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Report Card on the 2021 Democratic Reform Platforms of the Federal Political Parties

Set out below are the 16 sub-categories for the five issue area categories that are the basis for the Report Card.

GRADING SYSTEM

A – Platform makes clear promise to implement proposal
B – Platform makes vague or partial promise to implement proposals
C – Platform makes clear promise to explore proposal
D – Platform makes vague or partial promise to explore proposal
D- – Platform mentions proposal
F – Platform mentions theme of proposal
I – Platform does not mention proposal



I. Honest, Ethical Government Measures

SECTION I OVERALL GRADES

Bloc Québécois – D
Conservative Party – D-
Green Party – B
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – D

1. Requiring honesty-in-politics – Pass a law that requires all federal Cabinet ministers, MPs, Senators, political staff, Cabinet appointees and government employees (including at Crown corporations, agencies, boards, commissions, courts and tribunals) nomination race, party leadership race and election candidates to tell the truth, with an easily accessible complaint process to a fully independent watchdog agency that is fully empowered to investigate and penalize anyone who lies (including during elections through online election posts or ads). (Go to Honesty in Politics Campaign, and Stop Fake Online Election Ads Campaign, for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – A-
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – C

2. Strengthening ethics standards for politicians, political staff, Cabinet appointees and government employees, and ethics enforcement – Close the loopholes in the existing ethics rules (including requiring resignation and a by-election if an MP switches parties between elections) and apply them to all government institutions (including all Crown corporations), and as proposed by the federal Department of Finance place anyone with decision-making power on the anti-corruption watch list of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (Fintrac) so deposits to their bank accounts can be tracked, and; strengthen the independence and effectiveness of politician and government employee ethics watchdog positions (the Ethics Commissioner for Cabinet and MPs, the Senate Ethics Officer for senators, the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner for government employees, the Commissioner of Lobbyists for lobbyists) by giving opposition party leaders a veto over appointees, having Parliament (as opposed to Cabinet) approve their annual budgets (as is currently the process for the Ethics Commissioner), prohibiting the watchdogs from giving secret advice, requiring them to investigate and rule publicly on all complaints (including anonymous complaints), fully empowering and requiring them to penalize rule-breakers, changing all the codes they enforce into laws, and ensuring that all their decisions can be reviewed by the courts. (Go to Government Ethics Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – C
Conservative Party – C
Green Party – C
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I

3. Making the political donations system democratic – Prohibit secret, unlimited donations of money, property or services by anyone for any reason to nomination and party leadership candidates (only such donations are now only prohibited if given to election candidates); limit loans, including from financial institutions, to parties and all types of candidates to the same level as donations are limited; require disclosure of all donations (including the identity of the donor’s employer (as in the U.S.) and/or major affiliations) and loans quarterly and before any election day; limit spending on campaigns for the leadership of political parties; maintain limits on third-party (non-political party) advertising during elections; lower the public funding of political parties from $2 per vote received to $1 per vote received for parties that elect more MPs than they deserve based on the percentage of voter support they receive (to ensure that in order to prosper these parties need to have active, ongoing support of a broad base of individuals) and; ensure riding associations receive a fair share of this per-vote funding (so that party headquarters don’t have undue control over riding associations). (Go to Money in Politics Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – B
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – A-
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – B-

4. Closing down the revolving door – Prohibit lobbyists from working for government departments or serving in senior positions for political parties or candidates for public office (as in New Mexico and Maryland), and from having business connections with anyone who does, and close the loopholes so that the actual cooling-off period for former Cabinet ministers, ministerial staff and senior public officials is five years (and three years for MPs, senators, their staff, and government employees) during which they are prohibited from becoming a lobbyist or working with people, corporations or organizations with which they had direct dealings while in government. Make the Ethics Commissioner, Commissioner of Lobbying and Senate Ethics Officer more independent and effective by requiring approval of opposition party leaders of the person appointed to each position, by having Parliament (as opposed to Cabinet) approve the Commissioner of Lobbying’s annual budget (as is currently the process for the Ethics Commissioner), by prohibiting the Commissioners from giving secret advice, by requiring the Commissioners to investigate and rule publicly on all complaints (including anonymous complaints), by fully empowering and requiring the Commissioners to penalize rule-breakers, by ensuring all decisions of the Commissioners can be reviewed by the courts, and by changing the codes they enforce (MPs Code, Lobbyists’ Code and Senate Code of Conduct into laws. (Go to Government Ethics Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – B-
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I


II. Open Government Measures

SECTION II OVERALL GRADES

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – C-
Green Party – C-
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I

