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Democracy Watch calls on Ontario Integrity Commissioner to rule lobbyists who helped organize Premier Ford’s fundraising dinner violated lobbying law

Law prohibits doing anything that makes it improper for Premier to participate in decisions that affect the lobbyists’ clients

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, June 13, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it has sent to Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake calling on him to issue a public ruling on three lobbyists who helped organize, and sold tickets for, Premier Ford’s February “2019 Toronto Leader’s Dinner” fundraising event. The lobbyists, Chris Benedetti, Paul Pellegrini and Matthew Gibson of Sussex Strategy Group, were revealed to be on the organizing committee for the event in an email from Mr. Benedetti that was cited in articles in the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail.

According to the articles, several other lobbyists were pressured by the Progressive Conservative Party to sell tickets to the event, with some saying that they were told their access to the government would be restricted if they did not sell tickets. However, these lobbyists were not identified in the articles – although Democracy Watch’s position is that the Integrity Commissioner should conduct a broad investigation to find all the lobbyists involved in ticket selling.

It has been illegal under Ontario’s Lobbyists Registration Act (LR Act) since June 2014 for an Ontario lobbyist to do anything for a politician or government official that caused them to be in a conflict of interest or make it improper for them to further the interests of the lobbyist or their clients or organization.

Incredibly, as Democracy Watch’s letter summarizes (pp. 6-7), the Integrity Commissioner has not issued any guideline or interpretation bulletin in the past five years concerning what the rules in the LR Act mean.

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 past rulings concerning what are improper actions are by politicians (see pages 12-15 of Democracy Watch’s letter), Democracy Watch’s position is that it is a violation of section 3.4 of the LR Act for a lobbyist to do anything significant for, or give anything significant to, a politician they are registered to lobby, as it creates a potential conflict of interest that makes it improper for the politician to participate in any decision, or try to influence any decision that affects the interests of the lobbyist or their clients or organization.

According to Democracy Watch’s analysis of the provincial lobbying registry, set out in the letter (pages 2-4), Mr. Benedetti was registered to lobby Premier Ford for at least 28 client businesses at the time he would have been helping organize the event, while Mr. Gibson was registered for 7 clients, and Mr. Pellegrini for one client (although, as President of Sussex Strategy Group, Mr. Pellegrini is connected and benefits from the activities of all of the firm’s lobbyists and the revenue they generate).

Integrity Commissioner Wake is not required to investigate or issue a public ruling, but Democracy Watch’s position is that it would be simply negligent for him to fail to do both given the ruling will be the first time he has publicly enforced section 3.4 of the LR Act and, therefore, the ruling will make it finally clear what actions by lobbyists that section prohibits.

“The Integrity Commissioner has been negligent in not issuing a ruling the past five years setting out what actions by lobbyists are prohibited by the conflict of interest rule in the lobbying law,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Given the clear evidence set out in Democracy Watch’s complaint, hopefully Integrity Commissioner Wake will do the right thing and issue a public ruling very soon finding that lobbyists who helped organize Premier Ford’s fundraising dinner violated the conflict of interest rule in the lobbying law.”

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

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

 

New report on possibly funneled donations to Trudeau Liberals shows need to lower donation limit to $100, as Quebec did

Elections Canada must expand the audit it promised in 2013 (which it didn’t do) to cover donations to all parties and riding associations back to 2007 (similar to the audit Elections Quebec did in 2011)

Almost 90,000 call for changes to stop the unethical influence of big money in federal politics, finally

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, June 12, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, after a new report revealed that the Trudeau Liberals have received almost $1.5 million in donations from staff, executives and lobbyists at more than 110 companies, law and accounting firms and interest groups since 2015, Democracy Watch and the Money in Politics Coalition, joined by almost 90,000 voters, called on federal parties to pass a short, simple bill before Parliament closes at the end of June to lower the donation limit to $100 (as Quebec did in 2013).

The Trudeau Liberals’ Bill C-76, which became law last December, did nothing to stop big money in federal politics, and actually made things worse by more than doubling the amount that third-party interest groups can spend during elections. To see details, click here.

Democracy Watch also re-affirmed the request it sent recently to Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer, Commissioner of Canada Elections, and Commissioner of Lobbying calling for an audit of individual donations to federal political parties back to 2007 to find all possibly funneled donations, and any lobbyist fundraisers. Elections Canada has not even done the limited donations audit it promised to do in 2013.

“This new report, and the many examples across Canada of companies funneling donations through their executives or employees, or having their board members fundraise for political parties, show clearly that the only way to stop the unethical influence of big money in politics is to stop big money donations by lowering the donation limit to $100 as Quebec did in 2013,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “As well, a full audit by Canada’s election and lobbying watchdogs is needed to determine just how much funneling of donations to federal political parties has happened since 2007. Elections Canada should have been doing annual audits since then – it hasn’t even done the one audit it promised to do in 2013.”

