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Democracy Watch pursuing lawsuit challenging Ethics Commissioner’s ruling that let everyone off except PM Trudeau for pressuring Attorney General to stop SNC-Lavalin prosecution

Case also raises Ethics Commissioner Dion’s bias in ruling – Trudeau Cabinet chose him after secretive process

RCMP and prosecutors must explain publicly if they decide not to charge PM Trudeau and others with obstruction of justice

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, March 3, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the application it is pursuing in the Federal Court of Appeal challenging federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s ruling that let everyone off the hook, except Prime Minister Trudeau, for pressuring former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to stop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC). Daniel Tucker-Simmons of Avant Law is representing Democracy Watch in the case, Federal Court of Appeal File #A-331-19.

DWatch is challenging this part of the ruling in court because in paragraphs 262-281 (pages 41-44) the Ethics Commissioner summarizes the actions of PMO officials, Cabinet ministers and their staff that put pressure on the Attorney General. However, in paragraphs 282-286 (page 44), the Ethics Commissioner then excuses the actions of everyone except Prime Minister Trudeau on the very questionable basis that the other officials “could not have influenced the Attorney General” and were acting “under the direction or authority of the Prime Minister…”

As the Ethics Commissioner ruled, by attempting to influence the Attorney General PM Trudeau violated section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act. Other officials also attempted to influence the Attorney General. It is irrelevant whether they had the same power over the Attorney General as the PM has.

“The Ethics Commissioner made the right ruling by finding Prime Minister Trudeau guilty of violating the ethics law for pressuring the Attorney General to drop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, but he should have also found other PMO and government officials guilty because they also pressured the Attorney General,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The Ethics Commissioner’s ruling set a dangerous precedent because it says Cabinet staff aren’t covered by the federal ethics law, and can do things that Cabinet ministers are not allowed to do, and that’s why Democracy Watch is challenging the ruling.”

Democracy Watch is also arguing that Ethics Commissioner Dion should have delegated the investigation and ruling on the situation to a provincial ethics commissioner who had no ties to any federal party, given that he was chosen by the Trudeau Cabinet after a secretive, Cabinet-controlled process that failed to consult with opposition parties as required by the Parliament of Canada Act. Mr. Dion also had a record 8 unethical and questionable actions when he was federal Integrity Commissioner.

“Ethics 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, and has an unethical past enforcement record, and so he should delegate investigations to a provincial ethics commissioner,” said Conacher.

Given the evidence in the Ethics Commissioner’s ruling from last August, Democracy Watch also continues to call on the RCMP and Crown prosecutors to issue a full, public explanation if they decide not to prosecute Prime Minister Trudeau and others for obstruction of justice. “Given the evidence, the public has a right to know the reasons if the RCMP and prosecutors decide not to prosecute anyone,” said Conacher.

After the Globe and Mail first reported the allegations on February 7, 2019 that members of the PMO pressured the Attorney General to intervene, Democracy Watch filed a letter the next day with Ethics Commissioner Dion requesting an investigation only of members of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Ethics Commissioner Dion sent Democracy Watch a letter on February 26th confirming his investigation of its complaint.

Former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould testified before a House Committee on February 27, 2019 and claimed other people – Finance Minister Bill Morneau, some of his staff, PCO Clerk Michael Wernick, and other PMO staff – also tried to influence her. Democracy Watch then sent a letter on March 5, 2019 requesting that the Ethics Commissioner expand his inquiry to cover these people.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May also sent a letter to the Ethics Commissioner on May 2, 2019 requesting an inquiry into all the people named by the former Attorney General.

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

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign

Integrity Commissioner claims year or more delay is fine for issuing rulings on lobbyists who helped Ford and now lobby Ford’s Cabinet

Democracy Watch sends another letter to Commissioner asking for public rulings on its 8-month old, evidence-filled complaints very soon

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, February 25, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the third letter it has sent to Ontario Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake asking for public rulings as soon as his investigations are completed on lobbyists who worked in senior roles on Doug Ford’s and the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario’s (PC Party) election campaign and/or fundraised for or advised Ford and the PCs since the election, and are now lobbying Ford and/or his Cabinet ministers.

