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After keeping them secret for almost two years, Trudeau Cabinet emails reveal they hid from opposition parties five fully qualified candidates for Ethics Commissioner

Trudeau Cabinet only proposed Mario Dion for the job, even though he had a record of 8 unethical actions when he was federal Integrity Commissioner

Trudeau Cabinet still illegally hiding other emails, including about Commissioner of Lobbying’s appointment process – Information Commissioner is investigating

Group’s case challenging secretive, biased, Cabinet-controlled appointment of Ethics Commissioner and Commissioner of Lobbying in court next Tuesday, January 28th

Thursday, January 23, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the emails the Trudeau Cabinet has kept secret for almost two years that show the Liberals had six fully qualified candidates who reached the final interview stage for the Ethics Commissioner position in November 2017.

The Trudeau Cabinet hid this fact from opposition party leaders, and only proposed Mario Dion for the Ethics Commissioner position, even though Dion had a record of eight unethical actions when he was Integrity Commissioner.

Despite the fact that Democracy Watch requested in February 2018 under the federal Access to Information Act all the communication records for the selection committees who handled the appointment processes for the Ethics Commissioner and Commissioner of Lobbying, the Trudeau Cabinet is still hiding almost all the Ethics Commissioner committee’s emails, and has failed to disclose any emails from the Commissioner of Lobbying’s selection committee. The Information Commissioner continues to investigate the Privy Council Office’s illegal delay in disclosing these documents.

Democracy Watch’s court case challenging the secretive, dishonest, biased, Trudeau-Cabinet controlled appointments of Mario Dion as Ethics Commissioner, and Nancy Bélanger as Commissioner of Lobbying, will be heard by the Federal Court of Appeal in Ottawa next Tuesday, January 28th.

The emails reveal that 56 people applied for the Ethics Commissioner position after it was restarted in June 2017 by the Trudeau Cabinet, and that six reached the final interview stage. The initial search process for both commissioners started in September 2016, but the Trudeau Cabinet misled opposition parties and the public in spring 2017 by claiming it couldn’t find qualified candidates, when in fact (as the emails confirm) more than 50 people had applied for each position, some of whom were qualified. See an example here of a misleading June 2017 letter sent by Prime Minister Trudeau to opposition leaders.

“As more and more of their secrets are revealed, it is becoming clear that the Trudeau Cabinet broke its 2015 election promise to make Cabinet appointments open, transparent and merit-based,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “What other damaging information is the Trudeau Cabinet still hiding from the courts and the public about their secretive, dishonest, biased and illegal appointments of the Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner?”

Instead of sending the list of qualified candidates in April 2017 to opposition party leaders to consult with them on who should be appointed as the new commissioners, the Trudeau Cabinet decided to re-appoint Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson and Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd to their third, six-month renewable term, likely because they both had confirmed records of letting almost everyone off the hook (including several Trudeau Cabinet ministers and lobbyists), and so the Cabinet wanted to keep them around as long as possible.

Democracy Watch’s court case challenges the appointments of Mario Dion and Nancy Bélanger because the Trudeau Cabinet didn’t consult opposition party leaders on the selection of the commissioners as required by law (under subsection 81(1) of the Parliament of Canada Act (for the Ethics Commissioner) and subsection 4.1(1) of the Lobbying Act (for the Lobbying Commissioner)).

In addition, the court case asks for the appointments to be cancelled because the Trudeau Cabinet had an appearance of bias when making the appointments, as the Ethics Commissioner was investigating PM Trudeau re: the Aga Khan’s Bahamas trip gift, and Finance Minister Bill Morneau for his role in developing and introducing Bill C-27, and the Lobbying Commissioner was investigating the three situations involving Trudeau, and another situation involving Minister Chrystia Freeland.

“Democracy Watch is challenging the appointments of the new Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner in court because Prime Minister Trudeau and his Cabinet ministers were biased as they were being investigated when they made the appointments, and they also failed to consult with opposition party leaders on the appointments as required by federal law,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

Democracy Watch’s court case asks the Federal Court of Appeal to cancel the appointments, and also order the Trudeau Cabinet to use an actually open, merit-based process to appoint a new Ethics Commissioner and a new Commissioner of Lobbying, a process like the United Kingdom uses for similar appointments, and Ontario uses for the appointment of judges.

“Like every Cabinet, the Trudeau Cabinet is in a conflict of interest when choosing any government or law enforcement watchdog because those watchdogs enforce laws that apply to Cabinet ministers or their departments,” said Conacher. “The only way to stop this dangerously undemocratic and unethical appointment process for judges and watchdogs is to establish a fully independent public appointment commission, as Ontario and Britain have, to conduct public, merit-based searches for nominees and send a short list to Cabinet, with Cabinet required to choose from the list.”

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

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