Along with the donations revealed in the Bloc Quebecois’ new report, the following situations point to clear problems the current federal donation and fundraising system:

  1. SNC-Lavalin illegally funneled almost $118,000 to the Liberal and Conservative parties, riding associations and candidates through its executives and employees from 2004 to 2011, with CBC recently revealing the list of donors;
  2. As the Globe and Mail revealed, lobbyists attended approximately 90 high-priced, exclusive events the Liberals held from January to October 2016, and another 72 events held since April 2017;
  3. The Liberals also offered special access to “bundler” fundraisers;
  4. Clearwater Seafoods lobbies the federal government, and board member Mickey MacDonald held a fundraising event in August 2014 that raised about $80,000 for the Liberal Party, an event Justin Trudeau attended.
  5. Apotex Inc. lobbied the federal government at the time its then-Chair Barry Sherman held a fundraising event in August 2015 that raised about $150,000 for the Liberal Party, an event Justin Trudeau also attended.

Democracy Watch’s research also shows that the Liberal Party (and likely other federal parties) rely on wealthy donors for a significant portion of total donations. Top federal Liberal Party donors (to the Party only, not its riding associations) who gave $1,100 or more in 2015 were only 4.37% of total donors (4,084 donors out of 93,426 donors total) but they gave the Party 22.87% of total donations raised ($4,866,373.76 out of the $21,276,897.57 total raised).

The following situations at the provincial and municipal level provide further evidence that funneling donations happens in every jurisdiction that has banned donations from companies, unions and other organizations but continued to allow individuals to donate a high amount:

  1. An Elections Quebec audit found $12.8 million in likely illegally funneled donations from 2006-2011.
  2. A recent CBC analysis found New Brunswick company executives and their families now donating the maximum after the province banned corporate and union donations.
  3. In B.C. in 2017, provincial parties returned more than $260,000 in donations that had been funneled through lobbyists for companies, and people affiliated with unions.
  4. In Ontario, lobbyists sold tickets for Premier Ford’s recent fundraising dinner and, in 2016, executives at a bank involved in bidding on a government contract organized a fundraising event for the ruling party that was attended by Liberal Cabinet ministers.
  5. When Elections Alberta did an audit in 2012 it found dozens of illegal donations. As well, in a 2013 scandal in Alberta, a coalition of construction companies made it clear that their big money donations were conditional on the Alberta government changing the labour law.
  6. Donations from corporations, unions and other organizations were banned in Toronto elections in 2009, and individual donations limited to $750 annually, but a 2016 analysis by the Toronto Star found that big business and other special interest group executives and their families continue to give large amounts to city councillors.

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

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

 

Report card gives Trudeau Liberal open government record an F as international summit held in Ottawa

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, May 30, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, as the Open Government Partnership Global Summit is being held in Ottawa, Democracy Watch issued its report card on the Trudeau Liberal open government record. The report card gives the Liberals an overall F grade.

The excessive secrecy problems with the Trudeau Liberal government include:

  1. Liberals promised several changes not included in Bill C-58 in the Open Government section of their 2015 election platform, and in the specific Access to Information section of the platform;
  2. Bill C-58 also proposed changes that were not promised in the Liberals’ platform, changes that were big steps backwards in access rights;
  3. The Liberals have also failed to keep their international Open Government Partnership commitments, weak as those commitments were.
  4. Bill C-58 also ignored many of the recommendations made in the unanimous June 2016 report of the House of Commons Access, Privacy and Ethics Committee;
  5. The Liberals violated the legal requirement in the Lobbying Act (section 14.1) to review the Act every five years (the review should have happened in 2017) so they didn’t even try to close secret lobbying loopholes;
  6. The Trudeau government has appealed a Federal Court ruling that that closed secret lobbying loophole, made Trudeau’s family friend the Aga Khan accountable for secret lobbying, and increased enforcement of the Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct;
  7. The Liberals ignored all of the recommendations made in the unanimous June 2017 House Committee report for key changes to strengthen the federal whistleblower protection system, and;
  8. PM Trudeau and his Cabinet used a secretive, dishonest, Cabinet-controlled process to appoint the new Ethics Commissioner, and the new Lobbying Commissioner, and;
  9. As former Information Commissioner concluded at the end of her term, the Trudeau Liberals have made the federal government more secretive.