Democracy Watch filed a complaint last June with Integrity Commissioner Wake about lobbyists Chris Benedetti, Paul Pellegrini and Matthew Gibson of Sussex Strategy Group violating the rule by being on the organizing committee for Premier Ford’s February “2019 Toronto Leader’s Dinner” fundraising event. And Democracy Watch also filed a complaint last July about lobbyist Melissa Lantsman, who is lobbying the Ford government after advising Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservative Party (PC Party) during the spring 2018 provincial election campaign, serving on Ford’s transition team, and serving currently as Regional Vice President for Toronto for the PC Party.

Democracy Watch sent a second letter on January 22nd to Integrity Commissioner Wake requesting rulings its two complaints, assuming the investigations have been completed or will be completed soon.

Commissioner Wake responded in a letter sent on January 27th that he will only issue public summaries of his rulings in his annual report which will be made public in June 2020 and will cover the government’s fiscal year period from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020.

This means if Integrity Commissioner Wake completes an investigation of either or both of Democracy Watch’s complaints after April 1st this year, he will not issue any information or a public ruling on that investigation until his annual report is issued in June 2021, unless he decides to penalize the lobbyist.

There is nothing in the lobbying law that prohibits Integrity Commissioner Wake from issuing a public ruling on a lobbyist’s alleged violations of the law as soon as he completes his investigation, and it is absurdly negligent for him to claim that the law allows him to wait a year or more to issue a public ruling,” said Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch.

“Given the clear evidence set out in Democracy Watch’s complaints last summer, and given Integrity Commissioner Wake has not issued a public ruling since the rule that clearly prohibits lobbyists from assisting a politician and then lobbying them came into force in July 2016, he should do the right thing and finally issue his first public ruling as soon as possible,” said Conacher. “That ruling should find everyone who worked for Doug Ford or PC Party headquarters during the spring 2018 election campaign or continues to serve the party or Premier Ford as an adviser, fundraiser or representative, is violating this key lobbying ethics rule.”

It has been illegal under Ontario’s Lobbyists Registration Act (LR Act) since July 1, 2016 (when a new rule was enacted, section 3.4) for an Ontario lobbyist to do anything for a politician or government official that caused them to be in a real or potential conflict of interest or would make it improper for them to further the interests of the lobbyist or their clients.

Integrity Commissioner Wake has not issued a public ruling on the LR Act rule since it came into force in July 2016, and his Guidance for Lobbyists on Political Activity document published in 2018 is very vague, especially concerning the time period lobbyists must stop lobbying after assisting an election candidate or politician.

In contrast, the federal Commissioner of Lobbying’s Guidance document on lobbyist political activities states clearly that if a lobbyist does anything significant for a politician then they can’t lobby for four years – a “full election cycle.”

The Integrity Commissioner claimed in his 2018-2019 Annual Report (p. 47) that the advisory opinions he gives to lobbyists under section 15 of the LR Act are confidential, but there is nothing in that section or any other section of the LR Act that requires them to be kept secret. They are actually rulings by the Integrity Commissioner, and the public has a right to know how the Commissioner has ruled on lobbyists’ actions. The 2018-2019 Annual Report states that the Commissioner issued 16 advisory opinions to lobbyists who had been politically active before the election (see p. 46).

Based on what the LR Act (section 3.4) and the Members’ Integrity Act (sections 2, 3, 4 and 6(1)) say, and the unanimous Federal Court of Appeal ruling Democracy Watch won in 2009 (paras. 52-53), and a similar federal lobbying rule, and past rulings concerning what are improper actions are by politicians, Democracy Watch’s position is that the conflict of interest created by playing a senior role in a politician’s or party’s election campaign or serving as an advisor afterwards does not magically disappear after one year – it lasts at least four years after the lobbyist has helped the politician or party, past the next election if the politician remains in power.

If the politician is the Premier, Democracy Watch’s position is that the conflict of interest lasts even longer because it is a very significant favour to help someone become Premier with all the power, pay and perks that position entails. Democracy Watch’s position is also that assisting a party leader with their election campaign, or providing ongoing assistance after the election, creates a conflict of interest that applies to the entire Cabinet, as the Premier chooses each Cabinet minister and they all serve at the pleasure of the Premier, so they all share the Premier’s conflict of interest.

