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10,000+ sign petition calling on Finance Minister Morneau to make key changes to make big businesses and banks pay their fair share of taxes

Key changes also needed to stop Big Bank gouging and abuse – Canada’s Big 6 Banks made a record profit of $42.3 billion in 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Today, Democracy Watch revealed that more than 10,000 voters from across Canada have signed its national petition on Change.org calling for key changes to make Canada’s big businesses and Big Banks pay their fair share of taxes.

A special report recently published in the Toronto Star details how Canadian big businesses, especially the Big Banks, have higher profits but pay a lower rate of taxes than ever before.

“Like Scrooge, Canada’s big businesses and banks are trying to keep all the money for themselves, and key changes are needed to close loopholes and match the average tax rate in G7 countries to ensure they pay their fair share of taxes,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “As well, Canada’s big banks have gouged their way to record profits again this year, and key changes are needed to stop the gouging and ensure they serve all customers fairly at fair prices.”

In 2016, big businesses paid only 22% of total taxes collected by governments — Canadians paid 78%. In contrast, in 1952 big businesses and Canadians paid the same amount in taxes.

As the report says: “Canada’s largest corporations use complex techniques and tax loopholes to reduce their taxes significantly below the official corporate tax rate set by the government.”

As well, the report details how cutting Canada’s corporate tax rate by 16% from 1997 to 2016 has not increased corporate investment in machinery and equipment and in intellectual property like it was supposed to do. Investments by Canada’s big businesses in these areas are still below the 1997 level as a percentage of GDP.

Canada’s official corporate tax rate is now 26.6% but, on average, Canadian big businesses paid only 17.7% from 2011-2016 — one of the lowest rates of all G7 countries.

Canada’s Big Banks paid a tax rate of only 16% over the past 6 years — lower than banks in other G7 countries. They are the biggest tax evaders of all Canadian big businesses and, not surprisingly, also the most profitable. They made a record $42.3 billion in profits in 2017.

If Canada’s big businesses and banks paid the official tax rate from 2011-2016, governments across Canada would have almost $64 billion more to spend on making hospitals, schools, housing, public transit and roads better, and on other things Canadians need.

Making Canada’s big businesses and banks pay their fair share in taxes will raise at least $10 billion each year, and billions more if the corporate tax rate is increased to the average rate in G7 countries.

The petition calls on Liberal Finance Minister Morneau to work with federal political parties to work together to make the following three key changes:

  1. Close all the loopholes that allow Canada’s big businesses and banks to evade paying taxes in Canada by pretending they make their money through companies they own in low-tax countries;
  2. Increase Canada’s business tax rate to match the average rate in G7 countries, and;
  3. Impose a special tax (like 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.

Democracy Watch is also calling on Finance Minister Morneau to work with federal political parties to make key changes to stop gouging and abuse by Canada’s big banks. The Big Six Banks made a record $42.3 billion profit in 2017.

As the report also shows, most Canadians don’t benefit from excessive Big Bank profits because they don’t own shares in the banks. As the report says: “more than 80 per cent of Canadian stocks are owned (both directly and indirectly through pensions and mutual funds) by foreigners and the wealthiest households in the country.”

As well, the report reveals that Canada’s Big Banks donate to charities only 10% of what they avoid in taxes – only $2.1 billion donated compared to $23 billion in taxes avoided.

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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 Bank Accountability Campaign and Corporate Responsibility Campaign

Thank you for donating!

Thank you very much for your donation to support Democracy Watch’s campaigns to stop abuses of power by governments and big businesses across Canada, and to make Canada the world’s leading democracy.

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Thank you again – we couldn’t win key democracy changes for you and all Canadians without your support!

Cheers,
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
and the whole Democracy Watch team

Report of 1996 survey of Canadians about citizen associations

The survey was conducted by Environics in 1996 on behalf of a dozen Canadian consumer groups and involved questioning 2,000 Canadians in personal interviews about their support of the pamphlet method for organizing citizen watchdog groups for business sectors in Canada.

The survey found that 64% of Canadians want governments to require businesses to enclose the watchdog group pamphlet in their mailings to customers, or distribute a notice about the watchdog group in other ways to individual customers and shareholders, to give them an easy way to join together in the watchdog group and have their interests represented in the marketplace and in government policy-making, and to learn about products and services and have a place to help with complaints about unfair service and poor products.

People surveyed also said that they were willing to pay a membership fee of about $30 annually, and 35% of those who would join the group would also be willing to donate $35 annually above the membership fee.

To see the full survey report, click here (PDF).