As well, PM Trudeau and his Cabinet ministers have been involved in the following scandals, all marked by excessive secrecy:

  1. The secret trips to the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas;
  2. Finance Minister Bill Morneau secretly owning $30 million in shares in his family’s company Morneau Shepell Inc.;
  3. Keeping it secret how many lobbyists have helped organize fundraising events for the Liberals (Barry Sherman of Apotex Inc., and Mickey MacDonald of Clearwater Seafoods, are not likely the only ones);
  4. Giving preferential access to the PM and Cabinet ministers to secret “bundler” fundraisers;
  5. The secret effort to influence the Attorney General’s decision concerning the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin;
  6. Failing to prevent Kevin Lynch from secretly lobbying Michael Wernick;
  7. Keeping the identities secret of executives and others connected to SNC-Lavalin who donated to the Liberals through an illegal scheme, and;
  8. Keeping it a secret that the Ethics Commissioner’s senior lawyer is the sister-in-law of Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

Tens of thousands of voters have sent letters through Democracy Watch’s Open Government Campaign and Protect Whistleblowers Campaign and Government Ethics Campaign calling on the Liberals to make many key changes to stop excessive government secrecy, protect whistleblowers, and stop secret lobbying. Democracy Watch also signed the open letter issued in 2017 by a global coalition of organizations and individuals calling for open government changes.

The only positive changes the Trudeau government has made are mainly in the area of open data by making information that was already public easier to access; making MPs’ expense reports more accessible; making it easier to file and track access to information requests, and; making details about some fundraising events public through Bill C-50 that came into force last December.

“The Trudeau Liberals have broken most of their open government promises, made the federal government more secretive, failed to make key changes to protect whistleblowers and stop secret lobbying, and been involved in many scandals marked by excessive secrecy, and that’s why they deserve a failing grade in the area of open government,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Part-time Professor of law and politics at the University of Ottawa. “Given that the federal open government, whistleblower protection and lobbying laws have been reviewed several times in the past 15 years, and that there is a consensus on key changes that must be made, the Liberals have no excuses for failing to make these changes.”

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

Democracy Watch’s Open Government Campaign, Protect Whistleblowers Campaign, Government Ethics Campaign and Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign

 

Failure by Liberals to strengthen laws mean next election will be full of false online election ads and claims, privacy invasions will continue

Liberals could make election and privacy laws stronger before fall if they introduced a bill right away, but likely will continue protecting their friends at social media companies and their own data mining of voters’ personal information

Tens of thousands of Canadians have called for key legal changes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, May 29, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, as the International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy meets in Ottawa, Democracy Watch highlighted key problems with the changes made by Bill C-76 (which became law in December), and the federal government’s initiatives announced in January and earlier this week, that together don’t do enough to stop fake online election ads or false claims about candidates, or to protect voters’ privacy. Bill C-76 actually weakened the rule on false claims about candidates.

The Trudeau Liberals’ actions so far protect their friends at social media companies, and their own data mining of voters’ private information, and will make the fall 2019 federal election more like the 2016 U.S. Presidential election – more dishonest and dominated by wealthy interests running false ad campaigns aimed at trying to undermine the election.

Almost 90,000 Canadians have supported Democracy Watch’s campaign to stop big money in Canadian politics, and more than 17,000 Canadians have either signed Democracy Watch’s online petition on Change.org or its letter-writing campaign calling for changes to stop secret, false online election ads or signed its online petition calling for political parties to be covered by the federal privacy law, and other key privacy protection changes.

“Bill C-76 severely weakened the rule that prohibits false claims about candidates, more than doubles the spending limit for wealthy interest groups and doesn’t do enough to stop false, online election ads, false election promises or big money donations,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Adjunct Professor of Law, and Political Studies, at the University of Ottawa. “As a result, the fall 2019 federal election will be more dishonest, unfair and driven by wealthy interest groups, much like the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

“The federal government’s panel set up in January to watch for activities that disrupt the election lacks independence as it’s made up of five people that the Trudeau Cabinet handpicked,” said Conacher. “The government’s planned education campaign is a charade as it is impossible for any voter to be expert enough in every issue to know that any election ad makes a false claim, and the Liberals keep saying they expect good behaviour from social media companies instead of laws to require good behaviour.”

As CTV detailed in March 2017, the Liberal Party uses Data Sciences Inc., run by Prime Minister Trudeau’s friend Tom Pitfield, for its data management of the private, personal information it gathered on Canadian voters. And as CTV in that article, and also Maclean’s magazine detailed in October 2017, Mr. Pitfield also heads up the think tank Canada 2020, which has Facebook and Google as partners (see logos at bottom of page) and executives from Facebook Canada and Google Canada as advisers.