As a result, Democracy Watch’s position is that anyone who worked on the PC Party campaign, or is serving in a senior position or advising the Premier or the PC Party now, is prohibited by the rule in the LR Act from lobbying the Premier and any of his Cabinet ministers.

The only clue to Integrity Commissioner Wake’s standard for a cooling-off period for a lobbyist who assists a politician are that Chris Froggatt, who was vice-chair of Ford’s and the PC Party’s election campaign, told the Globe last July that he was advised by the Integrity Commissioner to refrain from lobbying for one year after the Ford government took power. And in that same Globe article Kory Teneycke, who also played a senior role in the PC’s election campaign, was paraphrased as saying the Integrity Commissioner had advised him not to lobby the Premier, his office or the Cabinet office. Both Froggatt and Teneycke also continue to serve as senior advisers to Premier Ford and the PC Party.

Democracy Watch also plans to file complaints with the Integrity Commissioner about Chris Froggatt and Kory Teneycke and the lobbyists they employ at their firms.

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

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign

Federal Court of Appeal rules Trudeau Cabinet was biased when appointing Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner

Court excuses Cabinet’s bias based on 2001 Supreme Court ruling – rules that Cabinet’s consultation with opposition parties was “reasonable”

DWatch applying to Supreme Court for permission to appeal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, February 13, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the Federal Court of Appeal’s ruling on its combined appeal cases challenging the Trudeau Cabinet’s appointment in December 2017 of their own watchdogs – the Ethics Commissioner and Commissioner of Lobbying (FCA File #s A-142-19/A-143-19).

The FCA ruled that the Trudeau Cabinet was biased when it appointed both commissioners (para. 5 of ruling). When the appointments happened, the Ethics Commissioner was investigating Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, and the Lobbying Commissioner was investigating two situations involving Trudeau (Barry Sherman/Apotex Inc.’s fundraiser and Mickey MacDonald/Clearwater Seafoods fundraiser), and also situations involving Minister Morneau, and Minister Chrystia Freeland.

However, the FCA excused the Cabinet’s bias based on a 2001 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that Cabinet is allowed to be biased when appointing people like the commissioners if the commissioners implement government policy and don’t uphold constitutional principles. Before and since that 2001 Supreme Court ruling, Canadian courts have ruled that protection of the independence of judges, including in how they are appointed, also applies to human rights commissions, the RCMP Commissioner, and other key law enforcement positions that uphold constitutional rights and principles.

Democracy Watch argued before the FCA that the commissioners uphold the constitutional principles of democracy and rule of law just like judges do, as they both issue judge-like rulings on violations of ethics rules that are aimed at ensuring a high standard of government integrity. Cabinet ministers must not be allowed choose their own watchdogs who enforce laws that apply to the ministers, as that violates the fundamental principle that law enforcement officers can’t be controlled or influenced by politicians.

Democracy Watch will now apply to the Supreme Court of Canada for permission to appeal the FCA’s ruling on the basis that the Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner enforce key constitution-related laws and so must be fully independent from Cabinet in every way, including in how they are appointed.

Democracy Watch will also apply to the SCC on the basis that the Cabinet failed to consult with opposition party leaders as required by the Parliament of Canada Act before making the Ethics Commissioner appointment, and also failed to consult as required by the Lobbying Act before making the Lobbying Commissioner appointment. The FCA ruled the Cabinet’s consultation was reasonable (para. 3 of the ruling).

Democracy Watch’s disagrees given the Cabinet hid from opposition parties that it had qualified candidates for both commissioner positions, and used secretive, partisan appointment processes that gave opposition party leaders only a few days to respond to Cabinet’ nominations of one person for each commissioner.