As well, in 1997, Canadian citizen groups were surveyed about the pamphlet method for forming and funding citizen associations to watch over business sectors — to see the survey report, click here (PDF).

Back to Citizen Association Campaign main page

Democracy Watch files court case challenging Ethics Commissioner’s ruling that Morneau didn’t need to sell his family company shares

Third court case filed concerning Ethics Commissioner – already challenging her illegal ethics screens, and her illegal re-appointment by Trudeau Cabinet

Will soon file fourth case challenging Ethics Commissioner’s failure to remove herself from ruling on complaints about Morneau – she is biased due to past advice to him, and given Trudeau Cabinet handed her a renewable contract in June

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, November 21, 2017

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released details about the lawsuit it filed last Thursday in the Federal Court of Appeal challenging the Ethics Commissioner’s decision that Finance Minister Bill Morneau did not need to sell the shares he owned in his family’s company, Morneau Shepell Inc.

“As she has many times in the past, Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson once again allowed a Cabinet minister to violate the federal ethics law, and so as it has many times in the past, Democracy Watch is once again challenging the Ethics Commissioner in court,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “All of these court cases would be unnecessary if the Ethics Commissioner would just do her job and enforce federal ethics rules properly and effectively.”

Subsection 27(1) of the Conflict of Interest Act requires ministers, their staff, Cabinet appointees (including Deputy Ministers) and other senior government officials to either sell investments they control (such as shares in a family company) or place them in a blind trust, and the section 20 definition of “controlled assets” is clearly broad enough to cover the investment scheme that Morneau set up to hide his Morneau Shepell shares.

Instead of requiring Minister Morneau to sell the shares or put them in a blind trust, Ethics Commissioner Dawson allowed him to set up what she calls a conflict of interest “screen” that, she claims, prevents him from taking part in discussions and decisions if he has a conflict of interest. In fact, the Ethics Commissioner’s screens are smokescreens that allow Cabinet ministers and others to take part in almost all discussions and decisions even if they have a financial interest and could profit from the decision.

Similar “screens” allow many other Cabinet ministers, ministerial staff and senior government officials to make decisions that affect their families, friends, and their own financial investments, which is why Democracy Watch has challenged the Ethics Commissioner’s smokescreens in court because they are illegal under the Act.

Democracy Watch has also filed a court case challenging the Ethics Commissioner for being in a conflict of interest because the Trudeau Cabinet’s re-appointed her last June to her third six-month interim term — so she is essentially currently serving at the pleasure of the Trudeau Cabinet.

Democracy Watch will also soon file another lawsuit against Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson because she has refused to recuse herself from investigating complaints filed by Democracy Watch and the NDP MP Nathan Cullen and Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre.  The Ethics Commissioner is biased in making future decisions given that she advised Minister Morneau that selling his shares was not required, and established a conflict of interest “screen” for him that she believes works, and is essentially serving at the pleasure of the Trudeau Cabinet.

Background on the lawsuit filed last Thursday

On November 4, 2015, the day he was appointed as Minister of Finance, Minister Morneau told CBC TV: “I suspect all my assets will go into a blind trust” and “I’ve already communicated with the Ethics Commissioner in that regard.”  At the time, his assets included 4.7 percent of the stocks of Morneau Shepell Inc., valued at more than $30 million.

On February 2, 2016, the Commissioner provided a letter to Minister Morneau that claimed that he did “not personally hold any assets that are considered controlled under the Act” but that, given Morneau owned millions of dollars of shares in Morneau Shepell Inc., “the Commissioner is of the opinion that the best measure of compliance would be to establish a conflict of interest screen which would be made public.”

The letter was confidential and neither Minister Morneau nor the Commissioner disclosed what exactly Minister Morneau did with the stocks he owned of Morneau Shepell Inc., and specifically neither disclosed whether the Commissioner had required him to sell the stocks or put them in a blind trust, until October 17, 2017.  On that day, the Ethics Commissioner told media in general terms that she had advised Minister Morneau that he “wasn’t required” to set up a blind trust when he was appointed as Minister of Finance.

On October 19, 2017, Minister Morneau disclosed to the media the Commissioner’s February 2, 2016 Decision letter.

Appointment Process and Ethics Rules Must be Strengthened

More than 10,000 Canadians have signed a petition supporting Democracy Watch call for federal parties to work together to change the appointment process for the Ethics Commissioner, and all officers of Parliament and judicial and watchdog positions, to make it actually merit-based and independent from Cabinet, and to prohibit reappointments.