As the Ottawa Citizen detailed in May 2018, Liberal Party-connected lobbyists and executives work for Facebook, Google, Microsoft, while their friends and/or former colleagues worked for Trudeau Cabinet ministers.

“If the Trudeau Liberals actually want to ensure that the fall election is fair and democratic, they should introduce a short, simple bill next week to reverse the bad, weak changes made by Bill C-76 – the bill should prohibits all false claims and false promises, lower donation limits, reverse the increase in interest group ad spending, require all media and social media companies to disclose to the Commissioner of Canada Elections all election-related ads from July on, and empower the Commissioner to delete any false ad from social media,” said Conacher. “A separate short, simple bill could also be easily passed in the next month to extend the privacy law to political parties, and increase penalties for privacy invasions to levels that will actually discourage violations by the parties and social media companies with tens of billions in annual profits.”

“All parties should support the introduction and quick passage of these two simple, short bills by the end of June to ensure the fall election is fair and democratic, and to ensure the privacy of Canadians is protected,” said Conacher.

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

See Backgrounder below for details about the key changes needed to:

  1. Stop secret, false, online election ads;
  2. Protect voters’ privacy;
  3. Require honesty during pre-election and election periods;
  4. Stop wealthy interests from dominating pre-election and election periods.

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

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



Backgrounder on Key Fair Federal Election Changes

(Democracy Watch, May 29, 2019)

The key changes needed to ensure honest, fair, democratic federal elections are as follows:

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

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

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

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

The House of Commons Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics issued its report in December 2018 on stopping secret, false online election ads, and protecting voters’ privacy, and recommendations 1-3, 6-8, 10, 19, 22-24 match the changes that Democracy Watch has been calling for in these areas.

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

  1. Bill C-76 does nothing to strengthen subsection 482(b) of the Canada Elections Act, which prohibits false election promises by parties and candidates but needs to be strengthened because the Commissioner of Canada Elections negligently refuses to enforce it. The Commissioner responded to Democracy Watch’s complaint about Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau baiting voters with his false promise of electoral reform during the 2015 election with a decision refusing to enforce the rule;
  2. Bill C-76 also makes more false claims about candidates legal by narrowing the rule that prohibit false claims (section 91 of the Canada Elections Act). The current rule prohibits any false claim “in relation to the personal character or conduct of a candidate or prospective candidate.” Bill C-76 narrows the rule so it only covers false claims that these people (or a party leader or officials) violated the law or have been charged or investigated for a violation, and false claims about the citizenship, place of birth, education, professional qualifications or membership in a group or association of these people. Senators tried to amend Bill C-76 to restore the broader rule but the amendment was rejected.

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

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

To see details, click here.

Democracy Watch testified at the Committee’s hearings on Bill C-76 in June 2018 and highlighted all these serious flaws in the bill, along with 20 or so other changes needed to ensure fair, democratic elections and strong enforcement that Democracy Watch submitted to Special Committee on Electoral Reform and to the government in fall 2016.

Lobbying Commissioner rules MPs and senators have put loopholes in federal ethics rules to allow lobbyists to bribe them with travel junkets

2018 sponsored travel list shows 77 MPs accept unethical trip gifts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, May 23, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch responded to the recent ruling by Commissioner of Lobbying Nancy Bélanger on Democracy Watch’s complaint filed on May 26, 2016 about the gifts of paid travel that various lobbying organizations have given to MPs (and a few senators) since spring 2009.

The complaint listed 16 businesses and lobby organizations from various sectors that are registered in the federal Registry of Lobbyists and that, from 2009 to 2016 according to the Sponsored Travel reports and registry of the federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, paid for travel junkets by MPs (and in one case, also by senators). Sometimes the MP’s spouse or staff has accompanied the MP or senator on the trip, and often the trips have cost thousands of dollars.

Commissioner Bélanger ruled that, because the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons allows the gift of “sponsored travel” (section 15), as does the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators (section 18), it is proper and allowed for lobbyists to give travel junkets as a gift to MPs and senators. Rules 6 and 10 of the Lobbyists Code of Conduct do not apply even though they are intended to prevent gifts that create conflicts of interest (as Rule 10 allows lobbyists to give gifts that MPs and senators are allowed to accept).

“The Lobbying Commissioner took almost three years to issue a ruling, which is a negligently long time given that the complaint contained all the evidence needed for a ruling,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The Lobbying Commissioner’s ruling confirms that MPs and senators have put loopholes in their own ethics rules and lobbyist ethics rules to make it legal for lobbyists to bribe them with travel junkets.”

The 2018 Sponsored Travel report for MPs shows that 77 MPs from all parties accepted travel junket gifts during the year, many of them from lobby groups such as the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Results Canada, and World Vision.

