apparent conflict” rules into the Accountable Government Guide for Ministers (Section V and Annexes E-I — which is enforced by the Prime Minister, and therefore never actually enforced));
  • Cabinet ministers, ministerial staff, and senior public officials are still not required to sell major assets when they enter office (and, as a result, they know what they own throughout their time in office and can easily push for decisions and actions that help themselves) — the Act must be changed to require selling major assets that are in any way likely to cause conflicts of interest (a process known as “divestment”);
  • many ministerial staff and advisers are still not covered by many ethics rules (because the Conservatives broke their election promise to “Make part-time or non-remunerated ministerial advisers subject to the Ethics Code”) — all staff and advisers must be covered by ethics rules;
  • Cabinet ministers, their staff, senior public servants and MPs can easily hide large gifts they receive from lobbyists or others trying to influence them because they only have to disclose assets worth $10,000 or more every 4 months to the Ethics Commissioner — disclosure should be required for assets worth $1,000 or more, with updates on changes required within 30 days;
  • gifts of any kind worth more than $200 combined total annually to anyone in the federal government from anyone except relatives must be clearly banned (and gifts of any kind worth more than $200 combined total annually from relatives must be disclosed to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner) — NOTE: the Commissioner’s new Guideline on Gifts essentially prohibits Cabinet ministers, their staff, Cabinet appointees and senior government officials covered under the Conflict of Interest Act from accepting such gifts but it is just a guideline that may not be enforceable, and as well the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons has a huge loophole in section 15 that allows them to accept gifts of trips worth thousands of dollars, as well as a loophole in the definition of “benefit” that allows anyone, including lobbyists, to volunteer for MPs they lobby;
  • the public is still not allowed to file complaints with the new Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner (because the Conservatives broke their election promise to “Allow members of the public – not just politicians – to make complaints to the Ethics Commissioner” — NOTE: the FAA requires members of the public to have an MP or senator file a complaint on their behalf);
  • the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner is still allowed to give secret advice to public office holders and to make secret rulings (if the Commissioner undertakes an investigation on the Commissioner’s own initiative and then discontinues it), a recipe for cover-ups of violations of ethics rules — as in many provinces, the Commissioner must be required to issue a public report every time the Commissioner gives advice or makes a ruling;
  • the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner must be required to conduct random audits (without advance notice) of the assets and liabilities of Cabinet ministers, their staff, MPs, senators, and other senior public officials to ensure that their financial statements of assets and liabilities are accurate and that they have not received any gifts from lobbyists in excess of a $200 annual limit, and the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner must be required to conduct similar audits of public servants, especially those with decision-making power (PLEASE SEE related measures about Elections Canada conducting annual audits of candidates, riding associations and political parties set out below under Money in Politics loopholes);
  • the Ethics Commissioner must be required to submit public, bi-annual reports to a parliamentary committee that include details about the wrongdoing alleged in each complaint; the date each complaint is received; when each investigation began and finished; when the Commissioner received the investigation report; when the Commissioner/courts ruled and ruling details; how many people formally trained/informed by the Commissioner’s Office; number of information requests received by subject and other core operational information;
  • Cabinet ministers, their staff and senior public servants face no meaningful penalty for violations of any ethics rules, and no penalty at all for violations of many of the rules (because the Conservatives broke their promise to “Give the Ethics Commissioner the power to fine violators” — NOTE: the FAA only contains a maximum $500 penalty for violating only some ethics rules, but in contrast the FAA doubles fines for lobbyists violating the Lobbying Act from $25,000 to $50,000 on summary conviction (a jail term of up to 6 months is also possible), and from $100,000 to $200,000 if convicted by indictment (a jail term of up to 2 years is also possible)) — the penalties for Cabinet ministers, their staff and senior government officials must be increased at least to the same level as the penalties for lobbyists (and must apply even if their wrongdoing is exposed after they retire or resign);
  • there are still unjustifiable barriers to challenging the Ethics Commissioner’s rulings in court — a clear right must exist to file a court challenge every ruling by the Commissioner;
  • the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct, the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons (the MPs Code), and the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service (the code for government employees, which is enforced by the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner) must be changed from codes into laws to give them greater force and to prevent them from being weakened or repealed without full parliamentary review (Bill C-2 (the FAA) only changed the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders Code (which applies to Cabinet ministers, their staff, and senior government officials) from a code into a law called the Conflict of Interest Act);

