Please support democracy

Without your support, Democracy Watch can't win key changes to stop governments and big businesses from abusing their power and hurting you and your family. Please click here to support democracy now

Democracy Watch calls on Ontario Integrity Commissioner to rule on appointment of Trade Representative in U.S.

Democracy Watch’s opinion is that Premier Ford’s participation in the appointment, and boosting of Todd’s salary, violated provincial government ethics law because Todd was a senior adviser on Ford’s election campaign

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, December 18, 2018

OTTAWA – Democracy Watch released the letter it sent today to Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake calling on him to rule on the legality of Premier Ford’s participation in the appointment of his election campaign adviser Ian Todd as Ontario’s Trade Representative in Washington, D.C., and the decision to increase Mr. Todd’s salary by $75,000 annually.

The letter raises questions about whether the Premier’s appointment of Mr. Todd violates the rules in the provincial Members’ Integrity Act that prohibit provincial politicians from participating in (section 2) or trying to influence (section 4) any decision that could further their own interests or improperly further another person’s interests.

The Premier and Cabinet ministers are allowed to hire anyone they want as their staff as it is considered acceptable that, despite the fact staff are paid for with the public’s money, Cabinet ministers would want them all to be loyal supporters of the ruling party.

However, Democracy Watch’s position is that, based on Part 3 of this Cabinet policy, it is improper for the Premier or any other Cabinet minister to appoint party loyalists or friends to any other government position, especially when the government hasn’t done a public, merit-based search for all qualified candidates and/or pays them more than the usual rate.

“Democracy Watch hopes that the Integrity Commissioner will issue a strong ruling that finds Premier Ford and his Cabinet ministers violate the provincial ethics law when they give government jobs to Conservative election campaign advisers and other friends of the Conservative Party,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

– 30 –

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

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

Key changes needed as Bill C-76 makes federal elections more dishonest and unfair, won’t stop secret, fake online election ads

Bill legalizes more false claims and false promises, increases the ad spending limit for wealthy interests, and maintains unfair donation limits

Yesterday’s House Committee report recommends many of the same changes as Democracy Watch, as Bill C-76 doesn’t do enough to stop secret, fake online election ads, and to protect voters’ privacy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wedesday, December 12, 2018

OTTAWA – Today, as Bill C-76 heads back from the Senate to the House of Commons with only one technical amendment, and is expected to become law soon, Democracy Watch highlighted key problems with the changes made by the Bill that will make the next federal election more dishonest and dominated by wealthy interests.

Democracy Watch called on federal parties to work together to reverse the changes before the next election, as well as strengthen measures to stop false promises, big money, and secret, fake online election ads, and to protect voters’ privacy. While Bill C-76 reduces some key barriers to voting, it does little else to address key undemocratic election problems.

Democracy Watch is only calling for changes to key rules – none of the changes require any changes in Elections Canada’s election planning or operations – so there is no reason why the changes can’t be made between now and next June when Parliament closes and the pre-election period will begin.

“Bill C-76 makes federal Canadian elections more dishonest and unfair because it allows more false claims about candidates, increases the spending limit for wealthy interest groups, and doesn’t do enough to stop secret, false, online election ads or big money donations,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Adjunct Professor of Law, and Political Studies, at the University of Ottawa. “If federal politicians actually want to ensure fair and democratic Canadian elections, the law must be changed to prohibit all false claims and false promises, lower donation limits, reverse the increase in interest group ad spending, and add new measures to stop secret, false online election ads. The independence, effectiveness and accountability of election enforcement agencies also needs to be strengthened, and penalties for violations increased, to ensure everyone follows fair election rules.”

The key changes needed are as follows:

To require honesty by everyone during the pre-election and election periods:

  1. Bill C-76 does nothing to strengthen subsection 482(b)) of the Canada Elections Act, which prohibits false election promises by parties and candidates but needs to be strengthened because the Commissioner of Canada Elections negligently refuses to enforce it. The Commissioner responded to Democracy Watch’s complaint about Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau baiting voters with his false promise of electoral reform during the 2015 election with a decision refusing to enforce the rule;
  2. Bill C-76 also makes more false claims about candidates legal by narrowing the rule that prohibit false claims (section 91 of the Canada Elections Act). The current rule prohibits any false claim “in relation to the personal character or conduct of a candidate or prospective candidate.” Bill C-76 narrows the rule so it only covers false claims that these people (or a party leader or officials) violated the law or have been charged or investigated for a violation, and false claims about the citizenship, place of birth, education, professional qualifications or membership in a group or association of these people. Senators tried to amend Bill C-76 to restore the broader rule but the amendment was rejected.
  3. The words in section 91 requiring that to charge someone with making a false claim you have to prove they made the claim with the “intention of affecting the results of an election” also must be deleted because it is almost impossible in many cases that they had that intention (the Chief Electoral Officer and the Commissioner of Canada Elections both called for this change, and the change summarized above in #2, when testifying before the Senate Committee that review Bill C-76).

To stop wealthy interests from dominating pre-election and election campaigns:

  1. Bill C-76 more than doubles the spending limits for third party interest groups and individuals during election campaigns from approximately $200,000 up to $500,000 (section 224 of Bill C-76 changing subsections 350(1) to 350(4.1) of the Canada Elections Act (CEA)). The Trudeau Cabinet claims this increase is needed because the spending limit is being extended to cover election surveys and “partisan activities” such as door-knocking, phone calls and rallies. However, only citizen groups do those kinds of activities (businesses usually only spending money on ads). As a result, the limit should be increased only for citizen groups as the increase in the limit will more than double the amount of advertising businesses can do during an election campaign period.
  2. Bill C-76 also sets meaninglessly high limits of $1.5 million for party ad spending and $1 million for third-party (interest group) ad spending during the 60-75 days before the election campaign period begins (section 223 of Bill C-76, adding sections 349.1 to 349.94 to the CEA). The limits are meaningless because it is highly unlikely that any party or third-party will spend anywhere near those amounts during July and August – the only times the limits will apply (as the pre-campaign limits only apply when the election is held on the fixed election date of the third Monday in October). As well, the pre-campaign limit only applies to “partisan advertising” that promotes or opposes a party or a candidate, not to issue-based advertising.
  3. Bill C-76 also doesn’t lower the much too high donations limits that allow wealthy people to use money as a way to influence politicians, including the annual individual donation limits for 2019 of $1,600 to each party and another $1,600 to the riding associations of each party (both increase each year by $25). Bill C-76 also doesn’t lower the $5,000 amount an election candidate can give to their own campaign or the $25,000 a party leadership candidate can give to their campaign

To see details, click here.