Minister Morneau’s new blind trust for his other holding company assets will, like all blind trusts, be a sham because he will still know that he owns the investments that he puts in the trust, and he is also allowed under subsection 27(4) to choose his trustee, and is allowed under subsection 27(5) to give them instructions concerning the investments in the trust.

“Loopholes in the federal ethics law allow Finance Minister Morneau to continue to make decisions that affect his family’s company and his investments, so to actually be ethical he must not take part in any future decisions that affect the company or the investments directly or indirectly,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Minister Morneau’s blind trust will be a sham, as all blind trusts are, because he will know what investments he puts in the trust, will choose the trustee, and can give general instructions to the trustee about the investments.”

“Prime Minister Trudeau and all other Cabinet ministers and senior government officials, should be required to sell their investments in any company and buy term deposits or Canadian governments’ bonds until they leave office.  If they are not required to do this, they must be required not to take part in decisions that directly or indirectly their investments,” said Conacher.

Democracy Watch has called repeatedly since 2007 for these huge loopholes in the Conflict of Interest Act to be closed.  “It really should be called the ‘Almost Impossible to be in a Conflict of Interest Act,’” said Conacher.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
and Chairperson of the Government Ethics Coalition
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 filing court case against Ethics Commissioner challenging bias and rulings on ministers’ investments

Democracy Watch already has two court cases against the Ethics Commissioner – one challenging her illegal ethics screens, and the other challenging the six-month, renewable contract handed to her by the Trudeau Cabinet in June

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch confirmed that it will file a new court case against federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson because she has failed to recuse herself from investigating complaints about Finance Minister Bill Morneau, and because she made a legally incorrect decision to allow Morneau and other ministers to keep owning investments while they are in Cabinet.

In an open letter sent last Wednesday, Democracy Watch called for an investigation by an independent person of Minister Morneau’s failure to issue public statements (as required under subsection 25(1) of the Act) containing details about at least two recusals that the Minister himself admitted to recently.

The NDP has also filed a complaint requesting that the Ethics Commissioner investigate whether Minister Morneau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by participating in the development of Bill C-27, a bill that, if enacted, would help his family company and benefit the company’s shares that he owns and is finally planning to sell.

In its letter, Democracy Watch requested that the Ethics Commissioner recuse herself from ruling on the Morneau situation and delegate the complaints to an independent person.  The Ethics Commissioner has continued to address the Morneau situation, including meeting with Minister Morneau last Thursday.

The Ethics Commissioner is biased in making future decisions given that she advised Minister Morneau that a blind trust was not needed, and established a conflict of interest “screen” for him, and is essentially serving at the pleasure of the Trudeau Cabinet on a six-month, renewable contract.  All that Democracy Watch has to prove in court is that a reasonable, informed person would conclude that it is likely that the Ethics Commissioner, consciously or unconsciously, will not investigate and rule on the Morneau complaints fairly.

The Alberta Ethics Commissioner recused herself last year from investigating a case in which she had a bias and assigned the case to the B.C. ethics commissioner.

“The Ethics Commissioner is refusing to admit she is biased even though the Trudeau Cabinet handed her a six-month contract worth $100,000 last June, so Democracy Watch hopes its court case will finally stop her from making biased, incorrect bad rulings that allow Cabinet ministers to act unethically,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

Democracy Watch court case will also challenge the Ethics Commissioner’s decision that Morneau and other ministers did not need to set up a blind trust or sell the shares he owned in his family’s company, Morneau Shepell.  Subsection 27(1) of the Act requires ministers, their staff, Cabinet appointees (including Deputy Ministers) and other senior government officials to either sell investments they control (such as shares in a family company) or place them in a blind trust, and the section 20 definition of “controlled assets” is clearly broad enough to cover the investment scheme that Morneau set up for his Morneau Shepell shares.

Instead of requiring Minister Morneau to sell the shares or put them in a blind trust, Ethics Commissioner Dawson allowed him to set up what she calls a conflict of interest “screen” that, she claims, prevents him from taking part in discussions and decisions if he has a conflict of interest. In fact, the Ethics Commissioner’s screens are smokescreens that allow Cabinet ministers and others to take part in almost all decisions even if they have a financial interest and could profit from the decision.

Similar “screens” allow many other Cabinet ministers, ministerial staff and senior government officials to make decisions that affect their families, friends, and their own financial investments, which is why Democracy Watch has challenged the Ethics Commissioner’s smokescreens in court because they are illegal under the Act.

