Commissioner’s proposed new Code would allow lobbyists to secretly fundraise and campaign for politicians while lobbying them
New Code will allow secret support similar to secret funding allegedly given by China-sponsored organizations to 11 candidates in 2019 federal election
House Ethics Committee must hold emergency hearings to reject the Code
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, November 29, 2022
OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch called on the House Ethics Committee to hold emergency public hearings to review and reject key changes to the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct proposed by Commissioner of Lobbying Nancy Bélanger because they gut ethical lobbying rules in ways that will allow for corrupt favour-trading between lobbyists and politicians.
Four MPs on the House Ethics Committee can force the Committee to hold a hearing on the proposed Code, and the Committee must approve the Commissioner’s proposed Code before it can come into force. The Commissioner posted her proposed new unethical Code on her website last Friday afternoon without issuing a news release about it, and she wants it to come into force in January 2023.
“Groups with more than one-and-a-half million supporters oppose the Commissioner of Lobbying’s attempt to gut key lobbying ethics rules in ways that will allow for corrupt favour-trading, and the House Ethics Committee should hold emergency public hearings and reject the Commissioner’s unethical proposals,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The Lobbying Commissioner is contradicting herself by proposing new rules to ban lobbyists from giving gifts and hospitality worth more than $80 a year, while gutting other rules to allow lobbyists to secretly campaign and raise unlimited amounts of money for politicians and parties while lobbying them.”
“The Commissioner of Lobbying’s proposed changes to the Lobbyists’ Code are perverse and deeply unethical and will allow lobbyists to give secret campaign and fundraising support to politicians they are lobbying, including support similar to the secret funding allegedly given by China-sponsored organizations to 11 candidates in the 2019 federal election,” said Conacher.
In total, 21 citizen groups with supporters totaling more than 1.5 million Canadians oppose the Commissioner’s proposed changes. Democracy and 13 other citizen organizations, and also David Suzuki and Alan Broadbent, called in June in a joint public letter for Commissioner Bélanger to stop trying to gut the Lobbyists’ Code, and another 7 organizations joined the call by withdrawing their support for the Commissioner’s proposed changes in July (See the World Wildlife Fund submission on behalf of 6 other organizations on this page – Commissioner Bélanger has refused to publish the letter withdrawing that submission that WWF sent to her on July 25).
As well, Commissioner Bélanger has misleadingly claimed on this page that she received only 206 letters from voters – in fact, more than 20,000 voters signed on to Democracy Watch’s petition on Change.org or its letter-writing campaign that sent emails to the Commissioner calling on her to stop gutting the Code, and also calling on federal party leaders and the House Ethics Committee to make key changes to stop all secret, unethical lobbying.
Commissioner Bélanger is proposing to gut the federal Lobbyists’ Code and allow corrupt favour-trading by changing key ethics rules to allow lobbyists:
- To secretly campaign for and fundraise for politicians and parties up to nearly full-time while lobbying them (currently if a lobbyist campaigned or fundraised for a politician or party up to nearly full-time, they would be prohibited from lobbying them for 4 years);
- To secretly be a second-level, full-time campaign staff person for a politician and/or party and then only be prohibited from lobbying them for 1 year (the current lobbying prohibition time period is 4 years);
- To secretly be a top-level, full-time campaign staff person for a politician and/or party and then only be prohibited from lobbying them for 2 years (the current prohibition time period is 4 years);
and not only can all of this campaigning and fundraising be done in secret, but also the Commissioner is proposing to give herself the power to secretly reduce a lobbyist’s 1-2 year lobbying prohibition down to an even shorter time period.
The joint letter from Democracy Watch and the 13 organizations calls for the following Code changes, changes the House Ethics Committee should make:
- Keep in the Code the current loophole-free rule that prohibits lobbying anytime there is an appearance of a conflict of interest;
- Increase the cooling-off period from 5 years up to 10 years during which a lobbyist is prohibited from lobbying after significant fundraising or campaigning for a politician or party (instead of lowering it to 1-2 years);
- Create a new category of lower-level political activity with a 5-year cooling-off period;
- Allow lobbying right away only if the lobbyist only canvasses or volunteers no more than a couple of times during a campaign, and;
- Don’t allow any reductions of any of the cooling-off periods.
See Backgrounder for more details.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Email: [email protected]
Democracy Watch’s Stop Secret, Unethical Lobbying Campaign and Government Ethics Campaign