Democracy Watch called on MPs and senators to act with integrity, finally, and eliminate the rules in their ethics codes that say they are allowed to accept the gift of paid travel from anyone. Democracy Watch and the nation-wide, 31-member group Government Ethics Coalition will continue pushing for these and other key changes to federal ethics rules, and enforcement and penalties, so that Canadians will finally have the ethical government they deserve.

“Only about twenty percent of MPs, and a smaller percentage of senators, embarrass all federal politicians each year by accepting travel junkets from lobbyists, and it is incredible that the large majority of MPs and senators who don’t take the trips have done nothing to stop them,” said Conacher. “With a simple change to their ethics codes that could be made before Parliament closes for the fall election, MPs and senators could close the loophole that allows lobbyists to give them the gift of unethical travel junkets.”

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

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign

 

Democracy Watch calls on Ontario police commission and review director to investigate Premier Ford’s Chief of Staff for attempted pressure on police forces

Documents revealed by Globe and Mail show Chief of Staff Dean French demanding Ontario government employees pressure police forces to charge cannabis stores

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, May 16, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it has sent to Interim Independent Police Review Director Sylvana Capogreco (OIPRD) and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) requesting an investigation and public ruling on the effects of the actions of Dean French, Chief of Staff for Premier Doug Ford, to determine first if he pressured any police forces in Ontario directly to change their enforcement policies or practices concerning cannabis stores.

As well, Democracy Watch’s letter requests an investigation and public ruling concerning whether any Ontario government employees or appointees pressured police forces to change these enforcement policies or practices in response to demands made by Mr. French mainly and also, through a meeting with some employees and appointees, a demand made by Premier Ford, Attorney General Caroline Mulroney and Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli.

The demand Mr. French allegedly made to some Ontario government employees to pressure police forces was first reported last November in the Toronto Star. A Globe and Mail article this week contains more details about the demands that Mr. French, Premier Ford and the other ministers allegedly made to some Ontario government employees.

Democracy Watch’s letter also requests that OIPRD conduct a systemic issue review under section 57 of the Police Services Act of political pressure on Ontario police forces, given that the reported pressure was aimed at police forces across the province.

Democracy Watch’s letter requests OIPRD investigate in conjunction with the OCPC, and also that the OCPC specifically investigate under section 25(1)(a) of the Act the “performance of duties” of Mark Saunders, Chief of Toronto Police Services, given (according to the Globe and Mail article linked above) his reported communication of with Mr. French expressing “concerns” with how Justices of the Peace were handling cases involving cannabis stores.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in R. v. Campbell, [1999] 1 SCR 565, that police are “not to be considered a servant or agent of the government while engaged in a criminal investigation” and are “not subject to political direction” (para. 33). As well, the SCC ruled in Valente v. The Queen, [1985] 2 SCR 673 and other cases that justices must be independent, especially from Cabinet (para. 15).

The 2007 Ipperwash Inquiry Report policy section summary recommended new rules and processes be enacted to ensure that the exchanges of information between police and government “do not become covert or veiled attempts to inappropriately direct police operations” in law enforcement (p. 93). The Ontario government has not enacted any of those recommendations.

“Law enforcement decisions by police forces and judges must be free from political pressure in order to ensure fair and impartial law enforcement, and an investigation is needed to determine if Premier Ford’s Chief of Staff Dean French or any other government official even attempted to pressure police anywhere in Ontario,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “As well, the communications between Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders and Dean French need to be investigated to determine what actions they took given their concerns about justice of the peace rulings on court cases.”

“Hopefully the OIPRD and OCPC will investigate this serious situation to ensure that police and justices were not pressured by any government officials, and to again call for changes to ensure they are effectively protected from government pressure at all times in all cases,” 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
info@democracywatch.ca

Democracy Watch’s Stop Unfair Law Enforcement Campaign

Democracy Watch calls on Ontario Integrity Commissioner to issue public ruling on LCBO Chair selling tickets to Finance Minister’s fundraising event

Public servants prohibited from even appearing to offer preferential treatment, and from political activities that conflict with their jobs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, May 9, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it has sent to Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake calling on him to issue a public ruling on whether Carmine Nigro, Ford government-appointed Chair of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), violated public servant ethics regulations by inviting people to last night’s fundraising event for Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli, who is the minister responsible for the LCBO and dozens of provincial laws and government entities. The Globe and Mail reported on Mr. Nigro’s actions last week.

All public servants in the Ontario government, including the heads of public bodies like the LCBO, are prohibited by the Public Service of Ontario Act and related regulations from giving preferential treatment to any person or entity, and are required to “endeavour to avoid creating the appearance that preferential treatment is being given to a person or entity…” (Public Service of Ontario Act sections 2 and sections 56-65, and section 6 of O.Reg. 381/07).

