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Canadians have achieved more than 400 firsts and foremosts in the world – but as Canada’s federal government turns 150, it’s far from a world-leading democracy

Many key changes needed to have democratic good government – all can be made before federal government turns 151

Thursday, June 29, 2017

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch pointed to the more than 400 firsts and foremosts in the world achieved by Canadians, as documented in the best-selling books Canada Firsts and More Canada Firsts (co-authored and authored respectively by Democracy Watch Co-founder Duff Conacher). Democracy Watch called on federal political parties to work together during the Government of Canada’s 150th year to make all the changes needed to ensure Canada also becomes the world’s leading democracy. Many key changes are needed to ensure everyone in federal politics is effectively required to act honesty, ethically, openly, representatively and to prevent waste.

“Both the Liberals and NDP promised 75 democratic good government reforms in the last election, but the Liberals have already broken some key promises, and many more key changes are needed to ensure everyone in federal politics is finally effectively required to act honestly, ethically, openly, representatively and to prevent waste,” said Conacher.

The top 10 most important changes that need to be made for everyone in federal politics (politicians, appointees, political staff, public servants and lobbyists), are as follows:

  1. Enact an honesty-in-politics law that allows for complaints to the federal Ethics Commissioner about broken promises, and about dishonest statements made anywhere (including in Parliament) by anyone involved in politics, with mandatory high fines as the penalty.
  2. Require all federally regulated industry and service sector (banks, and life and health insurance, airline, phone, cable TV, food) to include a notice in their mailings and emails to customers inviting them to join and fund citizen watchdog groups for each industry and sector, and increase royalties for all resource development sectors (mining, forestry, fisheries) and put part of the increase into a fund that citizen watchdog groups jointly oversee and use for jointly decided initiatives.
  3. Establish an independent Public Appointments Commission (as Britain has) whose members are approved of by the leaders of parties that receive more than 5 percent of the popular vote in the election, and require the Commission to conduct public, merit-based searches and choose a short list of a maximum of 3 candidates for all Cabinet appointments, with the Cabinet required to choose from the short list.
  4. Enact a meaningful public consultation law that requires broad, in-depth public consultation with voters (including legislature committee hearings) before any government or government institution makes a significant decision, and free and empower MLAs to represent voters and hold the government accountable by restricting the powers of the Prime Minister and party leaders.
  5. In addition, to the ban on political donations and gifts from businesses, unions and other organizations, actually stop the unethical influence of big money by, as in Quebec, limiting individual donations to $100 annually and establishing per-vote and donation-matching public funding.
  6. Prohibit everyone in politics from participating in any way in any decision-making process if they have even the appearance of a conflict of interest (even if the decision applies generally), including banning anyone who leaves politics from communicating with anyone involved in politics about their decisions for 3-5 years.
  7. Require everyone in politics to disclose through an online registry any communication they have with anyone with regard to decisions they are making (to close the secret lobbying loopholes that now exist).
  8. Change the voting system to ensure a more accurate representation of the popular vote results of each election in the seats held by each party in the legislature while ensuring that all elected officials are supported by, and are accountable to, voters in each riding/constituency (with a safeguard to ensure that a party with a low-level, narrow-base of support does not have a disproportionately high level of power in the legislature) – and actually fix election dates (as Britain has).
  9. Strengthen the access-to-information law by reducing loopholes, applying it to all government and government-funded institutions, requiring that records of all decisions and actions be disclosed regularly, and giving the Information Commissioner the power and mandate to order disclosure (as in B.C., Ontario and Quebec) and changes to government institutions’ information systems (as in Britain), and to penalize violators, and ensure whistleblower protection by strengthening the rules and empowering the Public Interest Commissioner to protect all whistleblowers in the public and private sectors.
  10. Reduce waste by prohibiting omnibus budget bills, and empowering the Auditor General to: audit all government and government-funded institutions; audit projected spending to ensure truth-in-budgetting; prohibit government advertising if it is misleading or partisan; order changes to clean up the financial management of any institution, and; penalize violators of spending or procurement rules. And shutting down the Senate would also save money.

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
[email protected]

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