To stop secret, fake online election advertising by anyone (not just foreigners):

  1. Bill C-76 only prohibits big social media companies from knowingly running an ad paid for by a foreigner or foreign entity (section 190 of the Bill, adding new subsection 282.4(5) to the CEA), and requires them to publish a registry of election-related ads and maintain it for two years (section 208.1 of the Bill, adding new section 325.1 to the CEA). That will do nothing to stop secret, fake online election ads paid for by Canadians or Canadian entities, and will do little to stop foreign-paid ads as the social media companies will just claim they didn’t know the ads were paid for by foreigners.

To see details of the key changes needed to actually stop secret, false, online election ads by foreigners and Canadians, click here.

Bill C-76 also doesn’t do enough to require political parties to protect the private, personal information they collect about voters, as it only requires that they publish their privacy protection policy on their website (sections 254-255 of the Bill, changing section 385 and adding section 385.1 to the CEA) instead of extending federal privacy laws to cover parties.

The House of Commons Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics issued its report yesterday on stopping secret, false online election ads, and protecting voters’ privacy, and recommendations 1-3, 6-8, 10, 19, 22-24 match the changes that Democracy Watch has been calling for in these areas.

Democracy Watch testified at the Committee’s hearings on Bill C-76 in June and highlighted all these serious flaws in the bill, along with 20 or so other changes needed to ensure fair, democratic elections and strong enforcement that Democracy Watch submitted to Special Committee on Electoral Reform and to the government in fall 2016.

– 30 –

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

Democracy Watch’s Honesty in Politics Campaign, Money in Politics Campaign, Stop Fake Online Election Ads Campaign, and Democratic Voting Systems Campaign

Democracy Watch calls on Ontario Integrity Commissioner to investigate appointment of new OPP Commissioner

If Premier Ford participated in or tried to influence any part of the appointment process, he violated the provincial government ethics law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

OTTAWA – Democracy Watch released the letter it sent today to Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake calling on him to investigate whether Premier Ford participated in or tried to influence any step of the process that led to the appointment of his close friend Ron Taverner as the new Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).

The appointment raises questions about whether Premier Ford participated in or tried to influence: the choice or decisions of the executive search firm that searched for candidates for the position; the choice or decisions of civil servants who were on the selection committee that reviewed candidates, or; the Cabinet’s decision to approve Mr. Taverner as Commissioner.

The search firm’s contract could give the Cabinet the power to direct its search, and if any deputy ministers served on the selection committee then they, along with all Cabinet ministers, would share Premier Ford’s appearance of bias in favour of his close friend Mr. Taverner, given that they all serve at Premier Ford’s pleasure and could be fired or demoted by him at any time for any reason.

Sections 2 and 4 of the provincial Members’ Integrity Act prohibit provincial politicians from participating in or trying to influence any decision that could further their own interests or improperly further another person’s interests.

“If Premier Ford participated in any step of the process that led to his friend Mr. Taverner being appointed OPP Commissioner, then he violated the province’s government ethics law, and that’s why the Integrity Commissioner needs to investigate,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

– 30 –

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

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

DWatch files complaints with Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner about Trudeau Cabinet giving preferential access to “bundler” fundraisers, especially lobbyists

Commissioners should not rule on complaints because both were handpicked by Trudeau Cabinet – complaints should be referred to provincial commissioners

Political fundraising event disclosure Bill C-50, which comes into effect Dec. 21st, is a charade that won’t stop this cash-for-access because PM and ministers and other party leaders still allowed to sell access to themselves at exclusive events

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wedesday, November 28, 2018

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch filed a complaint with the federal Ethics Commissioner and a complaint with the federal Lobbying Commissioner calling for investigations into the preferential access that the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers have offered to fundraising “bundlers” who recruit 10 or more Laurier Club donors in a year, and into whether lobbyists are doing bundler fundraising for the Liberals.

The offer of preferential access was made through whatever communications with party members followed the establishment of the Leader’s Circle in the Liberal Party in the spring of 2016, and through the Liberal Party’s webpage about the Circle which was on the Party’s website from spring 2016 at least until the end of August 2016.

The Liberal Party’s webpage says the Leader’s Circle is “designed to recognize” people who raise money for the Party through “donor networking and bundling” which is “of utmost importance to growing the Party.” The webpage offers bundler fundraisers “recognition opportunities” including “an annual dinner with the Leader and invitations to events and discussions with leaders within the party.”

It is not known whether the Liberal Party is still operating the Leader’s Circle or any similar fundraising group – the letters to the commissioners ask for a comprehensive investigation into the Party’s fundraising activities.

Politicians are supposed to be the referees who decide what is in the public interest – so why do federal political party leaders continue to allow wealthy people to buy them off with huge donations and fundraising activities, including secret donations? In hockey, baseball, soccer, basketball and other sports, referees are not allowed to accept even small gifts from players,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Chairperson of the Money in Politics Coalition. “A full investigation of the fundraising activities of everyone involved in the Liberal Party in the past several years is needed by both the ethics and lobbying commissioners to determine how much preferential access has been given by the Prime Minister and other ministers to top donors and fundraisers, especially lobbyists.”

The letter to the Ethics Commissioner calls for an investigation into whether the PM, ministers, parliamentary secretaries or PMO/Cabinet staff violated the Conflict of Interest Act by giving preferential treatment to these bundler fundraisers by agreeing to attend events where the bundlers would have access to them. Giving preferential treatment to anyone is prohibited under section 7 of the Act.