Exemptions exist for political activities, but only if the activity supports or opposes a political party or a candidate. The fundraising event is for a riding association, not a party, and Minister Fedeli is not currently a candidate.

Even if Commissioner Wake decides that Mr. Nigro inviting people to the event, in effect fundraising for Minister Fedeli, is a political activity, Mr. Nigro is still prohibited from any activity that is associated with his position, or conflicts with the interests of the LCBO, or interferes with his position (subsections 77(d), and 79(d) and (e) of the Act).

Given that Mr. Nigro occupies a very public, high-level government position, he cannot justifiably claim that he sent out the invitations as a private citizen. Anyone receiving the invitation knows, or could easily find out as it was covered widely in the media, that he was appointed and serves as Chair of the LCBO.

Democracy Watch’s letter also requests that the Integrity Commissioner review and rule on whether Mr. Nigro can continue any of his activities as a fundraiser for the Progressive Conservative Party and riding associations, which, according to the Globe and Mail article linked above, he participates in regularly.

“Public servants like Mr. Nigro are required to serve the public interest and avoid even the appearance of preferential treatment and conflicts of interest,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “By selling access to the Cabinet minister who oversees the government corporation he chairs, Mr. Nigro has crossed the line.”

“Hopefully Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner will do the right thing and issue a strong ruling that makes it clear you can’t further the political and financial interests of a Cabinet minister while you are a public servant,” 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
info@democracywatch.ca

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

 

Democracy Watch calls on Ethics Commissioner to rule on whether Kevin Lynch and Eric Siegel are violating federal ethics law as SNC-Lavalin board members, and in other roles

Ethics law prohibits giving advice using secret information learned while in government job, and taking improper advantage of former position

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, May 7, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it has sent to federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion, calling on him to ensure an independent ruling on the activities of former Clerk of the Privy Council Kevin Lynch, board member of SNC-Lavalin since May 2017 and Vice Chair of Bank of Montreal since spring 2010, and former President and CEO of Export Development Canada (EDC) Eric D. Siegel, board member of SNC-Lavalin since January 2012, and also board member of Citibank Canada.

Democracy Watch’s opinion is that Mr. Lynch and Mr. Siegel must be giving advice in their roles with these companies, and their advice must be, at least in part, based on secret information they learned on the job. Subsection 34(2) of the federal Conflict of Interest Act prohibits former public office holders from ever giving “advice to his or her client, business associate or employer using information that was obtained in his or her capacity as a public office holder and is not available to the public.”

SNC-Lavalin has had many interactions with the federal government in the past few years, mainly related to prosecution for bribery. EDC has provided support to SNC-Lavalin for decades, including at least five times since Mr. Siegel became a board member, and at least twice to Citibank since 2015. As well, SNC-Lavalin, Bank of Montreal, and Citibank have been lobbying the federal government throughout Mr. Lynch’s and Mr. Siegel’s time in their top jobs.

By giving this advice, and if they have communicated with government officials they knew while in the government, such as Mr. Lynch making the phone call for SNC-Lavalin to then-Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick on October 15, 2019, Mr. Lynch and Mr. Siegel also violate section 33 of the Act, which prohibits taking improper advantage of one’s former office.

“Kevin Lynch and Eric Siegel can’t unlearn the secret information they learned while working for the federal government, and so the advice they give their companies must be based at least somewhat on that secret information, which violates the federal ethics law,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Ethics Commissioner Dion should not make the ruling in these cases because he was handpicked by the Trudeau Cabinet through a very secretive, Cabinet-controlled, dishonest process.”

Democracy Watch has also filed a complaint with the federal Commissioner of Lobbying about Mr. Lynch failing to register his call to Mr. Wernick as lobbying in the Registry of Lobbying in violation of the Lobbying Act, and also a complaint with the federal Ethics Commissioner about Mr. Wernick giving Mr. Lynch preferential treatment by taking his call, in violation of section 7 of the Conflict of Interest Act.

Democracy Watch’s position is that Ethics Commissioner Dion should delegate the investigation and ruling on the situation to a provincial ethics commissioner who has no ties to any party, given that he was chosen by the Trudeau Cabinet after a secretive, Cabinet-controlled, dishonest process that failed to consult with opposition parties as required by the Parliament of Canada Act. Mr. Dion also has a record 8 unethical and questionable actions when he was federal Integrity Commissioner. As well, his senior lawyer’s sister is the spouse of Liberal Cabinet minister Dominic LeBlanc.