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Lobbying Regulation loopholes:

  • secret, unethical lobbying is still legal (because the Conservatives broke their election promise to “Require ministers and senior government officials to record their contacts with lobbyists” — NOTE: the so-called Federal Accountability Act (FAA) only requires some lobbyists to register and disclose some of their contacts with ministers and senior officials; anyone lobbying about the enforcement or application of a law or regulation is not required to register; unpaid lobbyists (such as corporate board members and retired corporate executives) are not required to register, and; because of a technical loophole not closed by the FAA, any corporate lobbyists lobbying on average less than 20 percent of their paid work time are still not required to register as lobbyists under the Lobbying Act and, as a result, are not required to follow the rules in the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct);
  • also, the loophole in clause 4(2)(b) of the Lobbying Act should be deleted, as it allows anyone to lobby in secret concerning the enforcement of federal laws and regulations;
  • many ministerial staff are still allowed to become lobbyists too soon after they leave their position (because the Conservatives broke their election promise to “Extend to five years the period during which former ministers, ministerial staffers, and senior public servants cannot lobby government” — NOTE: the 5-year ban on becoming a lobbyists in the FAA does not cover all staff and senior officials, and also does not cover being employed by a corporation and lobbying less than 20% of your paid work time);
  • ministers and the Commissioner of Lobbyists are allowed under the FAA to exempt staff from the 5-year ban on becoming a lobbyist, and no one is allowed to challenge the exemption in court — there must be no exceptions to the 5-year ban;
  • anyone participating in the “employment exchange program” (who are mainly people from large corporations) is exempt under the FAA from the 5-year ban on senior public office holders becoming lobbyists — this huge loophole in the ban must be eliminated;
  • all MPs, senators and their staff must be banned from becoming lobbyists for at least one year after leaving office (and up to 3 years if they are an opposition party leader, chair a committee or are a staff-person for a committee chair);
  • lobbyists must be banned from being in a policy-making position, and from becoming members of Cabinet who deal with the same issues they lobbied on for at least five years after they are elected as a federal politician (and banned from filling lower policy-making positions for a range from 1-4 years);
  • lobbyists must be clearly banned from working directly or indirectly with government, and in senior campaign positions with political parties or candidates (as in Maryland and New Mexico) — Democracy Watch’s position is that Rule 8 of the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct that bans lobbyists from doing such work, but this rule is not specific and has never been enforced (For details about the lack of enforcement of Rule 8 of the Lobbyists’ Code, click here (archive website)) — (NOTE: the Conservatives put rules about lobbyists helping with fundraising into the Accountable Government Guide for Ministers (Section V and Annexes G-I — which is enforced by the Prime Minister, and therefore never actually enforced));
  • all lobbyists must be required to disclose on the on-line, searchable Lobbyist Registry their past work with any government, political party or candidate (currently, lobbyists are only required to disclose their past work with the federal government);
  • all lobbyists must be required to disclose on the on-line, searchable Lobbyist Registry how much they spend on each lobbying campaign (as required in 33 U.S. states) and, if this disclosure shows that corporate lobbyists have far more resources to spend on lobbying that citizen lobbyists, then limits on spending on lobbying campaigns must be established (similar to the limits that have been established for advertising spending by lobbyists during election campaign periods);
  • the search page for Lobbyist Registry must be changed to allow for searches by any data field in the registry (currently, the database can only be searched by the name and client(s) or organization of the lobbyist, the department being lobbied and the subject matter, and the lobbying time period);
  • the Lobbying Act must be changed to allow the Commissioner of Lobbying to conduct an investigation and rule on alleged violations of the Act or Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct even if the police are investigating a public office holder for a violation of another law;
  • the Commissioner must be given the power to penalize violators of the Act and the Code with high fines and lobbying bans (and penalties must apply even if their wrongdoing is exposed after they retire or resign);
  • the Commissioner of Lobbying must be required to make public the identity of all people the Commissioner penalizes for violating the Lobbying Act or Code, and must be prohibited from ending investigations for vague, unjustifiable reasons (NOTE: the FAA allows the Commissioner to keep identities of violators secret, and to end investigations without providing public reasons);
  • the Commissioner of Lobbying must be required to submit public, bi-annual reports to a parliamentary committee that include details about the wrongdoing alleged in each complaint; the date each complaint is received; when each investigation began and finished; when the Commissioner received the investigation report; when the Commissioner/courts ruled and ruling details; how many people formally trained/informed by the Commissioner’s Office; number of information requests received by subject and other core operational information;
  • as with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner position, any person nominated and chosen to be the Commissioner of Lobbying must be required to have legal experience enforcing ethics rules or laws to ensure proper enforcement of the Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct;