The letter to the Lobbying Commissioner calls for an investigation into whether any registered lobbyists or people connected to lobbying businesses or organizations are members of the Leader’s Circle and have violated the Integrity and Professionalism Principles, and Rule 6, of the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct by doing bundler fundraising for the Liberal Party which put the Prime Minister or other ministers, staff or MPs into a conflict of interest. As well, if they lobbied the politician or public office holder after the fundraising, then they also violated one or more of Rules 7-9 of the Code.

The letters also refer to a complaint Democracy Watch filed in September, and another complaint filed at the end of October, and other complaints filed in November 2016 and March 2017, all of which relate to preferential treatment given by the Liberals to top donors and lobbyists at more than 162 events, or relate to lobbyists fundraising for the Liberal Party while lobbying Trudeau or other Cabinet ministers.

The federal Liberals also hold special events for donors who donate $1,500 or more annually (they become members of the exclusive Laurier Club).

Both complaint letters also call on Ethics Commissioner Dion and Lobbying Commissioner Bélanger to recuse themselves from investigating and ruling on the fundraising events, and to assign the investigations to people who are independent from them, because both are biased as they were chosen by the Trudeau Cabinet through a process controlled by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Democracy Watch does not want either commissioner to rule on the complaints, and in its complaint letters requests that both commissioners refer the complaints to provincial ethics commissioners who are not tied to the Liberals or any federal political party. Democracy Watch has challenged the appointment of Ethics Commissioner, and the Lobbying Commissioner, in Federal Court. The cases were heard in Ottawa on November 14-15, 2018.

“The Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner are biased as they were both chosen by the Trudeau Cabinet through a secretive process controlled by the Prime Minister’s Office, and so the investigation of the Liberal fundraising events must be delegated to people who are fully independent from the Cabinet to ensure the integrity of the investigation,” said Conacher. “Prime Minister Trudeau and his Cabinet essentially chose their own ethics and lobbying judges by choosing the commissioners, and so the commissioners shouldn’t be trusted to investigate and rule impartially on the Trudeau Liberals’ fundraising activities.”

The complaints are being filed as the Trudeau Liberals’ Bill C-50 is soon to come into effect, which will happen on December 21, 2018. Bill C-50 changes the Canada Elections Act to require fundraising events for a party, riding association, nomination race contestant, election candidate or leadership race contestant that:

  • take place outside of an election campaign period;
  • have with a ticket price of more than $200, and;
  • are attended by ministers, ministers of state, party leaders (or interim leaders) or party leadership contestants

to be disclosed five days before the event on the party’s website (subsections 384.1(1) to (3) and subsection 384.2), with the organizer and party required to file a report with Elections Canada within 30 days after the event disclosing: who benefited from the event; which ministers etc. attended the event; the identity of any adults who paid to attend the event; what the donation or ticket price was to attend, and; the name of each person who helped organized the event (subsections 384.3(1) to (7)). Bill C-50 also requires each party to file one report on all such events that occur during an election campaign period within 60 days after election day (subsections 384.3(8) to (13)).

However, Bill C-50 exempts from the public disclosure requirement donor appreciation events like a Liberal Party Leader’s Circle event if the event is held at a party convention (see subsection 384.1(4)), and does nothing to stop high-priced, exclusive, invite-only fundraising events attended by the Prime Minister and/or other ministers. As a result, Bill C-50 still allows cash-for-access fundraising activities.

“The Trudeau Liberals’ proposed Bill C-50 is a charade that increases transparency but doesn’t stop cash-for-access to Cabinet ministers, MPs or their staff or the unethical influence of big money in federal politics, and the only way to stop it is to lower the federal donation limit to $100 as in Quebec,” said Conacher. “The too-high federal donation limit of $3,100 not only continues to allow wealthy people to use money as an unethical way to influence politicians and parties, it also encourages funneling of donations from businesses and unions through their executives and employees and their families, as has happened in Quebec, at the federal level, and in Toronto.”

To actually stop big money and cash-for-access and other undemocratic, unethical fundraising activities in Canadian politics, Democracy Watch and the Money in Politics Coalition (made up of 50 groups with a total of more than 3 million members), joined by more than 11,000 voters who have signed a petition on Change.org, called on federal parties to pass another bill before the next federal election that:

  1. sets an individual donation limit of $100 per year (as in Quebec) and requires all donations of money, property and services to be disclosed (including volunteer services);
  2. sets a limit of what candidates can give to their own campaign of $100 per year;
  3. prohibits loans to parties and candidates except from a public fund (to stop allowing federally regulated banks to buy influence with their loans);
  4. only re-establishes per-vote annual public funding if the parties can prove they need it, and at a rate of at most $1 per vote annually, along with annual donation-matching public funding, and;
  5. strengthens enforcement and penalties for violations.

See more details about how inadequate Bill C-50 is for stopping the unethical influence of big money in federal politics here.

– 30 –

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

Democracy Watch’s Money in Politics Campaign and Government Ethics Campaign

Democracy Watch in court today challenging PM Trudeau’s biased, secretive appointment of new Lobbying Commissioner

Cases ask Federal Court to overturn the appointment because Trudeau was biased as Commissioner was investigating three situations involving him, and he also failed to consult with opposition parties as required by law

More than 15,000 Canadians have called for key changes to make the Cabinet appointment process actually open, independent and merit-based

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, November 15, 2018

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch is in Federal Court in Ottawa for the hearing of its case challenging the Trudeau Cabinet’s appointment in December 2017 of the new Lobbying Commissioner. Democracy Watch argues that the Cabinet was biased and in a conflict of interest because, at the time of the appointment, the Lobbying Commissioner was investigating three situations involving lobbyists’ putting Trudeau in a conflict of interest. See details about those situations here and here and here. The Commissioner was also investigating another situation involving Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Also, the Cabinet failed to consult with opposition party leaders as required by subsection 4.1(1) of the Lobbying Act before making the appointment. The Cabinet hid the fact that it had qualified candidates for Lobbying Commissioner in spring 2017, and controlled the partisan process in secret right through to the end of November 2017 when Prime Minister Trudeau made the unilateral decision to appoint Nancy Bélanger.