Democracy Watch’s February 8th and March 5th letters to Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion are the basis of the Commissioner’s current investigation of everyone who may have tried to influence the former Attorney General in violation of section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act. Ethics Commissioner Dion sent Democracy Watch a letter on February 26th confirming his investigation of its complaint.

Democracy Watch also called on the House Ethics Committee to ensure it strongly recommends more than 30 key changes when it next review the federal Conflict of Interest Act, including closing loopholes and prohibiting Cabinet ministers, staff and appointees from being in an appearance of a conflict of interest (the standard all federal government employees are required to comply with under their ethics code and conflict of interest policy).

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

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign

DWatch calls on Elections Canada, Commissioner of Elections and Commissioner of Lobbying to audit political donations to find illegal funneling and unethical donation bundlers

Audits are key to effective law enforcement – if they refuse to do the audit it will show they are lapdogs who refuse to enforce the law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, May 1, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, following yesterday’s CBC report revealing details about illegal federal party donations by SNC-Lavalin, and many other donation and fundraising scandals from across Canada in the past several years (summarized below) Democracy Watch released the letter it has sent to Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer, Commissioner of Canada Elections, and Commissioner of Lobbying requesting that they audit donations to federal political parties back to 2007.

The audit is needed to find donations illegally funneled by companies, unions or other organizations through their executives, employees and their families, and to find people connected to lobbying companies or other organizations who are fundraising for political parties.

All three watchdogs are empowered to conduct such an audit, and working together they could easily do a very complete audit. Elections Canada regularly conducts research on various issues, and the Commissioner of Canada Elections may initiate an investigation at any time (under subsection 510(1) of the Canada Elections Act), and the Commissioner of Lobbying may do a special report (under subsection 11.1(1) of the Lobbying Act) on any lobbying enforcement issue.

“There are many examples across Canada of companies funneling donations through their executives or employees or having their board members fundraise for political parties,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “A full audit by the election and lobbying watchdogs is needed to determine just how much this is happening with federal political parties.”

The following situations point to a clear pattern of violations of the Canada Elections Act rules that prohibit companies, unions and other organizations from funneling donations through their executive or employees and their families, and to violations of the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct rules that prohibit anyone connected to a company, union or other organization doing fundraising for a party or candidate:

  1. SNC-Lavalin illegally funneled almost $118,000 to the Liberal and Conservative parties, riding associations and candidates through its executives and employees from 2004 to 2011, with CBC.ca revealing the list of donors;
  2. Clearwater Seafoods lobbies the federal government, and board member Mickey MacDonald held a fundraising event in August 2014 that raised about $80,000 for the Liberal Party, an event Justin Trudeau attended.
  3. Apotex Inc. lobbied the federal government at the time its then-Chair Barry Sherman held a fundraising event in August 2015 that raised about $150,000 for the Liberal Party, an event Justin Trudeau also attended.
  4. Federal Liberals made an offer in 2016 to reward bundler fundraisers with access to the Prime Minister and other party leaders, and many federal Liberal fundraising events have been attended by lobbyists (and likely many more events of the other parties).

“It’s highly unlikely that SNC-Lavalin is the only company that illegally funneled donations through it executives and their families to federal political parties, or that Clearwater Seafoods and Apotex are the only companies whose board members held fundraising events that raised tens of thousands of dollars for a federal political party,” said Conacher. “Doing an audit to find violations is key to effective law enforcement in any area, and if federal election and lobbying watchdogs refuse to do this audit, it will show that they are lapdogs who refuse to enforce the rules.”

Democracy Watch’s research also shows that top federal Liberal Party donors (to the Party only, not its riding associations) who gave $1,100 or more in 2015 were only 4.37% of total donors (4,084 donors out of 93,426 donors total) but they gave the Party 22.87% of total donations raised ($4,866,373.76 out of the $21,276,897.57 total raised).

The following situations at the provincial and municipal level provide further evidence that funneling donations happens in every jurisdiction that has banned donations from companies, unions and other organizations but continued to allow individuals to donate a high amount:

  1. An Elections Quebec audit found $12.8 million in likely illegally funneled donations from 2006-2011.
  2. A recent CBC analysis found New Brunswick company executives and their families now donating the maximum after the province banned corporate and union donations;
  3. In B.C. in 2017, provincial parties returned more than $260,000 in donations that had been funneled through lobbyists for companies, and people affiliated with unions.
  4. In Ontario, lobbyists sold tickets for Premier Ford’s recent fundraising dinner and, in 2016, executives at a bank involved in bidding on a government contract organized a fundraising event for the ruling party that was attended by Liberal Cabinet ministers.
  5. When Elections Alberta did an audit in 2012 it found dozens of illegal donations. As well, in a 2013 scandal in Alberta, a coalition of construction companies made it clear that their big money donations were conditional on the Alberta government changing the labour law.
  6. Donations from corporations, unions and other organizations were banned in Toronto elections in 2009, and individual donations limited to $750 annually, but a 2016 analysis by the Toronto Star found that big business and other special interest group executives and their families continue to give large amounts to city councillors.