“Opposition parties complained that the Trudeau Cabinet failed to consult with them as required by law before appointing the ethics and lobbying commissioners, and at the time the commissioners were investigating Trudeau and other ministers so the Cabinet was in a clear conflict of interest when making the appointment of these key democracy watchdogs,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Given it is essential that the ethics and lobbying watchdogs are independent and impartial from Cabinet ministers, Democracy Watch hopes the Supreme Court of Canada will overturn the appointments and require an independent process for all future watchdog appointments that includes meaningful consultation with opposition parties.”

“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 ethics and lobbying commissioners who will judge whether the PM, his Cabinet ministers or their lobbyist friends violate the ethics law or lobbying law,” said Conacher.

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

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

Democracy Watch files complaint with Toronto Integrity Commissioner about Councillor Jim Karygiannis’ preferential treatment for his supporters and retaliation against non-supporters

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, February 11, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the complaint it has filed with City of Toronto Integrity Commissioner Jonathan Batty requesting an investigation and ruling that City Councillor Jim Karygiannis’ statements recorded in November 2018 and reported last Saturday in the Toronto Star about how he gives preferential treatment to supporters and retaliates against non-supporters violate the Code of Conduct for Members of Council (the “Code”).

As the Star article details, Councillor Karygiannis was recorded saying that he usually doesn’t report bylaw violations by people who volunteer, vote for or donate to him, and that he does report violations by non-supporters with “twice the pleasure.”

The preamble to the Code includes three statements of principle that “underline” the Code, including that members of Council should serve their constituents “conscientiously” and perform their functions with “integrity” and perform their duties “in a manner that promotes public confidence and will bear close public scrutiny.”

The Code also has specific rules that prohibit: “the use of one’s status as a member of Council to improperly influence the decision of another person” to advantage of the councilor or their family or associates (Article VII), and treating members of the public inappropriately, including through bullying or intimidation (Article XIV).

“Democracy Watch believes that Councillor Karygiannis’ statements amount to a confession that he gives preferential treatment to supporters and retaliates against non-supporters, and that the Integrity Commissioner should investigate and rule that he has violated the council’s code of conduct,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch, who filed the complaint affidavit on behalf of Democracy Watch. “Councillor Karygiannis’ statements about his actions so unethically violate the key, democratic function of a councillor to serve all constituents fairly and well that the Integrity Commissioner should recommend the maximum penalties of a 90-day suspension of pay and his removal from all city committees and boards.”

Councillor Karygiannis should also face these maximum penalties because the Integrity Commissioner already found him guilty in 2016 of mistreating a constituent and member of the public.

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

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign

RCMP reviewing Democracy Watch’s request for investigation of whether firing of Election Commissioner was an attempt to obstruct justice

Ethics Commissioner has already concluded that Kenney Cabinet ministers with associates being investigated by Election Commissioner violated ethics law if they discussed or voted on Bill 22 firing

Election Commissioner’s investigations of UCP are judicial proceedings, and even an unsuccessful attempt to obstruct violates the Criminal Code

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, February 10, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter the Edmonton Police Service sent confirming that John Ferguson, Assistant Commissioner of the Alberta RCMP, is reviewing Democracy Watch’s December 4th request for an investigation, overseen by a special prosecutor, into whether the Kenney Cabinet obstructed justice by firing Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson.

Criminal Code subsection 139(2) prohibits attempting to obstruct, pervert or defeat a judicial proceeding, including by a tribunal like the Election Commissioner (as defined in section 118). The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2011 in the R. v. Barros case that the prohibition is broad, and that an attempt does not have to succeed to be a violation (para. 46).

According to a Star Edmonton article, in August 2019 Election Commissioner Gibson was investigating Jason Kenney’s leadership campaign for the United Conservative Party (UCP) concerning alleged violations of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act (EFCDA). There was no public indication from Election Commissioner Gibson that this investigation was concluded before he was fired. According to an Edmonton Journal article, there were 76 complaints to Alberta’s Election Commissioner awaiting assignment as of early December.

As of early November 2019, Election Commissioner Gibson had issued more than $188,000 in fines concerning violations of the law during the UCP leadership race, as summarized in this CBC article and this Global News article and this CTV News article. According to the CBC, the Alberta RCMP is also investigating the UCP leadership race for defrauding donors to Jeff Callaway’s campaign.