Democracy Watch is represented by Sebastian Spano.

“Prime Minister Trudeau failed to consult with opposition party leaders, as required by law, before appointing the new Lobbying Commissioner, and at the time the commissioner was investigating situations involving Trudeau and Minister Freeland so the PM was in a clear conflict of interest when making the appointment of this key democracy watchdog,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Adjunct Professor of Law and Political Studies at the University of Ottawa. “Given it is essential that Canada’s lobbying watchdog is independent and impartial, Democracy Watch hopes the court will overturn the appointment and establish high standards to prevent conflicts of interest, and also require the PM and Cabinet to consult meaningfully with opposition parties, before all future watchdog appointments.”

“It would be a clear conflict of interest if someone sued Prime Minister Trudeau or a Cabinet minister and he chose which judge would hear the case, and it is just as clearly a conflict of interest for the PM to choose the new Lobbying Commissioner to judge whether he and another Cabinet minister were in an unethical relationship with lobbyists,” said Conacher. “Given both opposition parties complained about Prime Minister Trudeau failing to consult with them before the Lobbying Commissioner appointment was made, it’s clear the PM also failed to consult as required by the law that sets out the appointment rules.”

Prime Minister Trudeau recused himself in mid-May 2017 from the Ethics Commissioner appointment process because the Commissioner was investigating him for accepting the Bahamas trip gift from the Aga Khan. In contrast, he didn’t recuse himself from appointing the Lobbying Commissioner.

After the May 2017 fiasco in which the Liberals tried to impose a blatantly partisan appointee for Official Languages Commissioner, the opposition leaders wrote a joint letter to the PM calling on the Cabinet to consult with them, as required by law, on all officer of Parliament appointments.

The NDP also proposed a resolution in June 2017 that a committee of MPs review nominees for Lobbying Commissioner and other watchdog positions but the Liberals rejected the proposal. Democracy Watch’s court case has revealed that Prime Minister Trudeau then sent a letter on June 20, 2017 that misled opposition leaders by claiming the Lobbying Commissioner appointment process was transparent and merit-based while failing to mention that the Liberals had already found qualified candidates for the position, and failing to consult the opposition on those candidates.

Then-NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair sent a letter back to Prime Minister Trudeau on July 4, 2017 saying the Cabinet’s appointment process was not independent, transparent or non-partisan, and again proposing it be changed to involve opposition parties.

Prime Minister Trudeau didn’t respond to Mulcair’s letter, and he and a Cabinet committee then controlled the partisan appointment process in secret right through to November 22, 2017 when he sent opposition leaders a letter saying that he had decided to appoint Nancy Bélanger as Lobbying Commissioner, and gave them only one week to respond.

The NDP sent a letter on November 29, 2017 to the Prime Minister saying very clearly that it’s position was that it was not consulted before the appointment of Ms. Bélanger was made, and requesting to see the shortlist of candidates.

The Conflict of Interest Act and PM Trudeau’s code for ministers and the law of bias all prohibit ministers from taking part in decisions when they appear to be biased or have an opportunity to further their own interests or improperly further another person’s private interests. Prime Minister Trudeau and his Cabinet had a clear opportunity in appointing the Lobbying Commissioner to further his interest by choosing someone whom they thought would issue a ruling finding the lobbyists not guilty of putting him in a conflict of interest.

In fact, one month after Prime Minister Trudeau appointed Nancy Bélanger as Lobbying Commissioner, she issued a ruling letting Apotex Inc. off the hook even though its chairman, Barry Sherman, held a fundraising event Trudeau attended that raised $150,000 for the Liberal Party. Democracy Watch has challenged that ruling in court.

More than 15,000 Canadians have sent a letter through Democracy Watch’s Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign calling on the federal Liberals to change the Cabinet appointment process from the current partisan system to ensure actually independent and merit-based appointments of all judges, officers of parliament, and members of agencies, boards, commissions and tribunals.

“The only way to stop the current dangerously undemocratic and unethical appointment process for judges and government 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,” said Conacher.

The independent commission, whose members would be approved by all federal party leaders (and entities such as the Canadian Judicial Council) should be mandated to do a public, non-partisan merit-based search for candidates for appointment as officers of Parliament and as members of the 32 federal administrative tribunals and 108 agencies/boards listed here. For all appointments, Cabinet should be required to choose appointees from a short-list of one to three candidates that the commission nominates.

Ontario uses this kind of independent appointment system to appoint provincial judges (the advisory committee provides a shortlist of three candidates to the Cabinet). Britain uses it to appoint judges and judicial tribunal members (like the Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner are) – its advisory committee provides only one candidate to the Cabinet, and the Cabinet has to accept the candidate or reject the candidate and provide written reasons. Both of their systems are considered to be world leading.

The judicial advisory committees for appointments of all 1,123 federal and provincial superior court judicial appointments listed here should also be made more independent from the federal Cabinet (currently the Minister of Justice chooses all the members), and should provide only a short list of candidates (currently they send long lists to Cabinet).

Democracy Watch also called on the Liberals, and all governments, to change the law to ensure all Cabinet appointees who watch over government or oversee key democracy laws (especially every Officer of Parliament) serve only one term, so they don’t try to please the government in order to keep their job.

– 30 –

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

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

Democracy Watch in court today challenging Trudeau Cabinet’s biased, secretive appointment of new Ethics Commissioner

Cases ask Federal Court to overturn the appointment because Cabinet was biased as Commissioner was investigating PM at the time, and also failed to consult with opposition parties as required by law

More than 15,000 Canadians have called for key changes to make the Cabinet appointment process actually open, independent and merit-based

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch is in Federal Court in Ottawa for the hearing of its case challenging the Trudeau Cabinet’s appointment in December 2017 of the new Ethics Commissioner. Democracy Watch argues that the Cabinet was biased and in a conflict of interest because the Ethics Commissioner was investigating Trudeau and was also investigating Finance Minister Bill Morneau during the appointment process.