“To match Quebec’s world-leading democratic political finance system, and stop the corrupting influence of big money donations in federal politics, the parties should work together to limit individual donations to about $100 annually and, if the parties can prove they need it, use per-vote and donation-matching public funding to give parties and candidates funding based on their actual level of voter support,” said Conacher.

The key changes that must be made to democratize the federal political donations system are as follows (to see details, click here):

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

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

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

Democracy Watch’s lawsuit challenges Lobbying Commissioner’s ruling letting Clearwater Seafoods board member off the hook for fundraising event Trudeau attended

Commissioner ignored fact that, as a board member, Mickey MacDonald’s event causes the company and its CEO to violate Lobbyists’ Code

New Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger also biased as she was handpicked by Trudeau through secretive, PMO-controlled process

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, April 30, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the application it recently filed in Federal Court challenging the recent ruling Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger that Clearwater Seafoods board member Mickey MacDonald is not covered by the federal lobbying law or code, and so his August 2014 fundraising event that Justin Trudeau attended was legal. The application is Federal Court file number T-702-19.

According to an article in the Globe and Mail, a ticket for the event cost $1,000 and 75 to 80 people attended. In a piece on CTV Halifax news on the day of the event Mr. MacDonald is quoted as saying about the event that:

“It’s a small price to pay right now for the long term benefits that we’ll receive.”

Democracy Watch filed its complaint letter about the event with the previous Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd more than two years ago, on March 1, 2017.

In her March 29, 2019 letter ruling on another Democracy Watch complaint, Commissioner Bélanger included a couple of sentences near the end about her investigation into Democracy Watch’s complaint about Mr. MacDonald’s event, one of which said:

“That matter is now closed as the individual involved was not engaged in registrable lobbying activities and was therefore not subject to the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct.”

Commissioner Bélanger’s full ruling on Mr. MacDonald’s event has still not been made public – Democracy Watch has requested in its lawsuit that the Commissioner make the ruling public.

“Democracy Watch is challenging the Lobbying Commissioner’s ruling in court because it lets a seafood company board member off the hook for an unethical fundraising event,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The ruling is legally incorrect, violates the spirit and purpose of federal lobbying ethics rules, and opens up a huge loophole that a Federal Court judge recently ruled must be closed because it allows big businesses and other organizations to have their unregistered board members or staff do favours for, and give gifts to, politicians and government officials they are lobbying as a way of unethically influencing their policy making decisions.”

“Democracy Watch is also challenging Commissioner Bélanger’s ruling because she was handpicked by Prime Minister Trudeau through a secretive, dishonest process, and so is biased in favour of the PM,” said Conacher.

Among other rules, rules 6, 8 and 10 of the Lobbyists’ Code prohibit lobbyists from doing anything significant for, or giving anything significant to, anyone they are lobbying. Rule 4 requires the CEO of any company or organization to ensure that all officers and employees comply with the Code, and Principles at the beginning of the Code also require people who are registered as lobbyists to act with integrity and follow the spirit of the Code and the Lobbying Act.

The error of the Commissioner’s ruling is that, as a board member of Clearwater Seafoods who is legally required to advance the company’s interests, Mickey MacDonald’s event caused the company and the CEO to violate the Code. As a registered lobbyist, the CEO Ian D. Smith should have prevented Mr. MacDonald from ever holding the event. It is possible also that Mr. MacDonald has lobbied Mr. Trudeau.

In a recent ruling on a case Democracy Watch filed concerning a similar situation involving the Aga Khan and his foundation, a federal court judge concluded that board members of companies and organizations are covered by the Act, and that the Commissioner must examine the actions of everyone involved in such situations to ensure that no one violated the Code by allowing or giving a gift or assistance to a politician such as fundraising or campaigning.

The federal Liberals and the Commissioner are wasting taxpayers’ money and court time appealing that ruling.

Democracy Watch is also challenging Commissioner Bélanger’s ruling on Mr. MacDonald’s event because she was handpicked by Prime Minister Trudeau through a secretive, PMO-controlled process and is therefore biased. In a separate court case, Democracy Watch is challenging Trudeau’s appointment of Commissioner Bélanger, and Democracy Watch also has an ongoing campaign to make the Cabinet appointment process actually independent, open and merit-based.

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

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign page and Money in Politics Campaign page and Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign page