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Backgrounder

Backgrounder on Democracy Watch’s 9 cases challenging Ontario Integrity Commissioner rulings on lobbyists in 2019-2020, 6 cases filed in 2021, and one case filed in 2022

From April 2018 to March 2020, Ontario Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake issued 192 secret Advisory Opinions, closed 135 secret compliance reviews at the initial stage, and resolved 436 cases informally in secret (Click here to see Backgrounder on Integrity Commissioner’s Rulings 2018-2020). At least some of those 763 secret decisions by Commissioner Wake allowed dozens of other lobbyists to lobby unethically.

The first three cases of the nine case Democracy Watch filed in 2020 challenge rulings #6 and 7 on page 52 of the Commissioner’s 2019-2020 Annual Report, and ruling #10 on page 53 of the Report. These are the first public Commissioner rulings enforcing section 3.4 of the Lobbyists Registration Act (LR Act). The cases are Division Court file numbers 632/20, 633/20 and 634/20. Click here to see the Notice of Application challenging ruling #6 (the other two applications are very similar).

The other six cases of the nine total cases challenge rulings #s 5, 14, 17 and 23 (the four lobbyists who also failed to register) and rulings #s 13 and 20 (the two lobbyists who violated the lobbying ethics rule) in the Commissioner’s 2019-2020 Annual Report. The six cases are Division Court file numbers 644/20, 645/20, 646/20, 647/20, 648/20 and 669/20.

In her November 2021 ruling, Ontario Divisional Court Justice Favreau unjustifiably blocked the cases from proceeding by falsely claiming that the nine cases did not challenge the Commissioner’s interpretation and application of the LR Act (in fact, all of them do), and falsely claiming that hearing the cases would expose the identity of the lobbyists. The Federal Court has allowed similar cases to proceed, with the lobbyists’ identity protected by a confidentiality order. Click here to Democracy Watch’s Notion of Motion, and click here to see its Factum, appealing Justice Favreau’s ruling.

Democracy Watch also filed six more cases in 2021 challenge rulings #1 and 3 on page 52 of the Commissioner’s 2020-2021 Annual Report and rulings #5, 6 and 8 on pages 53-54 of the Report. The cases are Division Court file numbers 587/21 to 592/21. Click here to see the Notice of Application challenging ruling #6 (the other five applications are very similar).

Democracy Watch filed one more case in 2022 challenging the ruling that begins at the bottom of page 57 and continues onto page 58 of the Commissioner’s 2021-2022 Annual Report in which the Integrity Commissioner again let a lobbyist off even though they violated the law in several ways. Click here to see the Notice of Application. The case is Division Court file number 390/22.

Democracy Watch’s total of 16 cases challenge 15 of the Integrity Commissioner’s rulings made in the past three years (two of the cases challenge different aspects of one of the Commissioner’s rulings). Nick Papageorge and Wade Poziomka of Ross McBride LLP are representing Democracy Watch for all the cases.

To access any of the court files on any of the 16 cases, email the Divisional Court registry office at: [email protected].

Lobbying Backgrounder

Backgrounder on federal Commissioner of Lobbying’s attempt to gut key ethics rules in the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct

(Democracy Watch: June 2022)


Commissioner of Lobbying Nancy Bélanger first proposed to reduce the cooling-off period during which a lobbyist would not be allowed to lobby from 5 years down to 1 to 2 years in her December 2021 draft of the new proposed Code.

Big businesses and unions pushed for even shorter cooling-off periods, and Commissioner Bélanger rolled over like a lapdog and given them what they want by adding to proposed Rule 6 in the new draft Code (May 2022 version) the possibility that she can reduce the cooling-off period.

Commissioner Bélanger gave no hint in her initial consultation in December 2020 on possible Lobbyists’ Code changes that she was planning to gut these key rules in the Code to roll back ethics standards for federal lobbyists 25 years in ways that will, once again, allow for rampant unethical lobbying.

Democracy Watch filed a submission in December 2020, and a second submission in February 2022, and a third submission in June 2022, all calling for key changes to strengthen key Lobbyists’ Code rules, and enforcement, and the second submission also called on the Commissioner to stop proposing to gut key ethics rules in the Code.

By changing the rules, Commissioner Bélanger is also trying to negate the effect of an upcoming Federal Court ruling on two cases Democracy Watch filed in August 2020. The cases challenge the Commissioner’s rulings that let lobbyists Ben Bergen and Dana O’Born of the Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI) off even though they co-chaired Chrystia Freeland’s 2015 election campaign, and served in her riding association, and then lobbied her office. The ruling will determine whether the Commissioner failed to enforce the current Code rules.

“Commissioner Bélanger not only has an equally bad record as past lobbying lapdogs, she is now proposing to change some of the rules she enforces to try to avoid being found guilty of failing to enforce those rules,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The lobbying law needs to be changed to close huge loopholes that allow for secret, unethical lobbying, and to require effective enforcement by the Commissioner.”

Commissioner Bélanger has also backed off from requiring lobbyists to be honest always. In her December 2021 draft of the proposed new Code, Rule 2 clearly prohibited lobbyists making false claims to office holders and the public. In her latest draft, Rule 2 is much less clear.

“It is unfortunately not surprising that Commissioner Bélanger is trying to gut key federal ethics rules for lobbyists, given that she was handpicked by the Trudeau Cabinet through a secretive, dishonest process that the Federal Court of Appeal ruled was biased,” said Conacher.

Since 1997 when the Lobbyists’ Code became federal law, it has been illegal for a registered lobbyist to do anything for, or give anything to, a federal politician, political staff person, government official or employee that would create even the appearance of a conflict of interest, including fundraising or campaigning for a politician or party and then lobbying them soon afterwards. Huge loopholes in the federal Lobbying Act unfortunately allow for secret, unregistered lobbying that is not covered by the Code’s rules.

Former Commissioner of Lobbying Karen Shepherd, forced by a unanimous Federal Court of Appeal ruling won by Democracy Watch in 2009, set a five-year cooling-off period under the Code that prohibited lobbying after fundraising or campaigning for a politician or party (Click here to see archive doc re: the Commissioner’s five-year rule, in “The risk diminishes with time” subsection).

Five years is still much too short, as the appearance of a conflict of interest continues for much longer, but it at least prohibits registered lobbyists from lobbying politicians they had helped until after the next election. The Lobbying Act also prohibits former office holders from being a registered lobbyist for five years after they leave office (Click here to see the five-year rule in section 10.11 of the Act).

Now, in her proposed new Code made public a few weeks ago, Commissioner Bélanger is gutting that rule and proposing new rules that will allow lobbyists to lobby politicians and parties soon after they fundraise or campaign for them – right after or one or two years later, depending on how much they fundraise or help the politician or party, and possibly an even shorter cooling-off period if the Commissioner grants a reduction. Click here to see the Commissioner’s proposed new Code Rule 6 and, in the Appendix, the “Political Work” section which sets out specific rules related to Rule 6’s no time, and one- and two-year prohibitions.

Commissioner Bélanger’s proposed new Rule 6 blatantly contradicts the proposed new Objectives and Expectations sections, and proposed Rules 5, 7.1 and 7.2, in the new Code, all of which strictly prohibit lobbying when there is even an appearance of a conflict of interest. New Rule 6 also blatantly contradicts proposed new Rules 3 and 4 that prohibit lobbyists giving gifts or hospitality worth more than $30 annually. New Rule 6 also blatantly the 5-year prohibition in the Lobbying Act on lobbying by ministers, their staff and MPs after they leave their position.

Unethical Actions

List of Seriously Unethical, Secretive and Undemocratic Actions by Doug Ford’s PC Party Government from May 2018 to May 2022

Based on the following 25 seriously unethical, secretive and undemocratic actions, Democracy Watch gives the Doug Ford PC Party government an F fail grade for the past four years:

  1. Issued a brief, incomplete 2018 election platform that misled voters about what Ford’s PC Party planned to do (especially it’s planned unethical and undemocratic actions).
  2. Ford refused to disclose his mandate letters to Cabinet ministers despite being ordered three times to disclose them, and wasted taxpayer’s money for four years trying to keep them secret.
  3. Ford tried to appoint his old friend Ron Taverner as Ontario’s top cop.
  4. When that was justifiably condemned as a dangerously unethical appointment that would damage law enforcement and government accountability, Ford offered Taverner an executive job at the Ontario Cannabis Store.
  5. Imposed more political Cabinet control over appointments to agencies, boards, commissions and tribunals (ABCTs), and also made changes to give Cabinet more control over provincial judge appointments.
  6. Then appointed inexperienced, party-connected people to many ABCTs, drastically decreasing protection of human rights, the rights of renters, social welfare rights, consumers and the environment, which resulted in record-high complaints.
  7. Set up a PC Party fake news service on social media using the public’s money, and then Ford and Cabinet ministers gave exclusive access to the service’s fake reporters while refusing to answer the real media’s questions.
  8. Ford appointed one of his top election campaign advisers to a plum job in Washington, and increasing his pay by $75,000.
  9. Ford appointed his campaign adviser and staff person Jenni Byrne to the Ontario Energy Board.
  10. Ford appointed his family lawyer as chairperson of the Public Accountants Council.
  11. Allowed dozens of former 2018 PC Party campaign workers, and Cabinet minister staff, to lobby for big businesses.
  12. Gave many of the big business clients of Ford-PC Party connected lobbyists what they want.
  13. Ford allowed his Chief of Staff to pressure police to enforce a law the way the PC Party government wanted it enforced.
  14. Ford allowed his Chief of Staff to do favours for family members, friends and PC-Party connected people.
  15. Violated the right of Ontarians to sue the government for negligent, harmful actions.
  16. Violated the right of Ontarians to health care services when they travel outside of Canada.
  17. Violated the public consultation requirement in Ontario’s environment protection law.
  18. And then again violated the public consultation requirement in Ontario’s environment protection law.
  19. Violated the requirement to consult with Indigenous peoples before proceeding with resource developments.
  20. Violated Charter rights by trying to force gas stations to put a PC Party government propaganda sticker on pumps.
  21. Violated the rights of students to fund their own student associations.
  22. Violated the Charter rights of interest groups to inform voters about issues leading up to an election, and also made changes to allow wealthy donors to have more influence over politicians and parties.
  23. And then Ford became the first Ontario Premier to use the notwithstanding clause to ensure he could violate Charter rights.
  24. Lied in an ad about the carbon tax.
  25. Issued one-page 2022 election platform that is again likely misleading voters about everything a PC government will do (especially unethical and undemocratic actions).

Report Card 2022

Criteria used for the Report Card on the 2022 Democracy and Accountability Election Platforms of the Ontario 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 area
F – Platform doesn’t mention proposal



I. Honest, Ethical Government Measures

  1. Requiring honesty-in-politics – Pass a law that requires all Cabinet ministers, MPPs, political staff, Cabinet appointees and government employees (including at Crown corporations, agencies, boards, commissions, courts and tribunals) nomination 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. And require honesty in all political statements, especially online posts, and establish a new, fully independent, fully empowered commission to review and remove false online claims (Go to Honesty in Politics Campaign and the Stop Fake Online Election Ads Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)
  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 closing the loophole that allows Cabinet ministers, MPPs, their staff and Cabinet appointees to be involved in decisions in which they have a financial interest, and including requiring resignation and a by-election if an MPP 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. Strengthen the independence and effectiveness of the Ontario Integrity Commissioner by having the Commissioner selected by a fully independent non-partisan committee, having the legislature (as opposed to Cabinet) approve the Commissioner’s annual budgets, 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 and Stop Secret, Unethical Lobbying for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)
  3. Making the political donations and election spending system democratic – Prohibit secret, unlimited donations or gifts of money, property or services by anyone for any reason to nomination, election and party leadership candidates; limit donations to $100 annually from individuals, and ban donations from corporations, unions and other organizations; also limit loans, including from financial institutions, to parties and all types of candidates to the same level as donations are limited; establish $1 per vote public funding of political parties (50 cents per vote for parties that elect a higher percentage of MPPs than the percentage of voter support they receive), 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); require disclosure of all donations, gifts and loans of money, property or services (including the identity of the donor’s employer (as in the U.S.) and major affiliations) quarterly and before any election day; limit spending on campaigns for the leadership of political parties; limit advertising spending by the government and opposition parties and third parties (by number of members/supporters) in the six-month period leading up to an election, and limit advertising spending by third parties (by number of members/supporters) during the election campaign period (as spending by parties and candidates is limited). (Go to the Money in Politics Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)
  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 MPPs, 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 Integrity Commissioner more independent and effective by having them selected by a fully independent non-partisan commission, by having the legislature (as opposed to Cabinet) approve their annual budget, by prohibiting the Commissioner from giving secret advice, by requiring the Commissioner to investigate and rule publicly on all complaints (including anonymous complaints), and by fully empowering and requiring the Commissioner to penalize rule-breakers, by ensuring all decisions of the Commissioner can be reviewed by the courts. (Go to the Stop Secret, Unethical Lobbying Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