Also, the Cabinet failed to consult with opposition party leaders as required by the Parliament of Canada Act before making the appointment. The Cabinet hid the fact that it had qualified candidates for Ethics Commissioner in spring 2017, and controlled the partisan process in secret right through to the end of November 2017 when the very questionable decision to appoint Mario Dion (who had an unethical record as Integrity Commissioner) was made.

Democracy Watch is represented by Sebastian Spano.

“The Trudeau Cabinet failed to consult with opposition party leaders, as required by law, before appointing the new Ethics Commissioner, and at the time the commissioner was investigating Trudeau and Finance Minister Morneau so the Cabinet was in a clear conflict of interest when making the appointment of this key democracy watchdog,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Adjunct Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Ottawa. “Given it is essential that ethics watchdogs are independent and impartial, Democracy Watch hopes the court will overturn the appointment and establish high standards to prevent conflicts of interest, and also require meaningful consultation with opposition parties, for all future watchdog appointments.”

“It would be a clear conflict of interest if someone sued Prime Minister Trudeau or a Cabinet minister and the Cabinet chose which judge would hear the case, and it is just as clearly a conflict of interest for the Cabinet to choose the new Ethics Commissioner who will judge whether the PM and another Cabinet minister violated the ethics law,” said Conacher. “Given both opposition parties complained about the Trudeau Cabinet failing to consult with them before the Ethics Commissioner appointment was made, it’s clear the Cabinet also failed to consult as required by the law that sets out the appointment rules.”

Prime Minister Trudeau recused himself in mid-May 2017 from the Ethics Commissioner appointment process because the Commissioner was investigating him for accepting the Bahamas trip gift from the Aga Khan. The PM chose Minister Bardash Chagger to take the lead in making the appointment decision for the new Ethics Commissioner.

Minister Chagger repeatedly defended the PM’s acceptance of the gift in the House of Commons in January and April 2017. After the May 2017 fiasco in which the Liberals tried to impose a blatantly partisan appointee for Official Languages Commissioner, the opposition leaders wrote a joint letter to the PM calling on the Cabinet to consult with them, as required by law, on all officer of Parliament appointments.

The NDP also proposed a resolution in June 2017 that a committee of MPs review nominees for Ethics Commissioner and other watchdog positions but the Liberals rejected the proposal. Democracy Watch’s court case has revealed that Minister Chagger then sent a letter in July 2017 that misled opposition leaders by claiming the Ethics Commissioner appointment process was transparent and merit-based while failing to mention that the Liberals had already found qualified candidates for the position, and failing to consult the opposition on those candidates.

Minister Chagger and a Cabinet committee then controlled the partisan process in secret right through to December 5, 2017 when Minister Chagger sent opposition leaders a letter saying that the Cabinet had decided on its own to appoint Mario Dion as Ethics Commissioner. Mr. Dion was a very questionable choice, given he had an unethical record as Integrity Commissioner.

The NDP sent a letter on December 11, 2017 to Minister Chagger saying very clearly that it’s position was that it was not consulted before the appointment of Mr. Dion was made, and requesting to see the shortlist of candidates.

The Conflict of Interest Act and PM Trudeau’s code for ministers and the law of bias all prohibit ministers from taking part in decisions when they appear to be biased or have an opportunity to further their own interests or improperly further another person’s private interests.

More than 15,000 Canadians have sent a letter through Democracy Watch’s Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign calling on the federal Liberals to change the Cabinet appointment process from the current partisan system to ensure actually independent and merit-based appointments of all judges, officers of parliament, and members of agencies, boards, commissions and tribunals.

“The only way to stop the current dangerously undemocratic and unethical appointment process for judges and government 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,” said Conacher.

The independent commission, whose members would be approved by all federal party leaders (and entities such as the Canadian Judicial Council) should be mandated to do a public, non-partisan merit-based search for candidates for appointment as officers of Parliament and as members of the 32 federal administrative tribunals and 108 agencies/boards listed here. For all appointments, Cabinet should be required to choose appointees from a short-list of one to three candidates that the commission nominates.

Ontario uses this kind of independent appointment system to appoint provincial judges (the advisory committee provides a shortlist of three candidates to the Cabinet). Britain uses it to appoint judges and judicial tribunal members (like the Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner are) – its advisory committee provides only one candidate to the Cabinet, and the Cabinet has to accept the candidate or reject the candidate and provide written reasons. Both of their systems are considered to be world leading.

The judicial advisory committees for appointments of all 1,123 federal and provincial superior court judicial appointments listed here should also be made more independent from the federal Cabinet (currently the Minister of Justice chooses all the members), and should provide only a short list of candidates (currently they send long lists to Cabinet).

Democracy Watch also called on the Liberals, and all governments, to change the law to ensure all Cabinet appointees who watch over government or oversee key democracy laws (especially every Officer of Parliament) serve only one term, so they don’t try to please the government in order to keep their job.

– 30 –

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

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

Democracy Watch calls on Ontario Integrity Commissioner to disclose financial interests of Premier Ford and his ministers, and impose special measures to ensure the Premier doesn’t help his family companies

So-called “blind” trust would be a sham as Premier Ford would still know he owns the companies, and he tried to help clients of his family company when he was a Toronto city councilor – strong fairness monitor and regular audits needed

DWatch also calls on Integrity Commissioner to reinforce key ethics rules, and to recommend strongly that key, unethical loopholes be closed

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

OTTAWA – Democracy Watch released the letter it sent today to Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake calling on him to disclose the financial interests of Premier Ford and his ministers immediately, given that more than four months have passed since the Cabinet was formed.

“Premier Ford and his ministers have made many significant decisions in the past few months, and because their financial interests remain a secret no one can tell if they have profited from their decisions,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The Integrity Commissioner has had the financial information of the Premier and his ministers for more than two months, and there is no justification for any further delay in disclosing their financial interests.”

Democracy Watch’s letter also calls on Commissioner Wake to use his powers under the Members’ Integrity Act (“Act”) to require Premier Ford to do much more than set up a so-called “blind” trust for his family companies in order to prevent conflicts of interest.