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Open Government loopholes — NOTE: the Conservatives broke their election promise to include the first 7 measures listed below in the so-called “Federal Accountability Act”):

  • the federal Access to Information Act (ATI Act) must be expanded to cover all government/publicly funded institutions;
  • all government/publicly funded institutions must be required to maintain an internal information system that can fulfill access-to-information requests as required by the ATI Act;
  • all government/publicly funded institutions must be required to review and disclose documents regularly by placing them on the Internet;
  • all government officials must be required to create a written document that records all decisions and actions (including detailed reports about polls and surveys conducted by contracted companies (which are not required to be disclosed under the FAA));
  • all federal politicians, and their staff, must be required to disclose details about their daily activities (the only exceptions being activities of their political party, and personal activities) including who they meet and communicate with, at what location, and topics of discussion (in part to ensure full disclosure of all lobbying of them);
  • a public interest override (based on a proof-of-harm test) of all access exemptions must be created;
  • Cabinet documents must be subject to review by the Information Commissioner to ensure that the exemption that applies to such documents is not abused;
  • the federal Information Commissioner must be given the power to order the release of documents (as the commissioner’s in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. have), to order changes to government institutions’ information systems, and to penalize violators of access laws, regulations, policies and rules (and the penalties must apply even if the violator’s wrongdoing is exposed after they retire or resign);
  • all the mandatory exemptions and exclusions in the ATI Act must be changed to discretionary exemptions;
  • the federal Privacy Act (and similar provincial laws) must be changed to eliminate the requirement to keep secret the identity of public servants who violate laws, regulations, codes and other good government rules;
  • require all government institutions (including all Crown corporations, Officers of Parliament, foundations, and organizations that spend taxpayers’ money or perform public functions) to file within six months of completion a copy of any report of public opinion research with the parliamentary Librarian and Archivist (NOTE: the Conservatives promised to “Ensure that all government public opinion research is automatically published within six months of the completion of the project”  but the FAA only requires some government institutions to file a copy of research conducted by an outside company, which means much research will remain secret);
  • change the ATI Act to eliminate the $5 fee for filing a request for a record (given that it is an unnecessary and unjustifiable barrier to access to information, and that processing the payment of the fee results in administrative costs for the federal government that exceed the fee);
  • change the ATI Act to increase the current five-hour free records search time to 10 hours (given the lack of efficient, accessible information management systems in many government institutions);
  • change the ATI Act to set one fee for copying records for all government institutions at a level no higher than the actual copying costs, and to require institutions to waive the copying costs if they will cause financial hardship to the requester;
  • the Information Commissioner must be required to submit public, bi-annual reports to a parliamentary committee that include details about the wrongdoing alleged in each complaint; the date each complaint is received; when each investigation began and finished; when the Commissioner received the investigation report; when the Commissioner/courts ruled and ruling details;how many people formally trained/informed by the Commissioner’s Office; number of information requests received by subject and other core operational information;

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Whistleblower Protection loopholes:

  • all whistleblowers must be effectively protected from retaliation, including politicians, political staff, government suppliers and contractors and members of the public (because the Conservatives broke their 2006 election promise to “Ensure that all Canadians who report government wrongdoing are protected, not just public servants”, the Federal Accountability Act (FAA – the section that changed the federal Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act) does not even protect all public servant whistleblowers);
  • whistleblowers must be allowed, in all cases, to file their complaint directly with the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner (the Act currently prohibits whistleblowers in some situations from disclosing wrongdoing directly to the Commissioner);
  • everyone who witnesses or receives evidence of wrongdoing by anyone in federal politics must be required to report it to the Commissioner (with the Commissioner strictly and strongly required to keep their identity secret, and people allowed to submit evidence anonymously);
  • the identity of anyone in the federal government or federal politics found guilty of wrongdoing must be made public in all cases (it is not because the Conservatives broke their election promise to “Require the prompt public disclosure of information revealed by whistleblowers . . .”);
  • the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner must be required to submit public, bi-annual reports to a parliamentary committee that include details about the wrongdoing alleged in each complaint; the date each complaint is received; when each investigation began and finished; when the Commissioner received the investigation report; when the Commissioner ruled and ruling details; how many people formally trained/informed by the Commissioner’s Office; number of information requests received by subject and other core operational information;
  • the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner must be clearly designated as the trainer (including by issuing interpretation bulletins), investigator and enforcer of all Treasury Board manual policies (other than the policies enforced by the Auditor General) and must be required to conduct training sessions, conduct regular random audits of compliance and to investigate whistleblower complaints about violations of these policies;
  • when the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner refers a whistleblower complaint about the violation of another law, regulation or policy for which a designated investigative and enforcement agency exists, the Commissioner must be required to ensure that the agency investigates the complaint within 90 days, and if not must be required to investigate the complaint;
  • the Act must be changed to require employers to prove that no retaliation against a whistleblower has taken place (currently, the Act requires the whistleblower to prove that retaliation has not occurred);
  • the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner must be given the power to order chief executives to take corrective action, and chief executives must be required to report to the Commissioner on corrective actions taken (NOTE: the Act only gives the Commissioner the power to make recommendations, and does not require reports from chief executives on corrective actions taken);
  • the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner must be given the power to penalize any chief executive with a fine, suspension or firing if the chief executive does not comply with the Commissioner’s order, or if anyone retaliates against a whistleblower or does not maintain a system that complies with the Act — currently, cases go to a tribunal made up of Federal Court judges — (and the penalties must apply even if their wrongdoing is exposed after they retire or resign);
  • the minimum fine for taking a reprisal against a whistleblower must be increased to $50,000, with a maximum range of fines from $100,000 to $200,000 (NOTE: the fines in the Act have no minimum, and the maximum range is $5,000 to $10,000, far too low to discourage employers from taking reprisals);
  • whistleblowers must receive adequate funding for legal advice (they currently don’t because the Conservatives broke their 2006 election promise to provide “adequate legal counsel” to whistleblowers — the Act only compensates whistleblowers for up to $1,500 in legal services expenses);
  • whistleblowers must receive compensation from the government general revenue fund adequate to seek another job (at least 6 months salary) if they want to (for example, if the whistleblowing process leaves them completely alienated from all their co-workers) and/or priority in switching jobs in the federal public service (the Conservatives broke their 2006 election promise to “Establish monetary rewards for whistleblowers who expose wrongdoing or save taxpayers dollars” — they included a maximum $2,000 reward in the first version of the Act, but then they proposed an amendment (which passed) to remove the reward);
  • as with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner position, any person nominated and chosen to be the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner must be required to have legal experience enforcing ethics rules or laws to ensure proper enforcement of whistleblower protection measures, and must not be eligible for a renewal of their fixed term in office (to ensure that the Commissioner does not act as a lapdog to Cabinet to try to get re-appointed for a second term), and;
  • at least every 3 years, it must be required that an independent audit (by the Auditor General or other independent body) of the entire whistleblower protection system be conducted;

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Elections Law loopholes:

  • set rules in the Elections Act for nomination races and all other political party decision-making processes (such as prohibiting party leaders from appointing candidates except in very unusual circumstances, and requiring people to join a political party and party’s riding association at least 3 months before any party or riding association vote (to ensure that “instant party members” can’t be used to undermine the democratic nature of internal party decision-making processes), and rules for becoming a candidate, voting and vote counting processes) and give anyone the right to appeal to Elections Canada when rules are broken, and Elections Canada the needed resources to make rulings quickly (given that most complaints will be about internal party voting processes and will need to be settled very quickly);
  • give voters the right to “refuse” their ballot (as is legal in Ontario elections) so that voters who do not support any candidate in their riding can vote for “none of the above” and have their voted counted separately from spoiled ballots (and require Elections Canada to feature this right in all of their election education and promotion materials);
  • given that Democracy Watch lost its appeal (archive website) of the Federal Court ruling on its court challenge of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s September 2008 election call, make the changes actually needed to fix federal election dates;
  • prohibit every telecommunications company of any kind that provides phone-calling services during an election to confirm the identity of anyone or any organization booking a call before allowing any call to be made;
  • give the Commissioner of Elections and the Chief Electoral Officer more investigative powers, especially the power and mandate to audit regularly the finances and assets of political parties, riding associations, and candidates in nomination races and elections, and require them to conduct annual audits;
  • switch the control over the main federal election debates from the consortium of broadcasters to the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) and require the CEO to hold two debates: 1. a main debate including representatives from every registered political party that has at least one elected representative or that has legitimate candidates in 95 percent or more of the federal electoral districts, and; 2. a second debate including representatives from all other registered political parties — and (given that broadcast airwaves are owned by the public) require at least all main broadcasters to air both debates on their stations or channels;
  • change the voting system, and federal Senate structure, to provide a more accurate representation of the popular vote and regional interests in the House of Commons, the Senate, and provincial legislatures (as in many other countries) while ensuring that all elected officials are supported by, and are accountable to, a majority of voters in a specific constituency (and with a safeguard to ensure that a party with low-level, narrow-base support does not have a disproportionately high level of power in Parliament);
  • increase the penalties for violating the federal Elections Act to discourage violations (given that it is very difficult to overturn an election result even if the Act is violated), in particular increasing the fine for overspending to $100,000 plus the amount that a candidate or party spent above the legal spending limits;
  • the Commissioner of Elections must be required to submit public, bi-annual reports to a parliamentary committee that include details about the wrongdoing alleged in each complaint; the date each complaint is received; when each investigation began and finished; when the Commissioner received the investigation report; when the Commissioner/courts ruled and ruling details; how many people formally trained/informed by the Commissioner’s Office; number of information requests received by subject and other core operational information;
  • also change the voting system to require that at least 65% of voters must vote in any election, by-election or referendum;
  • require the media to give equal prominence to all numbers in survey result reports, to end the misleading hype of polls seen in the past few federal elections;
  • take away the Prime Minister’s power to set the date of a by-election within six months after an MP gives up their seat in the House of Commons, and give Elections Canada the power to set by-election dates and require by-elections to be held within three months of an MP giving up their seat;
  • require Elections Canada to conduct more door-to-door enumeration audits to correct errors in the current permanent voters list;
  • require poll clerks and returning officers to ensure that each person is actually qualified to vote (to address the examples cited by observers across the country that people are voting twice, and that non-citizens are voting);

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Money in Politics loopholes:

  • all donations or gifts of any size of money, property or services by anyone or any organization made directly or indirectly to all types of candidates, all riding associations, all political parties, must be tracked and disclosed (currently, secret donations of all types are legal to nomination race and party leadership candidates, and secret donations of some services are legal to parties, riding associations and all candidates (only secret donations to election candidates were banned by the Federal Accountability Act (FAA));
  • donations or gifts of any size of money, property or services by anyone or any organization made directly or indirectly to former politicians and former government officials must also be tracked and disclosed for at least 10 years after they leave office;
  • the penalty for taking a secret donation from a trust fund or violating an order to terminate a secret trust fund must be increased to $100,000 (NOTE : the FAA establishes ridiculously low penalties of $500 to $2,000 — and the penalties must apply even if the wrongdoing is exposed after the politician retires or resigns));
  • Canadian law must change to implement the UN Convention Against Corruption and other international standards that require the monitoring of the bank accounts of all public officials who have decision-making power for suspicious transactions (for details, go to: Democracy Watch’s December 2009 news release (archive website));
  • donation limits and disclosure requirements are needed for “volunteer labour” donated to parties and candidates during nomination race, election and party leadership campaigns, to close this existing secret donations loophole;
  • loans to parties, riding associations, nomination race candidates, election candidates and party leadership candidates from corporations, unions and all other types of organizations must be banned (as donations have been), and loans from individuals must be limited (as donations have been, to $1,100 annually) so that loans cannot be used to influence the government and politicians;
  • spending limits must be established for political party leadership campaigns to ensure a level playing field for all candidates (spending by nomination race candidates, election candidates, and political parties is already limited during campaigns);
  • the individual donation limit of $2,200 annually ($1,100 to each party, and another $1,100 combined total to the riding associations of each party) must be decreased to $1,100 annually because it is much higher than an average Canadian can afford;
  • the overall 50% tax deduction for individual donations of between $400 and $1,100 should be decreased to 33% because only wealthy benefit from the tax deduction;
  • as political party leadership campaign candidates are required to do, all candidates, riding associations and parties must be required to disclose publicly all donations, gifts, and the details and status of any loans, during the week before election day, so voters know who is bankrolling campaigns;
  • disclosure of the identity of each individual donor’s employer must be required (as in the U.S.) and disclosure of each donor’s direct organizational affiliations must also be required (to help ensure that corporations, unions and other organizations are not funneling donations through their employees or board members);
  • as noted above in the section entitled “Elections Law loopholes”, the Commissioner of Elections and the Chief Electoral Officer must be given more investigative powers, especially the power to audit annually the finances and assets of political parties, riding associations, and candidates in nomination races and elections, and must be required to conduct annual audits;
  • the Commissioner of Elections must be required to submit public, bi-annual reports to a parliamentary committee that include details about the wrongdoing alleged in each complaint; the date each complaint is received; when each investigation began and finished; when the Commissioner received the investigation report; when the Commissioner/courts ruled and ruling details; how many people formally trained/informed by the Commissioner’s Office; number of information requests received by subject and other core operational information;
  • establish public funding that matches the donations made to any nomination race, election, and party leadership candidate who raises a specific minimum amount of money that shows they have voter support;
  • lower the public funding of political parties from $1.95 to $1 per vote received (to ensure that in order to prosper parties need to have active, ongoing support from a broad base of individuals) and ensure riding associations receive a fair share of this funding (to decrease party headquarter’s control over riding associations);
  • establish a limit (of about $5,000) on the amount that a party can donate to a riding association or election candidate (to decrease the party’s control over riding associations and candidates);
  • the tax deduction for donations to charities should be doubled from 17% to 33%, and a new tax deduction of 17% for donations to non-profit citizen groups should be established, to recognize the key role these stakeholder groups play in the policy-making processes;

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Government Spending loopholes:

  • including changes to other laws in the budget bill must be prohibited;
  • the Procurement Ombudsman must be given the power to order changes to procurement practices at any government institution and to report to Parliament on problems with practices and complaints (NOTE: the FAA only gives the Ombudsman the power to audit departments, not any other government institutions, and only gives the Ombudsman the power to make non-binding recommendations (which the Cabinet can restrict by regulation), and does not require that the Ombudsman’s Annual Report to Parliament set out details of procurement practice problems and complaints);
  • the exemptions in the the Financial Administration Act and its regulations that essentially allow for sole-source contracts whenever the government wants must be removed;
  • the Auditor General must be given the power to penalize violators of the Financial Administration Act and Treasury Board rules with high fines, suspensions and firings (and the penalties must apply even if a violator’s wrongdoing is exposed after they retire or resign);
  • the Auditor General must be given the power to review and prohibit government advertising if it mainly promotes the ruling party, especially during the period of 6 months before the date of any election (if election dates become fixed, then this 6-month period will be defined, if election dates remain un-fixed, the Auditor General should still be given the power to review and prohibit partisan government advertising at any time);
  • the pay, perks and pensions for federal politician’s should be reduced significantly as they are at levels that put politicians at the top 2% income level in Canada, putting politicians out of touch with the day-to-day concerns of most voters;
  • everyone in the government must be required to submit the actual, detailed receipt (showing the number of people at the event, what was purchased, by whom, and at what price) for all expenses claimed to help prevent unjustified expense claims;
  • the Auditor General must have the power to audit the expense reports of everyone in the government (including all MPs and senators and their offices and staff) to help prevent dishonest expense claims;
  • the Auditor General must be required to submit public, bi-annual reports to a parliamentary committee that include details about the wrongdoing alleged in each complaint; the date each complaint is received; when each investigation began and finished; when the AG received the investigation report; when the AG/courts ruled and ruling details; how many people formally trained/informed by the AG’s Office; number of information requests received by subject and other core operational information;
  • the power of Cabinet ministers to reward their staff people who leave with special “separation pay” (on top of severance pay) should be eliminated because it gives ministers a way of buying off former staff people in an attempt to keep them quiet about wrongdoing they may have witnessed;
  • as Justice Gomery recommended, any “special reserve” funds must be required to be under the control of Treasury Board and covered by an annual, public report;
  • there is still no guarantee of truth-in-government-budgetting (because the Conservatives broke their election promise promise to “Create an independent Parliamentary Budget Office” because the FAA allows Cabinet to dismiss the Parliamentary Budget Officer at any time), and the PBO’s independence and powers must be increased by;
    • changing subsection 79.1(2) of the Parliament of Canada Act to allow dismissal of the PBO only for “cause” (currently, the Act states that the PBO serves at the “pleasure” of Cabinet and can be dismissed at any time for any reason, which greatly undermines the PBO’s independence (and breaks the Conservatives’ election promise to establish an independent PBO));
    • adding a new subsection to section 79.2 of the Act (or enacting a regulation under sections 74.2 and 79.2) requiring the PBO to release his reports to the public at the same time he gives them to an MP, senator, parliamentary committee, the House of Commons or Senate (currently, the Act is not specific about when and how the PBO’s reports should be made public);
    • adding a new subsection to section 79.3 of the Act that gives the PBO the right to a quick injunction hearing in Federal Court if the head of any government institution refuses to comply with the PBO right under the Act “to free and timely access to any financial or economic data in the possession of the department that are required for the performance” of the PBO’s mandate (NOTE: there are many exemptions in the Act to the PBO’s right of access to data, so the court hearing would determine whether the institiution must give the data to the PBO);
    • adding a new subsection to section 79.3 of the Act that gives the Federal Court the power to penalize the head of any government institution that the court determines has unjustifiably refused to give the PBO requested data (and the penalty must apply even if their wrongdoing is exposed after they retire or resign), and;
    • adding a new section to the Act ensuring the PBO’s funding must match the funding levels of similar agencies in other countries (proportional to the size of the Canadian economy and amount of federal government spending) — essentially, this would increase the PBO’s funding to somewhere between $5-10 million annually.
  • Crown corporations must be required in the Financial Administration Act to apply to court to have the court void any contract signed with a director of the corporation or an entity in which a director has an interest if it is discovered that the director did not disclose their interest to the corporation’s board of directors (NOTE: currently, section 118 only allows the corporation to apply to court, but does not require the corporation to apply to court);

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Senate Accountability loopholes:

  • the ethics watchdog for the Senate must be made independent and must be prohibited from making secret rulings (currently the Senate Ethics Officer is completely under the control of a Committee of senators) — for details, click here (archive website)
  • the many loopholes in the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators must be closed (for example: under subsection 13(2) and 25 senators are allowed to be involved in discussions and votes in which they or family members or corporations they work for have a financial interest; under subsection 14(4) if a senator declares a conflict of interest at a behind-closed-doors committee meeting the declaration will not be made public unless the committee approves it; under section 15 senators are allowed to take part in debates as long they declare that they have a conflict of interest; under section 23(4) senators are not required to sell any assets when they become a senator, only to put them in a so-called “blind trust”; but under subsection 26(d) senators are allowed to receive updates from the trustees who manages their “blind” trust; under subsection 30(2) senators are allowed to keep a secret bank account; under section 35 the statement of the assets and liabilities of each senator is not easily available on the Internet, it is only available in the Senate Ethics Officer’s office in Ottawa);
  • the  Conflict of Interest Code for Senators must be changed into a law so that it cannot be weakened or repealed without full parliamentary review;
  • in the long term, abolish the Senate and, as the easiest, most effective way to ensure regional representation increase the number of ridings in every province except Ontario and Quebec to a level that ensures a majority of seats in the House of Commons can’t be won without winning ridings outside of Ontario and Quebec (or, at the very least, ensure the election of senators by voters in each province through a system that matches the current federal Elections Act and includes all of the needed changes to the Elections Act and federal political donations law set out in a separate section above).

Democracy Watch calls on all federal political parties to do everything they can to close the loopholes listed above as soon as possible, by either introducing and passing bills to close them now, and/or including pledges to close the loopholes in their next federal election campaign platforms and introducing and passing bills to close them after the next election.

Democracy Watch and its nation-wide coalitions will continue to push federal political parties until all 100 of these undemocratic and accountability loopholes in the federal government are closed.