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Background on the Trudeau Cabinet’s partisan, political, secretive and dishonest appointment processes for Ethics Commissioner, Commissioner of Lobbying and other key democracy watchdogs

Through 2016, the Trudeau Cabinet claimed that it was changing the Cabinet appointment process for key democratic good government watchdogs and other positions.  In fact, the Trudeau government did not change the appointment process at all other than adding the objective of diversity.

Then, in 2016-2017, the Trudeau Cabinet used the usual Cabinet-controlled, partisan and political process for appointing various democracy watchdogs.

With the Ethics Commissioner appointment process, the Trudeau Cabinet first misled opposition parties, the media and the public by falsely claiming there were no qualified candidates for Ethics Commissioner, and by falsely claiming that it had made the appointment process merit-based.

In a blatant violation of the federal Access to Information Act (ATIA), the Trudeau Cabinet hid the records for two years that made it clear there were five qualified candidates for Ethics Commissioner by spring 2017, and also qualified candidates for the position of Commissioner of Lobbying.

The Cabinet is still hiding the records concerning the appointment of Commissioner of Lobbying Nancy Bélanger, also in violation of the ATIA.

Through the 2016-2017 time period, the Trudeau Cabinet reappointed then-Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson to three 6-month interim terms after her 7-year term was over, as long as she kept letting Trudeau and her Cabinet ministers off for clear violations of ethics rules.

Then, in November 2017, suddenly Mary Dawson was informed she would not be renewed for another term after she informed Trudeau that she was going to find him guilty of violating the Conflict of Interest Act for accepting the gifts of family trips to the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas, and after Democracy Watch challenged her short-term reappointments in court.

To replace Dawson, the Trudeau Cabinet handpicked in secret Mario Dion as Ethics Commissioner, even though he had a record of 8 unethical actions when he was federal Integrity Commissioner.

The Cabinet failed to consult in any meaningful way with opposition parties about the appointment of Dion as Ethics Commissioner and Bélanger as Commissioner of Lobbying.  All Trudeau did was send the opposition party leaders a letter saying the Cabinet had chosen Dion and Bélanger and the opposition leaders had seven days to let the Cabinet know what they thought about those choices.

Concerning other federal democratic good government watchdogs, former Ontario Liberal MPP Madeleine Meilleur admitted in spring 2017 before a House Committee that when she was considering ending her political career she had talked with Trudeau’s then-senior adviser Gerald Butts, and also his Chief of Staff Katie Telford, and asked to be appointed as federal Commissioner of Official Languages. Her statement became so politically costly to the Trudeau Cabinet that she ended up withdrawing her candidacy.

After Julie Payette resigned from her Governor General position in 2021, the Trudeau Cabinet admitted that she was not properly vetted for the position.

The Trudeau Cabinet has also handpicked, through partisan, political Cabinet-controlled processes, all of Canada’s other current democratic good government watchdogs: the Chief Electoral Officer (who was switched by the Trudeau Cabinet for secret reasons); Auditor General; Information Commissioner; Privacy Commissioner; Parliamentary Budget Officer, and; the Governor General (who plays a key role in judging whether a prorogation or snap election should be allowed, and who governs after an election).