Under section 13 of the Act, Commissioner Wake must approve any trust or other arrangement to ensure it will actually prevent conflicts of interest. The approval, and the details of the trust or other arrangement, must be published in the public registry.

“A so-called blind trust for Premier Ford won’t do anything to prevent him from helping his family companies because he will still know that he owns the companies, and so the Integrity Commissioner must impose other strong enforcement measures to ensure Premier Ford and his family’s companies and their clients don’t profit from his or his Cabinet’s decisions,” said Conacher.

Democracy Watch called on Commissioner Wake to require a fairness monitor for all government policy-making processes and transactions that directly or indirectly affect Premier Ford’s family companies and/or clients of the companies.

Democracy Watch also called on Commissioner Wake, or the fairness monitor, to conduct regular audits of all communications of Premier Ford and staff in his office, to ensure they don’t try to influence decisions to favour his companies or their clients.

These measures are needed not only because Premier Ford’s conflicts of interest won’t be prevented without them, but also because Premier Ford was found guilty of violating Toronto’s ethics code for trying to help his company’s clients when he was a councilor.

“Premier Ford’s past record of violating government ethics rules makes it clear that strict and strong extra measures are needed to ensure he doesn’t try to profit from his decisions as premier,” said Conacher.

Democracy Watch’s letter also calls on Commissioner Wake to confirm with a clear, strong, public statements that key rules set out in the Preamble of the Act are enforceable. The rules require all MPPs to perform their duties and arrange their private affairs “in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of each member” and to “to act with integrity and impartiality that will bear the closest scrutiny.”

Finally, Democracy Watch’s letter calls on Commissioner Wake to issue a clear, strong, public statement calling on the Ontario legislature to change the Act to ban so-called blind trusts because they are a charade (as the Parker Commission recommended in 1987), and to close a huge loophole that means the Act doesn’t apply to 99% of the decisions of MPPs, so they, the Premier and Cabinet ministers, are allowed to take part in decisions even when they will profit from the decision.

“Ontario’s ethics law for politicians has huge loopholes that must be closed or it will continue to be almost impossible to be in a conflict of interest that violates the law,” said Conacher. Democracy Watch plans to send another letter soon to Commissioner Wake listing all the loopholes in the Act that he should be calling to be closed.

– 30 –

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign

Trudeau Cabinet doc reveals they had qualified candidates for Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner positions in spring 2017

Liberals misled opposition in letters sent in June-July 2017 – didn’t mention they had found qualified candidates that they could have consulted opposition about

Democracy Watch’s court cases challenging appointments of new Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner in Federal Court this Wed.-Thurs. – Cabinet failed to consult with opposition as required by law, and was biased

Trudeau Cabinet hiding other details about the appointment processes – Information Commissioner is currently investigating DWatch’s complaint

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, November 12, 2018

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the document it obtained through an Access to Information Act request that shows the Trudeau Cabinet had qualified candidates for both the Ethics Commissioner position and the Lobbying Commissioner position in spring 2017.

The document confirms at the bottom of the first page what the Trudeau Cabinet hid from opposition party leaders and the public – that more than 50 people applied for each position by April 2017, and that some were qualified for each position.

Democracy Watch requested many more details about the appointment processes in its request filed with the Privy Council Office, including all communications between the selection committee members, and it believes that the Cabinet must have many more documents than have been disclosed. It has filed a “missing records” complaint with the Information Commissioner that is currently being investigated.

“What other damaging details are the Trudeau Cabinet hiding about the appointments of the new Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner?” asked Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch, which is challenging the appointments in Federal Court, with the hearings scheduled for this Wednesday, November 14th and Thursday, November 15th.

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 terms, 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.

Those decisions in April 2017 preceded PM Trudeau’s move in mid-May 2017 to recuse himself from the appointment process for the new Ethics Commissioner because the Commissioner was investigating him for accepting the Bahamas trip gift from the Aga Khan. This raises the question of whether Trudeau took part in the April 2017 decision to reappoint the Ethics Commissioner.

Minister Bardash Chagger was chosen by PM Trudeau to take the lead in making the appointment decision for the new Ethics Commissioner.

Trudeau did not recuse himself during 2017 from the appointment decision concerning the Lobbying Commissioner, even though the Commissioner was investigating three situations involving lobbyists’ putting Trudeau in a conflict of interest. See details about those situations here and here and here.

Then, in June-July 2017, PM Trudeau and Minister Chagger sent letters to opposition party leaders that misled them by not mentioning that the Cabinet had qualified candidates for both the Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner positions. (See sample letter from Prime Minister Trudeau here).

The letters didn’t even mention that the Cabinet was required to consult the opposition party leaders on the selection of the commissioners (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)).

Then the Trudeau Cabinet continued its secretive, Cabinet-controlled selection process for both commissioner positions until it sent letters in late-November/early December 2017 to the leaders of the NDP and Conservatives. The letters said the Cabinet was going to appoint Mario Dion as the new Ethics Commissioner, and Nancy Bélanger as the new Lobbying Commissioner, in a few days and asked the opposition leaders for their “thoughts.”

At the time of the appointments by the Trudeau Cabinet, the Ethics Commissioner was not only investigating PM Trudeau, but was also investigating Finance Minister Bill Morneau for his role in developing and introducing Bill C-27. The Lobbying Commissioner was not only investigating the three situations involving Trudeau but also 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.

“The Trudeau Cabinet’s appointment processes were secretive, political and partisan, and misled opposition parties and the public, all of which is far from the open, transparent, merit-based appointment processes the Liberals claim they use,” said Conacher.

More than 15,000 Canadians have sent a letter through Democracy Watch’s Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign calling on the federal Liberals to make the Cabinet appointment process actually independent and merit-based (as Britain has) for appointments of all judges, officers of parliament, and members of agencies, boards, commissions and tribunals.

“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.”

The independent commission, whose members would be approved by all federal party leaders (and entities such as the Canadian Judicial Council) should be mandated to do a public, non-partisan merit-based search for candidates, and the Cabinet should be required to choose appointees from a short-list of one to three candidates that the commission nominates.