On November 18th, 2019, the Kenney Cabinet introduced Bill 22 which, among other changes, fired Election Commissioner Gibson. The Cabinet shoved the Bill through in only three days. While Premier Kenney and various Cabinet ministers claimed that the change would save money, in fact Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler confirmed that there will be no savings as he intended to appoint a new Election Commissioner, and was requesting more money for investigations in next year’s budget than Commissioner Gibson had proposed.

Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler ruled on November 21st, 2019 that Kenney Cabinet ministers and UCP MLAs with associate(s) under investigation by the RCMP or Election Commissioner violated Alberta’s Conflicts of Interest Act if they discussed or voted on Bill 22, as that would further their private interest in escaping penalty by the Election Commissioner. This ruling is a clear indication that their actions warrant investigation, as helping someone escape a penalty for a violation fairly clearly amounts to an intentional obstruction of justice. Ethics Commissioner Trussler is currently investigating the Bill 22 vote more fully. CEO Resler has confirmed that he will be responding soon to Democracy Watch’s request.

The firing of Election Commissioner Gibson was also a clear threat to CEO Resler that ruling against the UCP could cost him his job, as the Kenney Cabinet will decide by next April whether to re-appoint Mr. Resler for another term. On December 17th, Democracy Watch sent a letter to CEO Resler requesting that he not take part in any investigations or rulings concerning the UCP given he was essentially serving at the pleasure of the Kenney Cabinet.

“The Kenney Cabinet firing the Election Commissioner was like firing a top police investigator and a judge to try to stop trials of people associated with the Cabinet,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “As a result, Democracy Watch’s opinion is that an obstruction of justice investigation is warranted because the Kenney Cabinet unethically made false claims about its reasons for firing the Election Commissioner who was investigating Premier Kenney’s leadership campaign for violations and had found several UCP members guilty of violating the law.”

“The Kenney Cabinet firing the Election Commissioner will likely change the outcome of some investigations as interim Commissioner and Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler knows that the Cabinet will be deciding by next April whether he keeps his job for another term,” said Conacher.

Democracy Watch called on the RCMP to insist that a special prosecutor be appointed to oversee the investigation, as it is a clear conflict of interest for Attorney General Doug Schweitzer or his deputy minister (who serves at his pleasure) to oversee an investigation of the Kenney Cabinet. The special prosecutor should not be chosen by the Attorney General, his deputy minister, or any Kenney Cabinet minister or deputy minister, as they would all have a conflict of interest in making the appointment.

“A special prosecutor is needed to oversee the investigation of the Kenney Cabinet for possible obstruction of justice, and no Cabinet minister nor anyone who serves at the pleasure of the Cabinet can be involved in choosing the prosecutor as they all have a conflict of interest,” said Conacher.

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

Democracy Watch’s Stop Unfair Law Enforcement Campaign

Dominic Barton’s interests conflict with Canada’s best interests

Ethics law loopholes allow him to profit from his decisions and actions

Trudeau Cabinet should appoint an unbiased, experienced foreign service officer as Canada’s Ambassador to China

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, February 5, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, with Canada’s new Ambassador to China Dominic Barton scheduled to testify this evening before the special House Committee on Canada-China relations, Democracy Watch called on the Trudeau Cabinet to replace him with an experienced foreign service officer who doesn’t have the financial conflicts of interest that Barton has.

Because of disclosure rules in Canada’s Conflict of Interest Act, and other public disclosures, we know that investments of Mr. Barton and his spouse Geraldine Buckingham in McKinsey & Company, and BlackRock Inc., combined with his spouse’s work as BlackRock Inc.’s Chair for the Asia Pacific region, tie them into the interests of at least 22 of China’s biggest 100 state-owned companies, and generally with wealthy Chinese investors.

Mr. Barton also has investments in four private equity funds, including one located in the Cayman Islands, and another with a Caymans connection that appears in the Offshore Leaks/Paradise Papers Database. Neither of these funds disclose the full list of their investments. The other two funds invest in companies in the healthcare, computer technology, biotechnology, financial services, China real estate, insurance, mining, food, chemicals, construction beauty and education sectors.