Democracy Watch has also filed a court case challenging the Ethics Commissioner for being in a conflict of interest because the Trudeau Cabinet’s re-appointed her last June to her third six-month interim term — so she is essentially currently serving at the pleasure of the Trudeau Cabinet.

More than 10,000 Canadians have signed a petition supporting Democracy Watch call for federal parties to work together to change the appointment process for the Ethics Commissioner, and all officers of Parliament and judicial and watchdog positions, to make it actually merit-based and independent from Cabinet, and to prohibit reappointments.

Minister Morneau’s blind trust, like all blind trusts, will be a sham because he will still know that he owns the investments that he puts in the trust, and he is also allowed under subsection 27(4) to choose his trustee, and is allowed under subsection 27(5) to give them instructions concerning the investments in the trust.

“Loopholes in the federal ethics law allow ministers and other senior government officials to own investments they know about, and to make decisions that make them money,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.  “To be ethical, Prime Minister Trudeau and all other Cabinet ministers and senior government officials should be required to sell their investments and buy term deposits or government bonds until they leave office, and to not to take part in any discussions or decisions that directly or indirectly affect their relatives’ or friends’ businesses or investments.” 

Democracy Watch has called repeatedly since 2007 for these huge loopholes in the Conflict of Interest Act to be closed.  “It really should be called the ‘Almost Impossible to be in a Conflict of Interest Act,’” 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 Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign and Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign

Ethics Commissioner allowing federal Liberal Finance Minister Morneau to violate federal ethics law

Loopholes in the Act allow Trudeau, Morneau and other ministers and officials to profit from their decisions – and blind trusts are a sham as they all know what they put in their trusts, and they are allowed to choose and instruct the trustee

Democracy Watch’s court case challenges Ethics Commissioner’s “smokescreens” such as the one she set up for Morneau as illegal under the Conflict of Interest Act – also challenging Trudeau Cabinet re-appointing Ethics Commissioner last June

Loopholes must be closed to require selling investments or not taking part in any decision that directly or indirectly affects investments (as all federal public servants are required to do)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, October 17, 2017

OTTAWA – Based on the article published yesterday in the Globe and Mail, Democracy Watch has concluded that federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson made decisions that allowed Liberal Finance Minister Bill Morneau to violate the Conflict of Interest Act by not either setting up a blind trust or selling his shares in his family’s company Morneau Shepell.

Subsection 27(1) of the Act requires Cabinet ministers, their staff, Cabinet appointees (including Deputy Ministers) and other senior government officials to either sell investments they control (such as shares in a family company) or place them in a blind trust. They are all required under subsection 26(1) to disclose a summary public statement within 120 days after they are elected that states whether they have sold or set up a blind trust for these investments, among other key details.

According to the Globe article, which quotes officials from Mr. Morneau’s office, Commissioner Dawson did not require him to set up a blind trust. According to Mr. Morneau’s February 14, 2017 public Summary Statement, he did not sell any of his investments. That means he owns investments which he controls, investments which are not in a blind trust, and that is a violation of subsection 27(1) of the Act.

Instead of requiring Minister Morneau to sell the shares or put them in a blind trust, Ethics Commissioner Dawson allowed him to set up what she calls a conflict of interest “screen” that, she claims, prevents him from taking part in discussions and decisions if he has a conflict of interest. In fact, the Ethics Commissioner’s screens are smokescreens that allow Cabinet ministers and others to take part in almost all discussions and decisions even if they have a financial interest and could profit from the decision.

Similar “screens” allow many other Cabinet ministers, ministerial staff and senior government officials to make decisions that affect their families, friends, and their own financial investments, which is why Democracy Watch has challenged the Ethics Commissioner’s smokescreens in court because they are illegal under the Act.

Democracy Watch has also filed a court case challenging the Ethics Commissioner for being in a conflict of interest because the Trudeau Cabinet’s re-appointed her last June to her third six-month interim term — so she is essentially currently serving at the pleasure of the Trudeau Cabinet.

Even if Minister Morneau put the shares in a blind trust, it would be a sham because he would still know that he owns the shares, and he is also allowed under subsection 27(4) to choose his trustee, and is allowed under subsection 27(5) to give them instructions concerning the investments in the trust.

“As she has many times in the past, Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson has once again allowed a Cabinet minister to violate the federal ethics law,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The federal ethics law allows Finance Minister Morneau to set up a blind trust but that would be a sham because he would still know he owns the shares in Morneau Shepell, and the law also allows him to make decisions that he can profit from but to be ethical Minister Morneau must either sell the shares or not take part in any future decisions that affect the company directly or indirectly.”

“Democracy Watch believes the federal Ethics Commissioner’s so-called conflict of interest screens are illegal because they allow cabinet ministers, ministerial staff and senior government officials to avoid the clear legal requirement in the federal ethics law that says they must disclose details each time they remove themselves from any decision-making process due to their conflict of interest, and because the screens also allow them to keep secret whether they have actually removed themselves from any decision-making process,” said Conacher.

“The federal ethics law really should be called the ‘Almost Impossible to be in a Conflict of Interest Act’ because it allows the Prime Minister, Cabinet ministers, their staff and senior government officials to make decisions that affect the interests of their families, family businesses, friends and friends’ businesses, and also to profit from their own decisions,” said Conacher. “To have a democratic, ethical federal government, the law must be changed to require ministers, ministerial staff and senior government officials to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, and to sell their investments that cause apparent conflicts, as all federal government employees are required to do.”

Because of a huge loophole in the Conflict of Interest Act, Cabinet ministers and other senior government officials are all allowed to participate in or make any decision that applies generally. Almost all decisions made by ministers, their staff, and appointed senior government officials (all of whom are covered by the Act) apply generally – so in fact they likely don’t have to abstain from participating in very many decision-making processes even when they have a direct conflict of interest.

Ethics Commissioner Dawson negligently refused since she was appointed in July 2007 to define the loophole — what is, and is not, a decision that applies generally? She finally did so somewhat in Minister Dominic LeBlanc’s July 2016 screen statement, writing that a general application decision is not “narrowly focused” but instead “affects the interests of a broad class of persons or entities” not just “a small group” and/or not with only one person or entity with a “dominant interest” in the matter being decided. Very unfortunately, she did not define “narrowly focused” or “small group” or “dominant interest” which means the loophole is still vague.

As well, loopholes in the Act allow ministers, their staff and appointed senior government officials to have investments in mutual funds that invest in businesses they deal with and make decisions that make the businesses money, and make themselves money. They are not required to sell these investments or put them in a so-called “blind trust” or even disclose publicly that they own them (NOTE: the loophole is in the Act’s section 20 definition of “exempt assets” that don’t have to be sold, including “(h) investments in open-ended mutual funds” that can include shares in businesses (only “controlled assets” have to be sold)). Putting an investment in a blind trust is also a charade because the public office holder still knows that they own whatever they put in the trust.

In stark contrast, all federal public servants, even those without any decision-making power, are required by Appendix B of the Treasury Board’s Policy on Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment to take “all possible steps to recognize, prevent, report, and resolve any real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest” and to sell assets that create even the appearance of a conflict of interest or make another arrangement to resolve the conflict created by the asset.

In addition to Dominic LeBlanc, the Ethics Commissioner has established either a blind trust or a conflict of interest screen for the following Cabinet ministers – all of whom are allowed to make “general application” decisions that directly affect the assets or interests listed in their trust or screen:

  1. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – so-called “blind” trust for 7664699 Canada Inc.;
  2. Finance Minister Bill Morneau – so-called conflict of interest “screen” for Morneau Shepell Inc. or its subsidiaries, affiliates and associates;
  3. Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould – so-called conflict of interest “screen” for KaLoNa Group.

along with about 45 other federal Cabinet staff, advisors and appointed senior government officials, whose screen statements can been seen here, including Mary Jean McFall, Chief of Staff for Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay (see article about her “screen” here).

– 30 –

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’s Government Ethics Complaints and Court Cases from 2016 on

Please help support these court cases by clicking here

A. Commissioner of Lobbying (Federal)

1. Complaints

(a) Complaint concerning various lobby groups giving the gift of “sponsored travel” to various MPs from all parties between 2009 and 2016 (filed May 26, 2016)

(b) Complaint about Clearwater Seafoods shareholder and board member hosting a fundraising event in August 2014 attended by Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau (filed March 1, 2017)

(c) Complaint about Council of Canadian Innovators staff lobbying Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland after working on her 2015 federal election campaign (filed July 12, 2017)

(d) Complaint about the Aga Khan’s gift to PM Trudeau of two trips, and Liberal MP Seamus O’Regan of one trip, to his Bahamas island (filed December 20, 2017)

2. Court Cases

(a) Case challenging the appointment of new Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger because Trudeau Cabinet ministers were in a conflict of interest when they made the appointment. To support this case, click here

(b) Case challenging former Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd’s ruling that the Aga Khan is not covered by the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct and, therefore, his Bahamas trip gift to Prime Minister Trudeau was legal.

(c) Case challenging new Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger’s ruling ending the investigation into whether Barry Sherman of Apotex Inc.’s fundraising activities for the Liberal Party violated the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct.


B. Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner (Federal)

1. Complaints

(a) Complaint about federal Cabinet ministers attending fundraising events organized by lobbyists (filed December 6, 2016)

(b) Complaint about the Liberal Cabinet reappointing the Ethics Commissioner for a second six-month term while she is investigating Prime Minister Trudeau and other Cabinet ministers (filed December 14, 2016)

(c) Complaint about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau inviting top Liberal Party donors to a gala dinner with the Chinese Premier (filed December 16, 2016)

(d) Complaint about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accepting the gift of a trip from the Aga Khan whose organization lobbies the federal government (filed February 8, 2017)

(e) Complaint about Conservative Party Interim Leader Rona Ambrose accepting the gift of a trip from the Murray Edwards whose company lobbies the federal government (filed February 8, 2017)

(f) Complaint about Liberal MP Seamus O’Regan accepting the gift of a trip from the Aga Khan whose organization lobbies the federal government (filed February 8, 2017)

(g) Complaint about some of former federal Minister of Justice Peter MacKay’s judicial appointments, including his appointment of Vic Toews (filed April 24, 2017)

(h) Complaint about federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s relationship with his Advisory Council on Economic Growth (filed May 8, 2017)

(i) Complaint about federal Cabinet’s relationship with BlackRock Asset Management Canada Ltd. (filed May 24, 2017)

(j) Complaint about Council of Canadian Innovators staff lobbying Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland after working on her 2015 federal election campaign (filed July 12, 2017)

2. Court Cases

(a) Case challenging Ethics Commissioner’s conflict of interest “screens” that she has set up for more than 20 Cabinet ministers and senior federal government officials. To support this case, click here.

(b) Case challenging the Ethics Commissioner’s ruling that Finance Minister Morneau didn’t have to sell his millions of shares in his family’s company. To support this case, click here.

(c) Case challenging the appointment of new Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion because Trudeau Cabinet ministers were in a conflict of interest when they made the appointment. To support this case, click here.


C. Conflict of Interest Commissioner (B.C.)

1. Complaints

(a) Complaint concerning conflicts of interest created by former B.C. Premier Christy Clark holding high-priced, exclusive fundraising events. The Commissioner rejected the complaint, and so Democracy Watch filed the court case linked below under 2(a).

2. Court Cases

(a) Case challenging Conflict of Interest Commissioner’s ruling that the fundraising events held by former B.C. Premier Christy Clark do not create apparent conflicts of interest (filed October 26, 2016). The B.C. Court of Appeal decided not to rule on the case on Oct. 18, 2017 — see details here.

(b) Case challenging former B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline (filed January 31, 2017). The B.C. Supreme Court judge indicated he was going to rule against Democracy Watch and PIPE UP, and so the case was withdrawn in fall 2017.

Survey Results

If you think Democracy Watch is exaggerating how much Canada’s government accountability and corporate responsibility systems are the scandal, and how much Canadians want democratizing changes, consider the following survey results and reports:

  • An international survey conducted in spring 2017 by the Pew Research Centre (that included Canada) found that only 20% of voters have lot of trust in the federal government
  • A national survey released in June 2017 found that only 27% of Canadians have a lot of trust in the justice system, only 26% in the Prime Minister, 22% in municipal government, 19% in Parliament, and 10% in political parties.
  • A national survey released in November 2015 found that: more than 60% of voters believe that Canadian politics is a corrupt game; 50% said that they would vote for a party that they didn’t really support if the politician or party they support acted unethically, and; 20% said that political corruption had led them to stop voting;
  • An October 2014 survey by the Gandalf Group for Ryerson University found only 13% of adult Canadians trust politicians (and only 9% trust lobbyists);
  • A summer 2014 survey by the Environics Institute found that almost 70% of Canadians are concerned the political parties may try to illegally rig election results;
  • The October-December 2013 Ekos Research polls found that only 24% of Canadians think government does the right thing most of the time (the lowest percentage in the past 20 years); 59% of Canadians think our democracy is unhealthy and 54% see this as their greatest concern;
  • A national survey released in July 2013 found that: 53 per cent of Canadians believed the level of corruption in Canada had increased in the previous two years; 54 per cent believed the government is either “entirely” or “to a large extent” run by a few big entities acting in their own best interests, and; 62 per cent of Canadians thought political parties are affected by corruption;
  • The May 2013 Environics poll found that 71% of Canadians want legal restrictions on the powers of political party leaders to control politicians in their party;
  • The May 2013 Ekos Research poll found that 90% of Canadians do not trust politicians;
  • The December 2012 Harris-Decima poll found that 84% of Canadians want legal restrictions to stop abuses of power by the Prime Minister and premiers;
  • The June 2012 Ipsos Reid poll found that 95% of Canadians believe politicians have little or nothing in common with voters;
  • The 2010 Global Integrity Report which ranked Canada 19th overall out of more than 100 countries assessed since 2006, with an overall score of only 75;
  • Democracy Watch’s List of much-needed federal government inquiries (archive website);
  • The Fall 2011 Nanos Research survey (PDF) showing that a majority of Canadians do not trust federal and provincial governments;
  • The Fall 2007 Ipsos Reid poll found that more than 70% of Canadians believe large companies have too much influence on the decisions of their government and they want a more aggressive crack down on the activities and influence of national and multinational corporations. To see a PDF of the survey results, click here;
  • a 2007 Ekos Research survey found that only 18% of Canadian voters thought the federal government was doing a good job of consulting them about decisions;
  • The 2006 Nanos Research survey (PDF) that found that 62%-76% of Canadians felt that the federal Conservatives’ so-called Federal Accountability Act represented positive change (NOTE: the survey did not describe the Act‘s promised measures accurately — the measures are full of loopholes because the Conservatives broke their 2006 election promises);
  • The 2005 SES Research survey (PDF) that found 61% of Canadians want more input into Canadian government decision-making;

Governor General must be an independent, impartial guardian of Canada’s democracy – Prime Minister should not be choosing alone

Choice of next Governor General should be democratized and Canadianized to celebrate 150th anniversary of Canada’s federal government

All federal parties should agree on key rules of Parliament before next election to prevent confused situation that B.C. is going through now, as 80% of voters and the current Governor General want

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, July 5, 2017

OTTAWA – Today, as part of its Democratic Head Campaign, Democracy Watch called on Prime Minister Trudeau to democratize and Canadianize the choice of the next Governor General. Like the Officers of Parliament, the Governor General (GG) must be independent of the Prime Minister because s/he makes many key decisions about the operations of Parliament and the government, and so the Prime Minister should not be choosing the GG alone as that taints the position with partisanship.

To democratize the selection of the Governor General, Democracy Watch has proposed that an independent committee (whose members are approved by all federal party leaders in the House of Commons) conduct a public, merit-based search for a shortlist of three nominees for GG, and then at least all federal party leaders should approve the choice of GG or, even better given that the GG appoints the Lieutenant Governors of each province, Prime Minister Trudeau should send the shortlist of nominees to the party leaders of each legislature and have them rank the nominees. The GG would be the person who receives the most votes from this ranked ballot vote.

To Canadianize the selection of the Governor General, Democracy Watch proposes that the Prime Minister should not request that Queen Elizabeth approve of the person chosen through the above process. The Queen does have to approve the person formally, but if the Prime Minister does not request the approval, and the Queen accepts being told, then a new constitutional convention will be established that Canada chooses its own Head of State. This will be a small but significant step toward full independence for Canada.

“Prime Minister Harper appointed his own advisory committee for choosing the Governor General but it was a charade as he could ignore the committee’s nominees and he controlled the final choice. Given how important it is for the Governor General to be independent of the Prime Minister and impartial, Prime Minister Trudeau must involve opposition parties in choosing the Governor General, and it would be even better to involve party leaders from across Canada given that the Governor General appoints the Lieutenant Governors in each province,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Prime Minister Trudeau should also tell the Queen who Canada has chosen as Governor General, and not ask her approval, and if she accepts that as the new protocol it will become clear that Canada chooses its own head of state.”

As well, Democracy Watch called on federal party leaders in the House of Commons to agree on public, written rules for a minority government, as more than 80% of Canadians want and as Britain’s Parliament did seven years ago with its 110-page Cabinet manual. Agreeing on and writing down the rules now (and making them law as soon as possible) will help ensure the legislature runs fairly and democratically through to the next election.

The rules should make clear: which party will get to try governing first after the next election; when the legislature will open; when it can be closed; what a vote of non-confidence is; when and how the opposition parties may get a chance to govern and; when and how the next election can be called before the fixed election date. (See Backgrounder below for the eight rules)

In England, Australia and New Zealand, political party leaders and MPs agreed years ago to clear, public rules so what happens after an election is fair for all the parties, and for voters. Most countries in the world also have clear, public post-election rules.

As well, a survey of more than 2,000 Canadians by Harris-Decima in November-December 2012 showed that 84% of adult Canadians want enforceable rules to restrict key powers of the Prime Minister and provincial premiers.

The Governor General also said last August in an interview with the Hill Times that he thought these unwritten constitutional conventions should be written down.

“Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s politicians and public know the rules for its minority government because its rules are written but B.C.’s Lieutenant Governor, politicians and public don’t because its rules are unwritten,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “As in B.C., if federal party leaders don’t agree to written rules before the next election, several constitutional crises will very likely happen with politicians, lawyers and academics having ridiculous arguments, and the unelected, unaccountable Governor General forced to make decisions, based on conflicting opinions about unwritten rules. Meanwhile, in Britain everyone will be following clear, written rules.”

“Nobody knows for sure what an unwritten rule says, and that’s why Britain, Australia, New Zealand and most other countries have written down their key constitutional rules,” said Conacher. “It’s clearly in the public interest that the federal rules be written down to stop unfair abuses of power by the ruling parties that will violate the rights of the legislature and the democratic will of the majority of voters right through the next election.”

For example, Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s politicians and public all know that the only way an election can occur before the next fixed election date under Britain’s Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 is if at least two-thirds of MPs vote in favour of a motion to call an early election or if a resolution is passed that states the legislature has no confidence in the government and that resolution is not reversed within 14 days. Many commentators claimed Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May called a “snap” election but she didn’t – she proposed an early election and more than two-thirds of MPs approved her proposal.

In contrast, B.C.’s Lieutenant Governor, politicians and public do not know how the next election could happen – which gives the unelected B.C. Lieutenant Governor enormous, unaccountable power (and the situation is the same at the federal level. The current rules in Canada are unclear because they are unwritten constitutional conventions – even constitutional scholars disagree what lines they draw (and, as a result, a large majority of scholars agree they should be written down). The vagueness in the rules effectively allows the Prime Minister and premiers and their ruling parties to abuse their powers and violate the rules, as the only way to stop violations is for the unelected, unaccountable Governor General and Lieutenant Governors to decide that a violation has occurred and to try to stop the elected Prime Minister or Premier from doing what they want.

The Governor General has almost never stopped a Prime Minister from doing whatever they want, and have allowed premiers to abuse their powers by not opening the legislature after an election, shutting it down arbitrarily for months, and calling snap elections in violation of fixed-election-date laws. The Governor General allowed Prime Minister Harper to call a snap election in 2008 in violation of the (too vague) fixed-election-date law, to prorogue Parliament in a very questionable minority government situation, and to declare many votes in Parliament as confidence votes even though they were clearly not confidence votes.

“There are no legal or other justifiable reasons for Canada’s political party leaders to fail to approve at least eight key rules for Parliament,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “It is clearly in the public interest that the rules be approved to stop unfair abuses of power by the ruling party that violate the rights of the legislature and the democratic will of the majority of voters.”

After the eight rules are enacted into law, Parliament should, as the legislatures in England, Australia and New Zealand have, examine and enact other fairness rules to ensure the legislature and MLAs can hold the government accountable. The rules should cover the following key areas: what can be included in omnibus bills; the freedom and powers of individual politicians to vote how they want on resolutions and bills; how members of legislature committees are chosen, and; what a Cabinet can do during an election campaign period until the next Cabinet is chosen.

“As long as the rules for Parliament are unwritten and unclear, the Prime Minister and ruling party will be able to abuse their powers and Parliament’s ability to hold the government accountable will be undemocratically restricted,” 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 Democracy Watch’s Democratic Head Campaign and Stop PM/Premier Abuses Campaign


Background

8 Key Rules for a Fair and Democratic Parliament

  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 the legislature with a Speech from the Throne;
  4. Even if the leaders of parties that represent a majority of members of the legislature 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 Lieutenant Governor will not allow the Prime Minister-designate to prorogue the legislature before the Speech from the Throne is voted on by members of Parliament;
  5. If a majority of members in Parliament vote against the Speech from the Throne, the Governor General will give the opposition parties an opportunity to govern (through either a formal coalition or legislative agreement) before calling an election;
  6. After the vote on the Speech from the Throne, the only vote in Parliament that shall be a vote of non-confidence is a vote on a motion that states: “The legislature 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 Parliament before the motion is voted on by Parliament, and;
  8. If a majority in Parliament votes to approve a motion of non-confidence in the governing party before the next fixed-election date, the Governor General will give the opposition parties an opportunity to govern (through either a formal coalition or legislative agenda agreement) before agreeing to any request by the Prime Minister that the Governor General call an election.