Ontario uses this kind of independent appointment system to appoint provincial judges (the advisory committee provides a shortlist of three candidates to the Cabinet). Britain uses it to appoint judges and judicial tribunal members (like the Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner are) – its advisory committee provides only one candidate to the Cabinet, and the Cabinet has to accept the candidate or reject the candidate and provide written reasons. Both of their systems are considered to be world leading.

The new appointment process, and prohibition on being reappointed, should apply to the judicial advisory committees and appointments of all 1,123 federal and provincial superior court judicial appointments listed here, and to the new public appointments commission that must be established to ensure a merit-based selection process for a short list of candidates for appointment to the 32 federal administrative tribunals and 108 agencies/boards listed here.

Democracy Watch also called on the Liberals, and all governments, to change the law to ensure all Cabinet appointees who watch over the government or oversee key democracy laws and processes (especially every Officer of Parliament) serve only one term.

“Like judges, all government and democracy watchdogs must only serve one term, with no possibility that the government can reappoint them, to ensure watchdogs don’t try to please the government in order to keep their job,” said Conacher. “To safeguard our democracy the ruling party must not be allowed to reappoint any government watchdog.”

– 30 –

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

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

Democracy Watch in court today challenging former Lobbying Commissioner’s ruling that Aga Khan not covered by lobbying law or code so Bahamas trip gift to PM Trudeau was legal

Former Commissioner Karen Shepherd ignored fact that Aga Khan lobbies for his foundation, which is registered to lobby the federal government, and so his gift caused the foundation to violate the Lobbyists’ Code

Commissioner Shepherd was on a 6-month, renewable contract given by PM Trudeau when she ruled on Aga Khan’s gift, raising questions of bias

Review of federal lobbying law this fall must close secret lobbying loopholes, strengthen enforcement, make Commissioner actually independent, and add high fines as penalties

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch’s court case filed last January challenging the ruling in September 2017 by former Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd that the Aga Khan’s Bahamas trip gift to Prime Minister Trudeau was legal is being heard by the Federal Court in Ottawa.

Commissioner Shepherd’s ruling stated that even though the Aga Khan was lobbying the PM, and is chair of the Aga Khan Foundation, which is registered to lobby the PM, because someone at the Foundation claimed the Aga Khan wasn’t paid to lobby for it, his gift didn’t violate the Lobbying Act nor the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct.

Democracy Watch is arguing before the court that the error of the Lobbying Commissioner’s ruling is that the Aga Khan lobbies the Prime Minister and other federal government institutions and officials and politicians not for himself but for the Aga Khan Foundation. As well, as head of the board of the Foundation, he is legally bound to advance the interests of the Foundation, and likely at least some of his expenses are covered by the Foundation.

As a result, the Lobbying Commissioner should have investigated more fully whether the Aga Khan was paid in any way by the Foundation, and also investigated whether the senior officer of the Foundation did everything he could to try to stop the Aga Khan from giving the gift.

If the Aga Khan was paid, then he was required to be registered as a lobbyist and violated the Lobbying Act by failing to register, and his gift violated the Code. Whether or not the Aga Khan was required to register as a lobbyist, if the senior officer didn’t do everything he could to try to stop the Aga Khan from giving the trip gift, then he violated the Code’s principle that requires upholding the highest ethical standards, and he and the Foundation should be found guilty and prohibited from lobbying the federal government for five years.

As well, Democracy Watch is arguing before the court that Commissioner Shepherd was biased when she made the ruling because, at the time, she was serving on a six-month, sole-source, renewable contract handed to her by the Trudeau Cabinet.

“Democracy Watch is challenging the Lobbying Commissioner’s ruling in court because it is legally incorrect, violates the spirit and purpose of the Lobbyists’ Code, and opens up a huge loophole that big businesses and other organizations will exploit by having their unregistered board members or staff do favours for, and give gifts to, politicians and government officials they are lobbying as a way of unethically influencing their policy making decisions,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Democracy Watch is also challenging Commissioner Shepherd’s ruling because she was on a six-month, sole-source, renewable contract handed to her by the Prime Minister Trudeau Cabinet at the time she made the ruling, and so she lacked independence and was biased in favour of Trudeau and his Cabinet.”

Although Commissioner Shepherd’s ruling was made in September 2017, it didn’t become public until CBC reported on December 22, 2017 that someone had complained to the Commissioner about the Aga Khan’s trip gift to Trudeau, and had received the Commissioner’s ruling in September.

The Lobbyists’ Code rules 6-10 prohibit lobbyists registered under the Lobbying Act from doing anything significant for, or giving anything significant to, anyone they are lobbying, and requires compliance with strongly worded principles that include always acting with integrity and upholding the highest ethical standards and the spirit of the Code and Act. Rule 4 of the Code also states that the senior officer of a business, union or other organization is responsible for ensuring that every employee is aware of the requirements of the Code and the Act.

On December 20, 2017, before it became public that Commissioner Shepherd had made the ruling in September 2017, Democracy Watch filed a new complaint with new Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger alleging the Aga Khan’s gift of the Bahamas trip given to Trudeau in December 2014 and December 2016, and to Liberal MP Seamus O’Regan in December 2016, violated the Lobbyists’ Code. The office of the Lobbying Commissioner confirmed on December 28th that it was investigating Democracy Watch’s complaint.

Democracy Watch requested in its complaint letter that that the complaint be investigated and ruled on by someone completely independent of Commissioner Bélanger because she was handpicked by Prime Minister Trudeau through a secretive, PMO-controlled process and is therefore biased. In a separate court case, Democracy Watch is challenging Trudeau’s appointment of Commissioner Bélanger, and Democracy Watch also has an ongoing campaign to make the Cabinet appointment process actually independent, open and merit-based.

“An independent investigation about whether the Aga Khan violated the lobbyist ethics code by giving the trip gift to PM Trudeau and MP O’Regan should have been initiated in January 2017,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Given that she was handpicked by Trudeau through a secretive, PMO-controlled process, the new Lobbying Commissioner is in a conflict of interest and so must delegate the investigation to a person who is independent of her and all federal political parties.”