Mr. Barton and his spouse also have investments in Teck Resources Ltd., a Vancouver-based mining company that has the China Investment Corporation as one of its biggest investors. And he is invested in an American AI company called SparkCognition, and a Vancouver-based agricultural company called Terramera. Only three of his known investments are in Canadian companies.

Mr. Barton has not done anything to neutralize the effect his and his spouse’s mostly foreign financial interests, and his spouse’s work, will have on him as ambassador.

He has placed some investments in a so-called “blind trust” but he knows what’s in the trust, and he chose and is allowed to give instructions to his trustee. He also has a so-called “ethics screen” but it doesn’t prohibit him from participating in decisions if “the interest in the decision or matter is of general application.”

Almost all government decisions apply generally to many companies or industry sectors. As a result, Mr. Barton will be allowed to take part in almost all decisions even when he or his spouse or her clients could profit from the decision. His screen is also a smokescreen as it allows him to hide whether he actually removes himself from any decision-making processes.

Instead of his unethical scheme, Mr. Barton should be required to do what Justice Parker recommended back in 1987 for all public officials – sell all investments he can sell, and remove himself from all decisions that affect any investments or interests he can’t sell (such as his interest in McKinsey as the former head of the firm, and his spouse’s work interests).

That ethical arrangement would likely mean Mr. Barton would have to remove himself from so many decisions that he wouldn’t be able to do his job.

“Dominic Barton’s extensive, mainly foreign financial interests conflict with Canada’s best interests, and his so-called blind trust and ethics screen are so full of loopholes they do nothing to prevent him from profiting from his decisions and actions as Canada’s ambassador to China,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The federal government should replace him with an experienced foreign service officer who has no financial conflicts of interest.”

Beyond his investments, Mr. Barton has also often expressed admiration for China’s one-party government and its dictatorial President Xi Jinping, going as far as saying he has “drank the Kool-Aid.” He is also currently defending himself in a lawsuit alleging he hid McKinsey’s conflicts of interest when he headed up the firm.

The same loopholes in the Conflict of Interest Act that allow Mr. Barton to participate in and profit from his decisions as ambassador in secret allowed Finance Minister Bill Morneau to propose a bill that would have profited him and his family’s company. In the past 15 years, these loopholes have allowed about 20 other ministers and top government officials to take part in decisions from which they, their families or friends could profit.

During this minority government, the House Ethics Committee should review the Conflict of Interest Act and MP ethics code (the last review was in 2013), and MPs should finally close the loopholes, strengthen enforcement and penalties.

As the Supreme Court of Canada stated in a 1996 ruling, to protect our democracy Canadian government officials must be “held to codes of conduct which, for an ordinary person, would be quite severe” to ensure they avoid even the appearance that they are furthering their own or others’ private interests.

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

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

Almost two years later, where is Lobbying Commissioner’s ruling on Facebook’s lobbying and favours for Liberal Cabinet?

Given federal government is reviewing social media rules, ruling must be made public on whether Facebook violated lobbying law and ethics code

Lobbying Commissioner has ruled on a dozen other complaints filed since Democracy Watch filed its April 2018 complaint

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, January 30, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch sent another letter to federal Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger, following up on its August 1, 2019 letter, calling on her to ensure an independent ruling on the complaint letter it filed in late April 2018 about unregistered lobbying and doing favours for Cabinet and federal politicians by Facebook employees, and employees of its subsidiary Instagram.

As of the end of March 2019, the Lobbying Commissioner had investigated and ruled on a dozen other complaints and/or situations filed since April 2018.

“Almost two years ago, Democracy Watch filed a complaint calling for an investigation of Facebook’s unregistered lobbying and favours for Liberal Cabinet ministers and MPs, and the Lobbying Commissioner has negligently failed to issue a ruling on the complaint,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The Lobbying Commissioner has issued rulings on a dozen complaints filed since spring 2018, and so the Commissioner’s delay in ruling on Democracy Watch’s April 2018 complaint is completely unjustifiable, and likely linked to the fact that the Commissioner was handpicked by Prime Minister Trudeau.”

The federal Lobbying Act requires businesses to register if its employees spent more than 20% of their collective time lobbying during any 6-month period, including arranging meetings, and some communications are also required to be disclosed in monthly reports. The Professionalism principle in the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct requires that lobbyists follow the spirit of the registration requirements of the Act. As well, the Lobbyists’ Code prohibits anyone from lobbying a Cabinet minister or their officials for four years after doing favours for them (former Rule 8 and, since December 2015, Rules 6-9).

Democracy Watch’s April 2018 complaint asked whether Facebook’s employees had ever crossed the 20% line from 2010 to 2018 and violated the Act by failing to register, and whether any of Facebook’s employees violated the Code by doing favours for Cabinet ministers or MPs and then lobbying them afterwards.

As Maclean’s magazine first reported, Facebook was not registered as a company in the Registry of Lobbyists to lobby the federal government from 2010 on, until it announced in spring 2018 it would register (while still maintaining that it is not required to register). Facebook also has several consultant lobbyists on contract but they have reported only one communication with federal government politicians and officials since 2014.

In contrast, other social media companies such as Google have had several employees and consultant lobbyists registered for years, and many monthly communications reports.

As well, Facebook has provided cyber-threat training and services for free to federal politicians, and Facebook Canada’s head of public policy Kevin Chan provided advice for free to Finance Minister Morneau about how to do a Facebook Live event for his budget speech.

Democracy Watch also recently requested that the Lobbying Commissioner rule on another two-year-old complaint involving Liberal Cabinet ministers.

Democracy Watch requested in its April 2018 letter that Lobbying Commissioner Bélanger recuse herself from ruling on the situation because she was handpicked by Trudeau, and has also made statements that show a bias in favour of lobbyists.

Democracy Watch challenged Commissioner Bélanger’s appointment in court. The Federal Court of Appeal ruled on Tuesday that the Trudeau Cabinet was biased when it appointed her but that the bias was “inevitable” and is allowed under a 2001 Supreme Court of Canada ruling. Democracy Watch will soon apply for approval to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

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

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

Given new details disclosed yesterday, Democracy Watch’s third letter again asks Alberta Ethics Commissioner to rule on Minister Schweitzer appointing Steve Allan as inquiry commissioner

New details show even more election campaigning by Allan for Schweitzer

Courts and other ethics watchdogs in Canada have ruled in the past that election campaign assistance creates a clear conflict of interest

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, January 29, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released its third letter it has sent to Alberta Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler setting out new details revealed yesterday by the CBC about even more election campaigning by Steve Allan for Doug Schweitzer. Like its first letter on December 11th, and second letter on January 17th, DWatch’s third letter calls on Commissioner Trussler to issue a public ruling finding that Minister Schweitzer violated Alberta’s government ethics law by recommending the appointment of Allan to a $290,000 job as commissioner heading up the inquiry into foreign-funding of environmental groups.

Attached to the third letter are emails that show Allan not only helped organize a campaign event for Schweitzer at a golf club, but also in his own home, as well as sending out emails to friends, neighbours and colleagues urging them to vote for Schweitzer.

Democracy Watch sent the second letter after Commissioner Trussler claimed that its 9-page first letter had not provided facts to back up its allegations.

“Given the clear evidence set out in Democracy Watch’s complaint letters, hopefully Ethics Commissioner Trussler will do the right thing and issue a public ruling very soon finding that Minister Schweitzer violated the provincial ethics law by participating in the decision to appoint Steve Allan as inquiry commissioner,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

Subsection 2(1) of Alberta’s Conflicts of Interest Act prohibits a Minister from influencing or taking part in a decision when knowing the decision might further the interests of a person directly associated with the Minister, s. 3 prohibits a Minister from improperly further someone else’s interests, and the Preamble to the Act says all provincial politicians are expected to act with integrity and impartiality” and perform their duties of office and arrange their private affairs in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of each Member…”

By assisting Minister Schweitzer’s election efforts in these ways, Mr. Allan created a sense of obligation on the part of Minister Schweitzer to return the favour, which recommending Allan to a position that pay $290,000 definitely did. In this way, Schweitzer improperly further Allan’s private interests.

As a result, as pages 3-9 of Democracy Watch’s complaint letter set out, based on a 1993 ruling by B.C.’s Conflict of Interest Commissioner about people assisting with a Minister’s election campaign (especially p. 31, and pp. 34-39), and the unanimous Federal Court of Appeal ruling Democracy Watch won in 2009 (paras. 52-53), and a related federal lobbying rule, and past rulings concerning what are improper actions are by politicians by the federal and Ontario ethics commissioners, and the federal lobbying commissioner Democracy Watch’s position is that Minister Schweitzer violated the Conflict of Interest Act by participating in the appointment of Steve Allan.

Ethics Commissioner Trussler is not required to investigate, but Democracy Watch’s position is that it would be simply negligent for her to fail to do so given the clear evidence that Minister Schweitzer and Mr. Allan are directly associated, and that Allan provided significant assistance to Schweitzer’s election efforts.

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

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign

Democracy Watch in court today challenging Trudeau Cabinet’s biased, secretive appointments of Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner

Cases ask court to overturn the appointments as both commissioners were investigating PM and other ministers when Cabinet handpicked them after secretive process that failed to consult with opposition parties

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, January 28, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch is in the Federal Court of Appeal in Ottawa for the hearing of its combined cases challenging the Trudeau Cabinet’s appointment in December 2017 of their own watchdogs – the Ethics Commissioner and Commissioner of Lobbying. David Yazbeck of Ravenlaw is representing Democracy Watch in the cases (FCA File #s A-142-19/A-143-19).

Both cases ask the court to overturn the appointments because the Cabinet failed to consult with opposition party leaders as required by the Parliament of Canada Act before making the Ethics Commissioner appointment, and also failed to consult as required by the Lobbying Act before making the Lobbying Commissioner appointment.

The Cabinet hid from opposition parties that it had qualified candidates for both commissioner positions, and controlled their secretive, partisan appointment processes. The Cabinet then made the very questionable decision to appoint Mr. Dion (who had an unethical record as Integrity Commissioner), and the equally questionable decision to choose the watchdog for their relations with lobbyists.

As well, Democracy Watch argues that the Cabinet was biased and in a conflict of interest because, when the appointments happened, the Ethics Commissioner was investigating Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, and the Lobbying Commissioner was investigating two situations involving Trudeau (Barry Sherman/Apotex Inc.’s fundraiser and Mickey MacDonald/Clearwater Seafoods fundraiser), and also situations involving Minister Morneau, and Minister Chrystia Freeland.

The Conflict of Interest Act and PM Trudeau’s code for ministers, as well as Supreme Court of Canada rulings, prohibit ministers from taking part in decisions when they have an opportunity to further their own interests or improperly further another person’s private interests. The Trudeau Cabinet had a clear opportunity to further their own interests when they were choosing both commissioners.

“The Trudeau Cabinet failed to consult with opposition party leaders, as required by law, before appointing the ethics and lobbying commissioners, and at the time the commissioners were investigating Trudeau and Finance Minister Morneau, and also Minister Freeland, so the Cabinet was in a clear conflict of interest when making the appointment of these key democracy watchdogs,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Given it is essential that the ethics and lobbying watchdogs are independent and impartial, Democracy Watch hopes the court will overturn the appointments 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 ethics and lobbying commissioners who will judge whether the PM, his Cabinet ministers or their lobbyist friends violate the ethics law or lobbying law,” said Conacher. “Given both opposition parties complained about the Trudeau Cabinet failing to consult with them before the commissioners were appointed, it’s clear the Cabinet also failed to consult as required by the law.”

Prime Minister Trudeau recused himself in mid-May 2017 from the Ethics Commissioner appointment process because the Commissioner was investigating him for accepting the Aga Khan’s Bahamas trip gift. The PM chose Minister Bardash Chagger to lead the appointment process for the Ethics Commissioner, but the PM still oversaw the Lobbying Commissioner process even though the commissioner was investigating situation’s involving him.

Minister Chagger repeatedly defended the PM’s acceptance of the Aga Khan’s 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 Cabinet failed to consult them.

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

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

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

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

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