5. Strengthening access-to-information system – Strengthen the federal access-to-information law and government information management system by applying the law to all government/publicly funded institutions, requiring all institutions and officials to create records of all decisions and actions and disclose them proactively and regularly, creating a public interest override of all access exemptions, giving opposition party leaders a veto over the appointment of the Information Commissioner, having Parliament (as opposed to Cabinet) approve the Information Commissioner’s annual budgets (as is currently the process for the federal Ethics Commissioner), and giving the federal Information Commissioner the power and mandate to order the release of documents (as in Ontario, Alberta and B.C.), to order changes to government institutions’ information systems, and to penalize violators of access laws, regulations, policies and rules. (Go to Open Government Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – C+
Green Party – C+
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I

6. Exposing behind-closed-door communications – Require in a new law that Ministers and senior public officials to disclose their contacts with all lobbyists, whether paid or volunteer lobbyists. (Go to Government Ethics Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – I
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I

7. Strengthening lobbying disclosure and ethics, and the enforcement system – Strengthen the Lobbying Act and Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct disclosure system by closing the loophole that currently allows corporations to hide the number of people involved in lobbying activities, and by requiring lobbyists to disclose their past work with any Canadian or foreign government, political party or candidate, to disclose all their government relations activities (whether paid or volunteer) involving gathering inside information or trying to influence policy-makers (as in the U.S.) and to disclose the amount they spend on lobbying campaigns (as in 33 U.S. states), and; strengthen the ethics and enforcement system by adding specific rules and closing loopholes in the Lobbyists’ Code and making it part of the Act, by extending the limitation period for prosecutions of violations of the Act to 10 years, and; by giving opposition party leaders a veto over the appointment of the Commissioner of Lobbying, by having Parliament (as opposed to Cabinet) approve the Commissioner’s annual budget (as is currently the process for the Ethics Commissioner), by prohibiting the Commissioner from giving secret advice, by ensuring that the Commissioner must investigate and rule publicly on all complaints (including anonymous complaints), by fully empowering the Commissioner to penalize rule-breakers, and by ensuring all Commissioner decisions can be reviewed by the courts. (Go to Government Ethics Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – B-
Green Party – B-
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I


III. Efficient Government Measures

SECTION III OVERALL GRADES

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – D
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I

8. Increasing powers of Auditor General and Parliamentary Budget Officer – Increase the independence of the Auditor General and Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) by requiring approval of appointment from opposition party leaders, and by making the PBO a full Officer of Parliament with a fixed term who can only be dismissed for cause; increase auditing resources of the Auditor General and PBO by having Parliament (as opposed to Cabinet) approve the Auditor General’s annual budget (as is currently the process for the federal Ethics Commissioner), and; empower the Auditor General to audit all government institutions, to make orders for changes to government institutions’ spending systems, and empower the Auditor General and PBO to penalize violators of federal Treasury Board spending rules or Auditor General or PBO orders o requests for information. (Go to Stop Fraud Politician Spending Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – C-
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I

9. Restricting government advertising – Empower a government watchdog agency to preview and prohibit government advertising that promotes the ruling party, especially leading up to an election (similar to the restrictions in Manitoba and Saskatchewan). (Go to Stop Fraud Politician Spending Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – I
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I


IV. Representative, Citizen-Driven Government Measures

SECTION IV OVERALL GRADES

Bloc Québécois – D-
Conservative Party – D-
Green Party – C-
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – C-

10. Increasing meaningful public consultation – Pass a law requiring all government departments and institutions to use consultation processes that provide meaningful opportunities for citizen participation, especially concerning decisions that affect the lives of all Canadians. (Go to Stop PM/Premier Power Abuses Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – C-
Green Party – C-
Liberal Party – D-
New Democrat Party – C-

11. Restricting power of Cabinet to make appointments – Require approval by opposition party leaders for the approximately 3,000 judicial, agency, board, commission and tribunal appointments currently made by the Prime Minister (including the board and President of the CBC), especially for appointees to senior and law enforcement positions, after a merit-based nomination and screening process conducted by finally setting up the Public Appointments Commission that was given a legal basis to exist under the so-called “Federal Accountability Act”. (Go to Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign, and Stop PM/Premier Power Abuses Campaign, for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – B
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – I
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I

12. Making the House more democratic, and making the Senate democratic or abolish it – Change the Parliament of Canada Act to restrict the Prime Minister’s power to shut down (prorogue) Parliament to only for a very short time, and only for an election (dissolution) or if the national situation has changed significantly or if the Prime Minister can show that the government has completed all their pledged actions from the last Speech from the Throne (or attempted to do so, as the opposition parties may stop or delay completion of some actions). Give all party caucuses the power to choose which MPs and senators in their party sits on House and Senate committees, and allow any MP or senator to introduce a private member bill at any time, and define what a “vote of confidence” is in the Parliament of Canada Act in a restrictive way so most votes in the House of Commons are free votes. Attempt to reach an agreement with provincial governments (as required by the Constitution) to either abolish the Senate or reform the Senate (with a safeguard that Senate powers will not be increased unless senators are elected and their overall accountability increased). (Go to Stop Muzzling MPs Campaign, and Stop PM/Premier Power Abuses Campaign, and Shut Down the Senate Campaign, and Democratic Head Campaign, for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – I
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – B-

13. Ensuring free, fair and representative elections – Change the current voting law and system (the Canada Elections Act) to specifically restrict the Prime Ministers’ power to call an unfair snap election, so that election dates are fixed as much as possible under the Canadian parliamentary system. Change the Act also so that nomination and party leadership races are regulated by Elections Canada (including limiting spending on campaigns for party leadership), so that Elections Canada determines which parties can participate in election debates based upon merit criteria, so that party leaders cannot appoint candidates except when a riding does not have a riding association, so that voters are allowed to refuse their ballot (ie. vote for “none of the above”, as in Ontario), and to provide a more equal number of voters in every riding, and a more accurate representation in Parliament of the actual voter support for each political party (with a safeguard to ensure that a party with low-level, narrow-base support does not have a disproportionately high level of power in Parliament). (Go to Democratic Voting System Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – B-
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – B-


V. General Government Accountability Measures

SECTION V OVERALL GRADES

Bloc Québécois – D
Conservative Party – C
Green Party – D
Liberal Party – D-
New Democrat Party – D

14. Facilitating citizen watchdog groups over government – Require federal government institutions to enclose one-page pamphlets periodically in their mailings to citizens inviting citizens to join citizen-funded and directed groups to represent citizen interests in policy-making and enforcement processes of key government departments (for example, on ethics, spending, and health care/welfare) as has been proposed in the U.S. and recommended for Canadian banks and other financial institutions in 1998 by a federal task force, a House of Commons Committee, and a Senate Committee. (Go to Citizen Association Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – I
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I

15. Ensuring effective whistleblower protection – Require everyone to report any violation of any law, regulation, policy, code, guideline or rule, and require all watchdog agencies over government (for example: Auditor General, Information Commissioner, Privacy Commissioner, Public Service Commission, the four ethics watchdogs (especially the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner), Security and Intelligence Review Committee, the National Health Council) to investigate and rule publicly on allegations of violations, to penalize violators, to protect anyone (not just employees) who reports a violation (so-called “whistleblowers”) from retaliation, to reward whistleblowers whose allegations are proven to be true, and to ensure a right to appeal to the courts. (Go to Protect Whistleblowers Who Protect You Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – B-
Conservative Party – B-
Green Party – B-
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I

16. Ensuring loophole free laws and strong penalties for wrongdoers – Close any technical and other loopholes that have been identified in laws, regulations, policies, codes, guidelines and rules (especially those regulating government institutions and large corporations) to help ensure strong enforcement, and increase financial penalties for violations to a level that significantly effects the annual revenues/budget of the institution or corporation. (Go to Stop Unfair Law Enforcement Campaign, and Corporate Responsibility Campaign, for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – C-
Conservative Party – C
Green Party – D
Liberal Party – C
New Democrat Party – B-

Stop Snap Elections Fund

Please support Democracy Watch’s court cases and campaign to stop snap elections across Canada!

Whenever a snap election is called, it is unfair because voters have no time to plan and arrange their lives so they can run as a candidate, volunteer or participate in the election in other ways. The ruling party also usually calls a snap election when surveys show that it has the best chance of winning – that’s also unfair. That’s why Parliament and most provincial legislatures decided to fix the election date in election laws. It makes the election fairer for everyone.

The federal and most provincial election laws have measures that fix each election date for four years after the last election, unless the government loses an important vote in Parliament (called a “non-confidence vote” – like a vote on government’s budget or another major issue).

Snap election calls violate these measures. At the federal level, Prime Minister Trudeau’s snap election call in August also violated the constitutional convention rule that has been created by the Prime Minister and Parliament following the fixed election date law in 2011 (when the Harper Conservative government only called an election after losing a vote of confidence in Parliament), and in 2015 and 2019. This convention rule also exists in several provinces where the provincial legislature and premier have followed the provincial fixed election date law for several elections in a row.

The British Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 2019 that it was illegal for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to shut down Parliament for no justifiable reason when a majority of MPs wanted Parliament to stay open and operating.

Prime Minister Trudeau and almost all MPs in the House of Commons, including all Liberals, voted in May against holding an election while COVID is still a danger, which it is. In mid-July, the PM also denied that he was going to call a snap election.

And in July and August, all federal opposition party leaders, who represent a clear majority of MPs in Parliament clearly and publicly said they were against holding an election, and called on Prime Minister Trudeau to open Parliament after the summer break. To see details, click here.

For all these reasons, Democracy Watch has filed a court case challenging Prime Minister Trudeau’s snap election call in August, just like it challenged Prime Minister Harper’s snap election call in September 2008. To see details about the case, click here.

Democracy Watch also filed court cases last fall challenging the snap election calls by B.C. NDP Premier John Horgan and by New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs, both of which violated their provincial fixed election date laws.

If Democracy Watch loses these court cases, it will continue campaigning for stronger measures to fix election dates across Canada.

Please use the links on this page to support Democracy Watch’s court cases and campaign to stop snap elections across Canada!


News Release – Democracy Watch and Wayne Crookes file court case challenging PM Trudeau’s snap election call

Backgrounder

8 Key Rules for Fair, Democratic Minority Government

  1. Until the Governor General has communicated directly with all the party leaders, the Governor General will not make a decision about which party or parties (through either a formal coalition or legislative agreement) will be given the opportunity to govern first (i.e. to appoint a Cabinet and introduce a Speech from the Throne in Parliament);
  2. The party that wins the most seats in the election will be given the first opportunity to govern, including in partnership or coalition with another party, unless the leaders of other parties representing a majority of members of the legislature indicate clearly to the Governor General that they will not support that party and that they have agreed to form a coalition government or have agreed on a common legislative agenda;
  3. Within 30 days after the Governor General decides which party or parties will be given the first opportunity to govern, the Governor General and the governing party/parties will open Parliament with a Speech from the Throne;
  4. Even if the leaders of parties that represent a majority of members of the House of Commons do not indicate lack of support for the party that wins the most seats before that party’s Speech from the Throne, if they subsequently indicate lack of support for the Speech, the Governor General will not allow the Prime Minister-designate to prorogue the legislature before the Speech from the Throne is voted on by members of the House of Commons;
  5. If a majority of members in the House of Commons vote against the Speech from the Throne, the Governor General, before agreeing to any request by the Prime Minister’s to call an election, will give the opposition parties an opportunity to govern if they present a written agreement to the Governor General for either a formal coalition or legislative agreement;
  6. After the vote on the Speech from the Throne, the only vote in House of Commons that shall be a vote of non-confidence is a vote on a motion that states: “The House of Commons does not have confidence in the government.”
  7. If opposition parties introduce a motion of non-confidence in the governing party at any time after election day, the Governor General will not allow the Prime Minister to prorogue the legislature before the motion is voted on by the House of Commons, and;
  8. If a majority in the House of Commons votes to approve a motion of non-confidence in the governing party before the next fixed-election date, the Governor General will, before agreeing to any request by the Prime Minister that the Governor General call an election, give the opposition parties an opportunity to govern if they present a written agreement to the Governor General for either a formal coalition or legislative agreement.
   

BACKGROUNDER

Backgrounder on how a majority in Parliament clearly supported the Trudeau government, and clearly opposed Prime Minister Trudeau’s snap election call

(September 15, 2021)

  1. Prime Minister Trudeau and almost all MPs in the House of Commons, including all Liberals, voted at the end of May against holding an election while COVID is still a danger, which it clearly is.
  2. All opposition leaders opposed holding an election. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh on July 27th, and the Green Party caucus on July 29th, wrote to Governor General Mary Simon calling on her to say no if Trudeau requested that an election being called because the government clearly had the confidence of Parliament, and an election would increase the risk to Canadians because of COVID.
  3. Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole said on August 9th, before the election call that “My biggest concern right now is the potential fourth wave of COVID-19. We shouldn’t be rushing to an election” and then he reacted on August 15th to Trudeau’s election call by saying it was “unnecessary” and “dangerous” and for “political gain.”
  4. On August 3, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said that “Parliament is functioning, and can function” and “The Bloc Quebecois did not ask for an election” and that calling an election would be “irresponsible” and would “increase the level of danger” for voters (See English version of article here).
  5. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh wrote Trudeau on August 9, 2021, summarizing the support that the NDP had given to government bills since the last elections, affirming the NDP’s ongoing support for government bills that had not been passed before Parliament adjourned for the summer, and asking him to open Parliament.
  6. Green Party Leader Annamie Paul said on August 15, 2021 that the election call was “unimaginable” given various emergency situations, and “unwarranted and unwanted” and that “Unfortunately public health has lost out to partisan ambition and common sense has lost to the quest for power.”
 

Backgrounder – Weak Enforcement of Financial Consumer and Investor Protection in Canada

(August 2021)

Both watchdogs too weak in powers, and enforcement attitude, to protect financial consumers and investors

The federal government’s Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) has a very weak enforcement record since it was created in 2003.

It has made only 140 compliance rulings, is prohibited from naming a law-violating bank unless it prosecutes the bank, and it has only prosecuted 2 banks (neither of them a Big 6 bank). The FCAC not only lacks resources by comparison to the similar watchdog agencies in Britain and the U.S., it is also clearly a lapdog compared to these two other agencies.

According to an article by Reuters in March 2017, and Democracy Watch’s research of fines imposed since then, the FCAC has issued fines totaling just $5.5 million since 2001 in the 140 rulings it has issued.

In contrast, since 2013 when it was created, Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has already issued penalties totalling more than US$5.2 billion, and since 2011 when it was created, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has already imposed fines of more than US$13 billion.

Key consumer protection rules need to be strengthened, and the FCAC must be required to do unannounced, mystery-shopper audits to find violations, required to publicly identify financial institutions who violate the rules, and required to impose high fines on violators. The FCAC hasn’t done unannounced audits since 2005, tipped off the banks in March 2017 about the audit they did through the rest of 2017 on abuses, and then allowed the banks to see the draft audit results and suggest changes that weakened the report.

Meanwhile, former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, and former Finance Minister Bill Morneau, and current Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, have done nothing to require TD, Royal, Scotiabank or National Bank to stop using their own complaint judges and return to the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI).

All banks and investment companies should be required to use OBSI, and allow financial consumers and investors to complain directly to OBSI without having to go through a financial institution’s internal complaint system, and OBSI’s rulings on complaints by bank customers and investors must be made binding in every case.

An FCAC report released in February 2020 showed that the banks have a horrible record of dealing with financial consumer and investor complaints, especially the banks that use their own complaint judges.

The maximum fine allowed under the Bank Act is $10 million, which is still low for the big banks who each make more than $10 billion in revenue annually, especially given that it is very unlikely the FCAC or a court will ever impose the maximum fine.

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) and the Ombudsman (OBSI) will continue to be ineffective until the federal government gives them key powers and requires them to use those powers to audit banks and other financial institutions regularly and to penalize every violation with a high fine (there should be minimum fines for various violations of at least $1 million, and the maximum fine should be $50 million) and public naming and shaming.

Finally, to ensure the FCAC and OBSI do their jobs properly, and to ensure that financial consumers and investors have help when complaining to the FCAC and OBSI, require banks, trust and insurance companies to promote in their mailings and emails to customers that they can join an independent, consumer-run Financial Consumer Organization (FCO – as recommended in 1998 by the MacKay Task Force, and the House Finance and Senate Banking committees) so consumers have a place to call for help if they are gouged or treated unfairly, and to get fully independent, expert advice (See details at: https://democracywatch.ca/question-and-answers-about-the-proposed-financial-consumer-organization/). Also, banks and the largest mutual fund companies must be required to promote in their mailings and emails to customers that they can join an independent, consumer-run Individual Investor Organization (IIO – as recommended by an Ontario legislative committee in 2006) so they have have a place to call for help if they are ripped off or treated unfairly, and to get fully independent, expert advice (See details at: https://democracywatch.ca/question-and-answers-about-individual-investor-organization-iio/).

For more information, see Democracy Watch’s
Big Bank Coronavirus Accountability Campaign

Backgrounder – Weak Enforcement of Financial Consumer and Investor Protection in Canada

(April 2020)

Both watchdogs too weak in powers, and enforcement attitude, to protect financial consumers and investors

The federal government’s Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) has a very weak enforcement record since it was created in 2003.

It has made only 134 compliance rulings, is prohibited from naming a law-violating bank unless it prosecutes the bank, and it has only prosecuted 2 banks (neither of them a Big 6 bank). The FCAC not only lacks resources by comparison to the similar watchdog agencies in Britain and the U.S., it is also clearly a lapdog compared to these two other agencies.

According to an article by Reuters in March 2017, and Democracy Watch’s research of fines imposed since then, the FCAC has issued fines totaling just $3.2 million since 2001 in the 134 rulings it has issued.

In contrast, since 2013 when it was created, Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has already issued penalties totalling more than US$3.5 billion, and since 2011 when it was created, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has already imposed fines of more than US$5 billion.

Key consumer protection rules need to be strengthened, and the FCAC must be required to do unannounced, mystery-shopper audits to find violations, required to publicly identify financial institutions who violate the rules, and required to impose high fines on violators. The FCAC hasn’t done unannounced audits since 2005, tipped off the banks in March 2017 about the audit they did through the rest of 2017 on abuses, and then allowed the banks to see the draft audit results and suggest changes that weakened the report.

Meanwhile, former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, and current Finance Minister Bill Morneau, have done nothing to require TD, Royal, Scotiabank or National Bank to stop using their own complaint judges and return to the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI).

An FCAC report released in February 2020 showed that the banks have a horrible record of dealing with financial consumer and investor complaints, especially the banks using their own complaint judges.

The maximum fine allowed under the Bank Act is $10 million, which is still low for the big banks who each make more than $10 billion in revenue annually, especially given that it is very unlikely the FCAC or a court will ever impose the maximum fine.

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) and the Ombudsman (OBSI) will continue to be ineffective until the federal government gives them key powers and requires them to use those powers to audit banks and other financial institutions regularly and to penalize every violation with a high fine (the maximum fine should be $50 million) and public naming and shaming.

For more information, see Democracy Watch’s
Big Bank Coronavirus Accountability Campaign

Backgrounder – Canada’s Big Banks

(February 2021)

Controlling the market, and gouging out world-leading, record profits year after year for the past decade, while reducing service and treating many customers unfairly

According to Finance Canada, despite the lowering of barriers to competition 15 years ago under a World Trade Organization agreement, Canada’s Big 6 Banks:

  • Bank of Montreal (BMO)
  • Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)
  • National Bank
  • Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)
  • Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank)
  • Toronto Dominion Bank (TD)

control 93 per cent of all banking assets, and are more profitable than comparable banks in other countries, and than small banks in Canada, and Canada’s corporate sector overall. The big banks control of the market essentially allows them to gouge and abuse customers with excessive fees, high interest rates (especially on credit cards). As a result, government regulation is needed to stop them.

The federal government bailed out the banks with $114 billion in mortgage purchases during the financial industry fraud crisis in 2009. It hasn’t required the banks to do anything in return for that bailout, or for the protections from foreign competition that the government has given the banks since 1967.

Canada’s Big 6 Banks reported still high profits in 2020 totalling $41.13 billion, just $5.1 billion (12%) less than in 2019 (BMO – $5.1B; CIBC – $3.8B ; National – $2.08; RBC – $11.4B; Scotiabank – $6.85B; TD – $11.9B).The Big 6 had record profits of more than $46 billion in 2019 – the 10th year in a row, and more than double their 2010 profits.

Four of Canada’s Big 6 Banks are listed in Fortune’s Global 500 for 2020, and are the 15th (RBC), 20th (TD), 32nd (Scotiabank) and 50th (BMO) most profitable financial institutions in the world, and the four most profitable Canadian companies in the Global 500.

Canada’s big banks also paid their CEOs about $12.5 million each in 2019 in salary and bonuses (55% higher than in 2008).

According to Fortune magazine’s Global 500 for 2017, three of Canada’s Big Six Banks ranked in the top 500 based on their revenues but are in the top 90 most profitable companies in the world: Royal Bank ($8.735 billion in 2017 profits; ranked #55 in total profits, #292 in revenue); TD Bank ($7.947 billion in 2016 profits; ranked #65 in profits, #337 in revenue); Scotiabank ($6.12 billion ranked #88 in profits, #430 in revenue). The profits of all three, and the other three Big Six Banks in Canada, all increased in 2018 and 2019 so they were all ranked even higher in the Global 500 for 2019. The three banks were the most profitable of the 11 Canadian companies in the Global 500 for 2017.

The federal government also continues to refuse to make the Big Banks pay their fair share of taxes to help pay the costs of the crisis. Canada’s Big Banks paid a tax rate of only 16% over the past 6 years — lower than banks in other G7 countries. The Big Banks also exploit tax loopholes more more than all other Canadian big businesses.

For more information, see Democracy Watch’s
Big Bank Coronavirus Accountability Campaign

Backgrounder – Full List of Key Bank Accountability Changes

(April 2020)

Democracy Watch’s letter-writing campaign and petition call for the following key bank accountability changes needed to make Canada’s Big Banks give everyone a break on interest rates and fees, pay their fair share in taxes, and treat everyone fairly, now and after the coronavirus crisis is over:
  1. Require banks to cut all their interest rates and fees in half now, and to cut loan payments entirely for anyone who needs it for the next few months, without requiring payment or extra interest later;
  2. Require banks to disclose the profit level of every part of their business (credit cards, mortgages, lines of credit, each other type of loan, bank machines, and investment and insurance divisions) after fully independent audits (overseen by the Auditor General);
  3. Require banks to keep all their interest rates and fees at a level that gives them no more than a reasonable profit (for example, many U.S. states cap credit card interest rates);
  4. Require banks to disclose detailed information how many people and small businesses apply for credit cards and loans or all types, and loan interest rate cuts or other relief, and accounts, and how many are approved and rejected, by type of borrower and customer, and require corrective actions if a bank discriminates against any type of borrower or customer (as the U.S. has required banks to do for 40 years);
  5. Require the Big 6 Banks 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 low-cost banking at Canada Post outlets should also be allowed);
  6. Require banks, trust and insurance companies to promote in their mailings and emails to customers that they can join an independent, consumer-run Financial Consumer Organization (FCO – as recommended in 1998 by the MacKay Task Force, and the House Finance and Senate Banking committees) so consumers have a place to call for help if they are gouged or treated unfairly, and to get fully independent, expert advice (See details at: https://democracywatch.ca/question-and-answers-about-the-proposed-financial-consumer-organization/) and also require the banks and largest mutual fund companies to promote in their mailings and emails to customers that they can join an independent, consumer-run Individual Investor Organization (IIO – as recommended by an Ontario legislative committee in 2006) so they have have a place to call for help if they are ripped off or treated unfairly, and to get fully independent, expert advice (See details at: https://democracywatch.ca/question-and-answers-about-individual-investor-organization-iio/);
  7. Strengthen key consumer protection rules, and require the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) to do unannounced, mystery-shopper audits to find violations, and to identify violators and fine them (the FCAC hasn’t done unannounced audits since 2005, tipped off the banks in March 2017 about the audit they did through the rest of 2017 on abuses, and then allowed the banks to see the draft audit results and suggest changes that weakened the report);
  8. Require all banks to be covered by the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (the Finance Minister has done nothing to require TD, Royal, Scotiabank or National Bank to stop using their own complaint judges and return to OBSI), and allow financial consumers and investors to complain directly to OBSI without having to go through a financial institution’s internal complaint system, and make OBSI’s rulings binding;
  9. Require the FCAC to name every bank and financial institution that it finds has violated any rule and, given the big banks each make billions in profit annually, to fine violators a minimum of $1 million on a sliding scale for various violations, and increase the maximum fine for violations to $50 million, which should be high enough to discourage violations;
  10. Close all the loopholes that allow Canada’s banks (and other big businesses) to evade paying taxes in Canada by pretending they make their money through companies they own in low-tax countries, and impose a special tax (as England and Australia have) on any Canadian business or bank that has excessively high profits like Canada’s Big Banks have had in the past several years, and;
  11. Require the Big Banks and other financial institutions to cut the pay of their CEO and other top executives to no more than 40 times their lowest paid employee (as in some European countries).

To see more details about why enforcement needs to be strengthened as proposed above in points #6-9, please click here.

For more information, see Democracy Watch’s
Big Bank Coronavirus Accountability Campaign

Democracy Watch’s second letter questions why Alberta Ethics Commissioner asking for more facts before ruling on Minister Schweitzer appointing Steve Allan as inquiry commissioner?

Group’s Dec. 11th letter contained several facts about how Steve Allan campaigned for Schweitzer, and donated to him directly

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, January 20, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the second letter it sent on Friday to Alberta Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler calling on her to issue a public ruling on Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Doug Schweitzer recommending the appointment of Steve Allan to a $290,000 job as commissioner heading up the inquiry into foreign-funding of environmental groups, given Allan assisted Minister Schweitzer in his election campaign.

Democracy Watch sent the second letter after receiving a letter from Commissioner Trussler saying that its December 11th letter didn’t provide “sufficient particulars” and that “If you wish me to consider your request you will need to provide the facts on which you are basing your allegations.”

Democracy Watch’s second letter questions what more facts Commissioner Trussler thinks are needed, given its first, 9-page letter linked to Minister Schweitzer’s recommendation that Steve Allan be appointed in the Kenney Cabinet’s order that appointed Allan, and also linked to, and summarized, a CBC article that set out how:

  1. Steve Allan participated in the invitation for a nomination race campaign event for Minister Schweitzer in July 2018, which was distributed to invitees by Minister Schweitzer’s assistant at Denton’s law firm, where he was a lawyer at the time;
  2. Allan also sent an April 2019 email to several associates urging them to vote for Minister Schweitzer in the Alberta provincial election, an email that said, in part, “If the UCP wins, there is an excellent chance Doug will be in Cabinet” and;
  3. Allan also donated $1,000 to Minister Schweitzer’s UCP leadership campaign.

In its second letter, Democracy Watch not only links to the appointment order and CBC article, it also attached a copy of both the order and article, in case Commissioner Trussler concern is that the webpage links were not evidence.

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

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

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

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

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

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign

Three key political finance questions for federal party leaders

Which financial institution gave them an election loan? For how much? What will their deficit/surplus be after election subsidies are received?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, November 6, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch and the Money in Politics Coalition (made up of 50 groups with a total of more than 3 million members), joined by almost 90,000 voters, called on the media to ask federal party leaders 3 key questions that will very likely effect the timing of the next election:

  1. Which financial institution gave them a loan to pay their election expenses?
  2. How much was the loan?
  3. What will their estimated deficit/surplus be in 4 months after they receive the subsidies the public pays for any candidate or party that wins 10% of the popular vote?

The parties know the details of their loans, and can now make fairly accurate projections, based on the election results and past fundraising patterns for November-January post-election periods, of what their financial position will be mid-February when they receive the post-election subsidies.

The public has a right to know this information, and shouldn’t have to wait and always be guessing the financial position of the parties, especially not in a minority government situation when the finances of each party is a big factor affecting when the next election will happen, given the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Bloc (and, possibly the Greens) all some power in making that decision. Unfortunately, due to unwritten rules, the Prime Minister still has the most power, and the ability to abuse that power.

“The public has a right to know which financial institutions bankrolled the parties’ election campaigns, and what the debt levels are of each party, as those are major factors in federal Cabinet ministers’ and MPs’ conflicts of interest concerning banking law decisions, and in the timing of the next election given the minority government,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Chairperson of the Money in Politics Coalition. “Hopefully the media will ask the federal party leaders the key questions about the state of their party finances, and they will soon give the public the information they have a right to know.”

“Banks and other financial institutions should not be allowed to loan parties and candidates any more than individuals are allowed to donate, as it creates a real conflict of interest for federal ministers and MPs,” said Conacher. “Instead, any loans should come from a public fund, but only after parties can prove they actually need the money to reach voters and run election campaigns.”

The media hasn’t paid much attention to these key questions, and any coverage is always out of date by six months or more because of weak federal party finance disclosure rules. Looking over the past year, there is only this CBC article about the financial status of most of the main federal parties as of December 31, 2018, and then this follow-up CBC article about the NDP’s finances as of December 31, 2018. This Canadian Press article a couple of months later covered the same figures for 2018.

The CBC then did this article about the parties’ first-quarter fundraising totals, and this iPolitics article summarized the parties’ fundraising totals for 2019 up to June 30, 2019. However, neither of these articles contain any statistics on how much the parties spent up to June 30, 2019, or after.

As a result, no one except the parties knew how much money they had in the bank when the federal election began, nor how big their loans are, from which financial institution(s). Voters have a right to know before they vote who bankrolled each party’s, and each candidate’s, campaign, but this information is still hidden from them by weak disclosure rules.

Many commentators were saying at the beginning of the election that the Conservatives had tons of money for their campaign, the Liberals had an adequate amount of money, the Greens had some money, and that the NDP was in a lot of debt. But all of those comments were inaccurate guesses based on the information in the above articles, none of which took into account what the parties spent since Jan. 1, 2019.

For example, the Conservatives had $9.9 million in the bank at the end of 2018, and raised $16.5 million up June 30, 2019, and may have raised $5 million up to the beginning of the election. However, they may have spent $25 million from January to September 2019, which means they may have actually only had $6.4 million in the bank going into the election.

As a result, if the Conservatives planned to spend the full estimated $28 million allowed (under the election spending limit) on their campaign, they must have had a loan or loans of about $21 million from some financial institution or institutions.

The Liberals had $2.3 million in the bank at the end of 2018, and raised $8.85 million up to June 30, 2019, and may have raised $3.5 million up to the beginning of the election. However, they may have spent $10 million so far in 2019, which means they may have actually only had $4.65 million in the bank going into the election campaign, and likely needed a loan or loans of about $23 million in order to spend the maximum allowed during the election campaign.

The other parties have also likely gone into debt with a loan or loans from a financial institution(s). If any party’s loan(s) come from a bank, the bank is regulated by the federal government under the Bank Act, so the bank will have done a huge favour to the party by lending them millions for their election campaign.

Democracy Watch’s position is that loans to parties should be limited just like donations are, to prevent the conflict of interest created by the big banks lending so much money to the federal parties’ election campaigns. It would be much more democratic if election loans to parties came from a public fund, with the amount each party would be allowed to borrow based on the number of donors and members it has, combined with the average amount it has raised in the previous two years.

Many other changes are needed to make Canada’s political finance system democratic and ethical. See details on Democracy Watch’s Money in Politics Campaign page.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Money in Politics Campaign