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90,000+ call for key measures to stop discrimination by Canada’s banks

For more than 40 years, U.S. government has required banks to disclose lending and service records by race, gender, income and neighbourhood

Canadian governments have done nothing to stop bank discrimination, and are also years behind in key measures to stop police discrimination

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, June 16

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch announced that more than 90,000 people from across Canada have joined its letter-writing campaign and/or signed its Change.org petition calling on all federal parties to work together in this minority government situation to enact key measures to stop Canada’s big banks from discriminating against any customer, and to do more to help Canadians and small businesses, and pay their fair share of taxes, now and after the coronavirus crisis.

For more than 40 years, U.S. has required under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) banks to disclose their lending and service record by race, gender, income and neighbourhood, and required them to take corrective action if they are found to be discriminating against any of their customers.

The CRA needs to be strengthened, but since the 1980s it has resulted across the U.S. in trillions of dollars of lending to credit-worthy visible minorities, women entrepreneurs, and has also helped ensure low-income neighbourhoods have access to banking services instead of finding only predatory payday lender outlets in their area.

In contrast, despite broad support across Canada for key changes for more than 20 years (mainly by the Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition (CCRC) organized by Democracy Watch), Canadian governments have done nothing to stop discrimination by our big banks.

Canada’s Big Banks track their lending and service by the characteristics of customers – they could easily be required to disclose this information as part of their annual Public Accountability Statements, just like U.S. banks are required to do annually.

As well Canadian governments have done nothing to stop gouging by our big banks. Canada’s Big 6 Banks reported record profits of more than $46 billion in 2019 – the 10th year in a row, and more than double their 2010 profits. The Big 6 Banks reaped record profits every year for the past 10 years in part by firing thousands of people, shifting jobs overseas (or using temporary foreign workers), cutting services, and hiking fees and credit card interest rates even as the Bank of Canada’s prime rate dropped to record low levels.

The Big 6 Banks also paid their CEOs a total of $75 million in 2019 in salary and bonuses (an average of $12.5 million). (See Canada’s Big Banks Backgrounder)

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has boasted that the federal government negotiated with the Big 6 Banks to temporarily cut some credit card interest rates for some customers (but not for small businesses) who request a deferral for a couple of months, and to process small business loans funded by the government (which are not being used very much by many small businesses), in addition to the up-to-6-month mortgage and loan deferrals and fee reductions the banks have already offered (but again, only for some customers, with the delayed amount still required to be paid later, plus interest).

However, Prime Minister Trudeau stated on April 6th that “we need to see even more action like this going forward because this is a time to think about each other, not about the bottom line.”

“The federal government cannot tell if the banks are still gouging or treating customers unfairly in this crisis, and won’t be able to tell post-crisis, because the banks are allowed to keep secret the profit levels in each area of their business, what type of borrowers they approve and reject for loan and credit relief, and how many complaints they are receiving,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “As the U.S. did more than 40 years ago, the federal government must require the banks to disclose this information and more to ensure the banks give everyone who needs it a real break in their loan and credit card payments during the crisis, and serve everyone fairly and well at fair interest rates and fees that give the banks a reasonable profit and not excessive gouging profit levels.”

“The federal Conservatives and Liberals have done nothing since 2010 to stop Canada’s big banks from hiking fees and credit card interest rates to gouge Canadians and more than double their profits to the highest levels of banks world-wide, while reducing service, treating many customers unfairly, and exploiting loopholes to lower the amount they pay in taxes,” said Conacher. In this time of crisis, and with the minority government, all parties must work together to make key changes to make banks help more now, to finally stop their excessive profits, gouging and abuse of consumers, and to make banks pay their fair share in taxes.”

Just like the initial spending actions taken by the federal and provincial governments were not enough to address the coronavirus crisis, the banks must do more. The Big 6 Banks’ decade of record profits and cuts to their prime lending rates show that they can afford to cut interest rates much more on loans like mortgages etc., and also to cut fees much more, and not raise them again to their gouging, excessive profit levels.

See Full List of Key Bank Accountability Changes.

As well, enforcement measures and penalties also need to be strengthened to ensure banks, and other financial institutions, serve everyone fairly and well at fair prices (See Backgrounder on Weak Enforcement).

– 30 –

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 Big Banks Coronavirus Accountability Campaign

85,000+ call on federal parties to Make the Big Banks Help more during the coronavirus crisis, and after

Big Banks’ temporary cuts to some credit cards and fees and mortgage and loan deferrals for only some customers are not enough – key measures needed to ensure fair interest rates, fees and treatment of all customers now, and into the future

Big 6 Banks gouged out record profits of more than $46 billion in 2019 – their 10th year in a row of record profits – so they can afford to help more, as the Prime Minister said recently

Loopholes also must be closed to ensure banks pay fair share of taxes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, May 14, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch announced that now more than 85,000 people from across Canada have joined its letter-writing campaign and/or signed its Change.org petition calling on all federal parties to work together in this minority government situation to make Canada’s big banks do more to help Canadians and small businesses, and pay their fair share of taxes, now and after the coronavirus crisis.

The call comes as Canada’s Big 6 Banks reported record profits of more than $46 billion in 2019 – the 10th year in a row, and more than double their 2010 profits. The Big 6 Banks reaped record profits every year for the past 10 years in part by firing thousands of people, shifting jobs overseas (or using temporary foreign workers), cutting services, and hiking fees and credit card interest rates even as the Bank of Canada’s prime rate dropped to record low levels.

The Big 6 Banks also paid their CEOs a total of $75 million in 2019 in salary and bonuses (an average of $12.5 million). (See Canada’s Big Banks Backgrounder)

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has boasted that the federal government negotiated with the Big 6 Banks to temporarily cut some credit card interest rates for some customers (but not for small businesses) who request a deferral for a couple of months, and to process small business loans funded by the government, in addition to the up-to-6-month mortgage and loan deferrals and fee reductions the banks have already offered (but again, only for some customers, with the delayed amount still required to be paid later, plus interest).

However, Prime Minister Trudeau stated on April 6th that “we need to see even more action like this going forward because this is a time to think about each other, not about the bottom line.”

“The big banks can afford to do much more to help during this crisis, and must be required by law passed by the federal Liberals and all parties to disclose much more information about how they treat customers and borrowers, and about their profits in every part of their business, to ensure they don’t gouge or abuse anyone and are effectively required to serve everyone fairly and well with fair interest rates and fees,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

“The federal government cannot tell if the banks are still gouging or treating customers unfairly in this crisis, and won’t be able to tell post-crisis, because the banks are allowed to keep secret the profit levels in each area of their business, what type of borrowers they approve and reject for loan and credit relief, and how many complaints they are receiving,” said Conacher. “As the U.S. did 30 years ago, the federal government must require the banks to disclose this information and more to ensure the banks give everyone who needs it a real break in their loan and credit card payments during the crisis, and serve everyone fairly and well at fair interest rates and fees that give the banks a reasonable profit and not excessive gouging profit levels.”

“The federal Conservatives and Liberals have done nothing since 2010 to stop Canada’s big banks from hiking fees and credit card interest rates to gouge Canadians and more than double their profits to the highest levels of banks world-wide, while reducing service, treating many customers unfairly, and exploiting loopholes to lower the amount they pay in taxes,” said Conacher. In this time of crisis, and with the minority government, all parties must work together to make key changes to make banks help more now, to finally stop their excessive profits, gouging and abuse of consumers, and to make banks pay their fair share in taxes.”

Just like the initial spending actions taken by the federal and provincial governments were not enough to address the coronavirus crisis, the banks must do more. The Big 6 Banks’ decade of record profits and cuts to their prime lending rates show that they can afford to cut interest rates much more on loans like mortgages etc., and also to cut fees much more, and not raise them again to their gouging, excessive profit levels.

All federal parties need to work together now to require the banks:

  1. To cut all their interest rates and fees in half now, and cut loan payments entirely for anyone who needs it;
  2. To disclose detailed profit reports after fully independent audits and keep rates and fees at reasonably low levels in the future (for example, many U.S. states cap credit card interest rates);
  3. To empower consumers and increase consumer protection by supporting the creation of an independent, consumer-run bank watchdog group (as recommended by MPs and senators in 1998);
  4. To disclose approval rates for credit, loans and account services by neighbourhood and type of borrower, and require corrective actions by any bank that discriminates (as the U.S. has required for 30 years under the Community Reinvestment Act) as part of their annual Public Accountability Statements);
  5. To re-open basic banking branches in neighbourhoods (where they closed them in the 1990s) to help get rid of predatory pay-day loan companies (and banking at Canada Post outlets should also be allowed to help ensure everyone has access to basic banking services at fair rates and fees);
  6. To cut bank executive pay down to a reasonable level (as in some European countries);
  7. To pay their fair share of taxes now, and in the future, by closing all the loopholes they exploit and (as England and Australia have) imposing an excess profits tax, and;
  8. Finally, enforcement measures and penalties also need to be strengthened to ensure banks, and other financial institutions, serve everyone fairly and well at fair prices (See Backgrounder on Weak Enforcement)

See Full List of Key Bank Accountability Changes.

– 30 –

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 Big Banks Coronavirus Accountability Campaign

Democracy Watch calls on B.C. Special Prosecutor to reverse decision not to prosecute anyone in lobbyist donations scandal

Investigation ending like quick-wins probe – years later with very questionable decision not to prosecute anyone

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, May 12, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch called on the B.C. Special Prosecutor David Butcher to reverse his decision announced yesterday not to prosecute anyone involved in the lobbyist donation scheme revealed by the Globe and Mail in March 2017 in which several lobbyists donated money their clients gave them. Mr. Butcher’s decision is based on his exaggerated conclusion that convictions wouldn’t be possible, and the RCMP’s misplaced reasoning in its August 2019 report that the trials may cost more than the illegal donations.

“In situations like this, where a rule in a law has not been drawn clearly in past court rulings, prosecutors should generally prosecute when there is evidence of a violation and let the courts decide whether the accused has crossed the line,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “By failing to prosecute anyone, the special prosecutor has let all the alleged violators off the hook without even identifying them, and blocked the courts from ruling on their very questionable and likely illegal actions.”

David Butcher was appointed Special Prosecutor to assist the RCMP investigation at the end of March 2017. Elections B.C. reported in April 2017 that the B.C. Liberals had returned $174,313 in donations dating back to 2010 ($92,874 of which the Liberals had admitted were “prohibited” donations), and that the NDP had returned $10,500.

“The B.C. Liberals admitted they returned almost $93,000 in illegal donations in April 2017, so it’s unbelievable that special prosecutor Butcher has decided three years later not to prosecute any of those easily identifiable donors for violating B.C.’s political donations law,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Mr. Butcher should drop his weak excuses and reverse his unjustifiable decision and prosecute the people who violated this key democracy law.”

The RCMP’s investigation is ending like another long-delayed investigation overseen by Butcher – the so-called “quick-wins probe” that lasted five years and resulted in only one person pleading guilty even though the RCMP recommended charges against other people.

In this case, according to the first page of Mr. Butcher’s statement released yesterday, the RCMP’s report stated that there was “no substantial likelihood of conviction” in many of the donation situations and, secondly, that “where violations have occurred the RCMP has determined that is not in the public interest to pursue a prosecution, as the cost of doing so would be disproportionate to the value of the donations under investigation.”

Mr. Butcher exaggerates what the RCMP reported to say on the third page of his statement that “I have concluded that there is no prospect of any conviction in this case.”

The RCMP report paragraph quoted on the first page of Mr. Butcher’s statement didn’t say that there was no chance of conviction, it said that violations occurred but conviction wouldn’t be likely, and that the cost of prosecuting outweighs the amount of the donations.

Those are lame excuses that Mr. Butcher should not have exaggerated to try to create cover for his unjustified decision not to prosecute anyone.

Many people are prosecuted in Canada without full, clear evidence, including many who have stolen less than the cost of prosecuting them. They are prosecuted in part to send the message to the public that you can’t break the law and get away with it.

The message Mr. Butcher’s decision not to prosecute sends is that you can break the law in B.C. and get away with it, if you are part of the province’s political and legal elite – which won’t surprise many people in the province.

“Once again, David Butcher is burying, through unjustifiable delay and excuses, the possibility of powerful people in B.C. who have violated a key democracy-protecting law being prosecuted and convicted,” said Conacher.

At the end of his statement, Mr. Butcher says about the 2018 changes to B.C.’s political donations banning corporate and union donations and limiting individual donations to $1,200 annually that: “These amendments should squarely address the concerns expressed by the media and the complainants in this case.” This is entirely wrong. Democracy Watch’s concern was that lobbyists broke the law, and the only thing that will address that concern is having the lobbyists who violated the law prosecuted.

– 30 –

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 Money in Politics Campaign and Stop Unfair Law Enforcement Campaign and Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign

50,000 + call on federal parties to Make the Big Banks Help more during the coronavirus crisis, and after

Big Banks’ temporary cuts to some credit cards and fees and mortgage and loan deferrals for only some customers are not enough – key measures needed to ensure fair interest rates, fees and treatment of all customers now, and into the future

Big 6 Banks gouged out record profits of more than $46 billion in 2019 – their 10th year in a row of record profits – so they can afford to help more, as the Prime Minister said recently

Loopholes also must be closed to ensure banks pay fair share of taxes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, April 21, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch announced that more than 50,000 people have joined its letter-writing campaign and/or signed its Change.org petition calling on all federal parties to work together in this minority government situation to make Canada’s big banks do more to help Canadians and small businesses, and pay their fair share of taxes, now and after the coronavirus crisis.

The call comes as Canada’s Big 6 Banks have once again reported record profits of more than $46 billion in 2019 – the 10th year in a row, and more than double their 2010 profits. The Big 6 Banks have reaped record profits every year for the past 10 years in part by firing thousands of people, shifting jobs overseas (or using temporary foreign workers), cutting services, and hiking fees and credit card interest rates even as the Bank of Canada’s prime rate dropped to record low levels.

The Big 6 Banks also paid their CEOs a total of $75 million in 2019 in salary and bonuses (an average of $12.5 million). (See Canada’s Big Banks Backgrounder)

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has boasted that the federal government negotiated with the Big 6 Banks to temporarily cut some credit card interest rates for some customers (but no small businesses) who request a deferral for a couple of months, and to process small business loans funded by the government, in addition to the mortgage and loan deferrals and fee reductions the banks have already offered (but again, only for some customers, with the delayed amount still required to be paid later, plus interest).

However, Prime Minister Trudeau stated on April 6th that “we need to see even more action like this going forward because this is a time to think about each other, not about the bottom line.”

“The federal government cannot tell if the banks are still gouging or treating customers unfairly in this crisis, and won’t be able to tell post-crisis, because the banks are allowed to keep secret the profit levels in each area of their business, what type of borrowers they approve and reject for loan and credit relief, and how many complaints they are receiving,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “As the U.S. did 30 years ago, the federal government must require the banks to disclose this information and more to ensure the banks give everyone who needs it a real break in their loan and credit card payments during the crisis, and serve everyone fairly and well at fair interest rates and fees that give the banks a reasonable profit and not excessive gouging profit levels.”

“The federal Conservatives and Liberals have done nothing since 2010 to stop Canada’s big banks from hiking fees and credit card interest rates to gouge Canadians and more than double their profits to the highest levels of banks world-wide, while reducing service, treating many customers unfairly, and exploiting loopholes to lower the amount they pay in taxes,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. In this time of crisis, and with the minority government, all parties must work together to make key changes to make banks help more now, to finally stop their excessive profits, gouging and abuse of consumers, and to make banks pay their fair share in taxes.”

Just like the initial spending actions taken by the federal and provincial governments were not enough to address the coronavirus crisis, the banks must do more. The Big 6 Banks’ decade of record profits and cuts to their prime lending rates show that they can afford to cut interest rates much more on loans like mortgages etc., and also to cut fees much more, and not raise them again to their gouging, excessive profit levels.

All federal parties need to work together now to require the banks:

  1. To cut all their interest rates and fees in half now, and cut loan payments entirely for anyone who needs it;
  2. To disclose detailed profit reports after fully independent audits and keep rates and fees at reasonably low levels in the future (for example, many U.S. states cap credit card interest rates);
  3. To empower consumers and increase consumer protection by supporting the creation of an independent, consumer-run bank watchdog group (as recommended by MPs and senators in 1998);
  4. To disclose approval rates for credit, loans and account services by neighbourhood and type of borrower, and require corrective actions by any bank that discriminates (as the U.S. has required for 30 year under the Community Reinvestment Act) as part of their annual Public Accountability Statements);
  5. To re-open basic banking branches in neighbourhoods (where they closed them in the 1990s) to help get rid of predatory pay-day loan companies (and banking at Canada Post outlets should also be allowed to help ensure everyone has access to basic banking services at fair rates and fees);
  6. To cut bank executive pay down to a reasonable level;
  7. To pay their fair share of taxes now, and in the future, by closing all the loopholes they exploit (as England and Australia have), and;
  8. Finally, enforcement measures and penalties also need to be strengthened to ensure banks, and other financial institutions, serve everyone fairly and well at fair prices (enforcement is much stronger in the U.S. and England — See Backgrounder on Weak Enforcement in Canada)
(See Full List of Key Bank Accountability Changes).

– 30 –

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 Big Banks Coronavirus Accountability Campaign

Petition calls on federal parties to Make the Big Banks Help more during the coronavirus crisis, and after

Big Banks’ temporary mortgage and loan deferrals, and cuts to some credit cards and fees, for some customers are not enough – key measures needed to ensure fair interest rates, fees and treatment of all customers now, and into the future

Big 6 Banks gouged out record profits of more than $46 billion in 2019 – their 10th year in a row of record profits – so they can afford to help more, as PM said yesterday

Loopholes also must be closed to ensure banks pay fair share of taxes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, April 7, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch launched a letter-writing campaign and Change.org petition calling on all federal parties to work together in this minority government situation to make Canada’s big banks do more to help Canadians and small businesses, and pay their fair share of taxes, now and after the coronavirus crisis.

The call comes as Canada’s Big 6 Banks have once again reported record profits of more than $46 billion in 2019 – the 10th year in a row, and more than double their 2010 profits. The Big 6 Banks have reaped record profits every year for the past 10 years in part by firing thousands of people, shifting jobs overseas (or using temporary foreign workers), cutting services, and hiking fees and credit card interest rates even as the Bank of Canada’s prime rate dropped to record low levels.

The Big 6 Banks also paid their CEOs a total of $75 million in 2019 in salary and bonuses (an average of $12.5 million). (See Canada’s Big Banks Backgrounder)

The campaign launches as Finance Minister Bill Morneau is boasting that the federal government has negotiated with the Big 6 Banks to temporarily cut some credit card interest rates for some customers (but no small businesses) who request a deferral for a couple of months, and to process small business loans funded by the government, in addition to the mortgage and loan deferrals and fee reductions the banks have already offered (but again, only for some customers, with the delayed amount still required to be paid later, plus interest).

Prime Minister Trudeau stated on April 6th that “we need to see even more action like this going forward because this is a time to think about each other, not about the bottom line.”

Just like the initial spending actions taken by the federal and provincial governments were not enough to address the coronavirus crisis, the banks must do more. The Big 6 Banks’ decade of record profits and cuts to their prime lending rates show that they can afford to cut interest rates much more on loans like mortgages etc., and also to cut fees much more, and not raise them again to their gouging, excessive profit levels.

All federal parties need to work together now to require the banks:

  1. To cut all their interest rates and fees in half now, and cut loan payments entirely for anyone who needs it;
  2. To disclose detailed profit reports after fully independent audits and keep rates and fees at reasonably low levels in the future;
  3. To empower consumers and increase consumer protection by supporting the creation of an independent, consumer-run bank watchdog group (as recommended by MPs and senators in 1998);
  4. To disclose approval rates for credit, loans and accounts by neighbourhood and type of borrower, and require corrective actions by any bank that discriminates (as the U.S. has required for 30 years);
  5. To re-open basic banking branches in neighbourhoods where they closed them in the 1990s to help get rid of predatory pay-day loan companies (and banking at Canada Post outlets should also be allowed);
  6. To cut bank executive pay down to a reasonable level;
  7. To pay their fair share of taxes now, and in the future, by closing all the loopholes they exploit (as England and Australia have), and;
  8. Finally, enforcement measures and penalties also need to be strengthened to ensure banks, and other financial institutions, serve everyone fairly and well at fair prices (See Backgrounder on Weak Enforcement)
    (See Full List of Key Bank Accountability Changes).

“The federal Conservatives and Liberals did nothing to stop Canada’s big banks from hiking fees and credit card interest rates to gouge Canadians and more than double their profits since 2010 to the highest levels of banks world-wide, while reducing service, treating many customers unfairly, and exploiting loopholes to lower the amount they pay in taxes,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. In this time of crisis, and with the minority government, all parties must work together to make key changes to make banks help more now, to finally stop their excessive profits, gouging and abuse of consumers, and to make banks pay their fair share in taxes.”

“Because the big banks control more than 90 percent of the banking market in Canada they can hike fees and interest rates whenever they want, and treat customers however they want, and so the federal government must finally make key changes to protect 30 million bank customers from gouging and abuse during this crisis, and into the future,” said Conacher. “Every dollar of excessive profit for the banks, and every person and business the banks unjustifiably cut off from credit, costs the Canadian economy because it means that the banks are overcharging for their essential services and loans, and choking off the spending and job creation that will help Canada recover from this crisis.”

– 30 –

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 Big Bank Coronavirus Accountability Campaign

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.

– 30 –

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