Democracy Watch is also calling on the Auditor General to audit Lobbying Commissioner Shepherd and the RCMP because they let off the hook 84% of people who she caught since 2008 violating the Act or Code. Commissioner Shepherd finished her term in office on December 29, 2017. More than 1,700 Canadians have joined the call on the Auditor General to audit the Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner and RCMP — see details here.

“Lobbying Commissioner Shepherd went out with a whimper by issuing only one public ruling in the two years after the Liberals were elected, and she also let almost everyone off since 2008, so the Auditor General should also audit her negligently weak record,” said Conacher.

The Conflict of Interest Act and the Lobbying Act and Lobbyists’ Code will soon be reviewed by the House Ethics Committee. The Conservatives rejected many key proposed changes when the laws were last reviewed by the Committee. See details about the changes needed to close loopholes, strengthen enforcement and penalties for the Lobbying Act and Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct here.

– 30 –

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

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

Democracy Watch calls on Ethics Commissioner to delegate investigation into Prime Minister violating federal ethics law by inviting dozens of Liberal Party donors to gala dinner for Chinese Premier

Approximately 33% of non-government attendees at event were Liberal Party donors, some representing companies seeking decisions from the federal government – violation of ethics law to give them preferential access to the event

DWatch filed same complaint with former Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson in December 2016 – she negligently ignored the complaint

Commissioner Dion should delegate investigation to a provincial ethics commissioner – he is biased as Trudeau Cabinet chose him after secretive process

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, November 1, 2018

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch sent a letter to federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion calling on him to delegate an inquiry into Prime Minister Trudeau violating the federal government ethics law by giving preferential treatment to the companies and/or organizations or other individuals represented by several Liberal Party donors when he invited those donors to a gala dinner in honour of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on September 22, 2016, as reported in the Globe and Mail.

According to the Globe’s article, some donors who attended the event represent companies that seek decisions from the federal government, including BMO Capital Markets, Huawei Technologies Canada Co., Power Corp., and Wealth One. As well, approximately 33% of non-government attendees at the event were Liberal Party donors – another indication that Prime Minister’s Trudeau’s invitations were based on preferential treatment for donors.

It is a violation of the federal ethics law, the Conflict of Interest Act (section 7), to give preferential treatment to anyone or any business or organization based on the identity of the person who represents them. A full inquiry is needed to determine to determine whether there were other invitees who are Liberal Party fundraisers or assist the Liberal Party in some other way(s), and also represent an individual, company and/or organization that seeks decisions from the federal government and/or has lobbyists registered to lobby the federal government.

“Inviting dozens of Liberal Party donors to a gala government event where they had access to the Chinese Premier, Prime Minister Trudeau and several Liberal Cabinet ministers clearly violates rules in the federal ethics law that prohibit giving preferential treatment to anyone based on their donation, especially when some of the donors who attended represent companies seeking favourable decisions from the Liberal government,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Given that about a third of the people at the event were Liberal Party donors also amounts to preferential treatment because one-third of Canadians are not Liberal Party donors.”

Democracy Watch filed the same complaint with former Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson in December 2016. Commissioner Dawson ignored the complaint – yet another example of her negligently weak enforcement record during her term in office that Democracy Watch and more than 1,500 Canadians have called on Canada’s Auditor General to audit.

Democracy Watch is re-filing the complaint not only because it has not been ruled on by the Ethics Commissioner but also because, as the Globe reported in September, the Liberals continue to invite lobbyists who are lobbying the government to exclusive fundraising events.

Democracy Watch recently called on the Ethics Commissioner to investigate all exclusive Liberal Party events involving lobbyists that have been held in recent years, also because former Ethics Commissioner Dawson negligently refused to investigate the events. Democracy Watch filed the same complaint with Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger, following up on the complaints about lobbyist-organized fundraising event it filed in March 2017 with former Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd in 2016-2017 that still haven’t been ruled on by Commissioner Bélanger.

As well, Democracy Watch is challenging Commissioner Bélanger’s January 2018 decision that ended the investigation into the fundraising event Apotex Chairman Barry Sherman held in August 2015, attended by Justin Trudeau, that raised $150,000 for the Liberal Party.

“Any high-priced, exclusive, invite-only fundraising event attended or hosted by the Prime Minister, Cabinet minister or their staff clearly violates rules in the federal ethics law that prohibit giving preferential treatment to anyone based on their donation, and prohibit soliciting or accepting their donation because of the conflict of interest it causes,” said Conacher. “It is also a clear violation of the lobbyists’ ethics code for any lobbyist to be involved in organizing any fundraising or other event for a politician.”

At the December 2017 House Ethics Committee hearing reviewing his nomination to become Ethics Commissioner, Mario Dion claimed that he would be focused on “the need for a truly accessible office to make sure that people who want to make a complaint know that the office exists and know the parameters of filing a complaint.” (page 11). As a result, even though the Ethics Commissioner is not required to investigate complaints filed by members of the public, Democracy Watch expects that Commissioner Dion will ensure an investigation of its complaint is undertaken and a public ruling is issued.

However, Democracy Watch has asked Commissioner Dion to recuse himself from investigating and ruling on all its complaints, and delegate them to a provincial ethics commissioner who is not tied to any political party. Democracy Watch has filed a court case challenging Commissioner Dion’s appointment because he was chosen by the Trudeau Cabinet after a secretive, very questionable process. Mr. Dion also has a record 8 unethical and questionable actions when he was federal Integrity Commissioner. Democracy Watch has also challenged Lobbying Commissioner Bélanger’s appointment in court for the same reasons.

“Commissioner Dion should not be ruling on any situations involving Liberals as he was hand-picked by the Trudeau Cabinet through a secretive, very questionable process,” said Conacher.

To stop patronage and cronyism, and the appointment of weak government watchdogs and law enforcement officers, Democracy Watch has called for this change to the appointments process for all Cabinet appointments in its Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign. Ontario uses this appointment system to appoint provincial judges, and it is considered to be a world-leading process.

– 30 –

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign and Money in Politics Campaign