II. Open Government Measures

  1. Strengthening access-to-information system – Strengthen the 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, having the Information and Privacy Commissioner appointed by a fully independent non-partisan commission, having the legislature (as opposed to Cabinet) approve the Commissioner’s annual budgets, and giving the Commissioner the power and mandate to order changes to government institutions’ information systems, and to penalize violators of access laws, regulations, policies and rules. (Go to the Open Government Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)
  2. Exposing behind-closed-door communications – Require in a new law that Ministers and public officials and MPPs and their staff disclose their contacts with all lobbyists, whether paid or volunteer lobbyists. (Go to the Stop Secret, Unethical Lobbying Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)
  3. Strengthening lobbying disclosure and ethics, and the enforcement system – Strengthen the Lobbying Registration Act by including in it a Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct, 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 extending the limitation period for prosecutions of violations of the Act to 10 years. Strengthen the Integrity Commissioner appointed by a fully independent non-partisan commission, by having the legislature (as opposed to Cabinet) approve the Commissioner’s annual budget, by prohibiting the Commissioner from giving secret advice, by requiring the Commissioner to investigate and rule publicly on all complaints (including anonymous complaints), by fully empowering and requiring the Commissioner to penalize rule-breakers, by ensuring all Commissioner decisions can be reviewed by the courts. (Go to the Stop Secret, Unethical Lobbying Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

III. Efficient Government Measures

  1. Increasing powers of Auditor General and FAO – Increase the independence of the Auditor General and Financial Accountability Office (FAO) by having them appointed by a fully independent non-partisan commission; increase auditing resources of the Auditor General and FAO by having the legislature (as opposed to Cabinet) approve the Auditor General’s and FAO’s annual budget, and; empower the Auditor General to audit all government institutions including the legislature and MPP offices, and also empower the Auditor General and FAO to make orders for changes to government institutions’ spending systems, and to penalize violators of Treasury Board spending rules or Auditor General or FAO orders or requests for information. (Go to the Stop Fraud Politician Spending Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)
  2. Restricting government and campaign advertising – Restore the Auditor General’s power to preview and prohibit government advertising contracting out if there is no reason to have the advertising developed by a contractor, and to reject any government advertising that is essentially a partisan ad for the ruling party, and strictly limit all advertising spending by the government in the six-month period leading up to an election. (Go to the Stop Fraud Politician Spending Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

IV. Representative, Citizen-Driven Government Measures

  1. 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 Ontarians. (Go to the Democratic Voting Systems Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)
  2. Restricting power of Cabinet to make appointments – Strengthen the Public Appointments Secretariat by making it a fully independent non-partisan commission that is appointed by a fully independent non-partisan commission, and have it appoint the approximately 2,000 judicial, agency, board, commission and tribunal appointments currently made by the Premier and Cabinet, especially for appointees to senior and law enforcement positions (including judges), after a merit-based nomination and screening process. (Go to the Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign and Stop Unfair Law Enforcement Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)
  3. Making the legislature more democratic – Change the law to restrict the Premier’s power to shut down (prorogue) the legislature to only for a very short time during time periods when the legislature is already adjourned, and only for an election (dissolution) or if the national situation has changed significantly or if the Premier 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 MPPs in their party sits on legislature committees, and allow any MPP to introduce a private member bill at any time, and define what a “vote of confidence” is in the law in a restrictive way so most votes in the legislature are free votes, and have a fully independent non-partisan commission choose a short-list of candidates for Lieutenant Governor after a public, merit-based search, with all party leaders making the final choice. (Go to the Stop Muzzling MPs Campaign and the Democratic Voting Systems Campaign and Democratic Head Campaign or details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)
  4. Ensuring free, fair and representative elections – Change the current voting law and system (the Elections Act) to specifically restrict the Premier’s power to call an unfair snap election, so that election dates are fixed as much as possible under the parliamentary system. Change the Act also so that nomination and party leadership races are regulated by Elections Ontario (including limiting spending on campaigns for party leadership), and so that party leaders cannot appoint candidates except when a riding does not have a riding association, and so that Elections Ontario determines which parties can participate in election debates based upon merit criteria, and so that voters can give a reason if they decline their ballot (i.e. vote for “none of the above”) and to require Elections Ontario to educate voters about their legal right to decline their ballot, and to provide a more equal number of voters in every riding, and a more accurate representation in the legislature 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 the legislature). (Go to the Democratic Voting Systems Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

V. General Accountability Measures

  1. Facilitating citizen watchdog groups over government and big business sectors – Require provincial government institutions to enclose one-page pamphlets periodically in their mailings to citizens, and to put a notice at the top of every email they send 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), and require big businesses in all provincially regulated industries (investment banking, property insurance, energy and other natural resources, food, water and landlords) to do the same thing, 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 legislature of Commons Committee, and a Senate Committee, and for the investment industry by an Ontario legislature committee. (Go to the Citizen Association Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)
  2. 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 and Privacy Commissioner, and Integrity Commissioner) to investigate and rule publicly on allegations of violations, and to penalize violators, to protect anyone (not just employees) who reports a violation (so-called “whistleblowers”) from retaliation, and to reward whistleblowers whose allegations are proven to be true, and to ensure a right to appeal to the courts. (Go to the Protect Whistleblowers Who Protect You Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)
  3. 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 the Campaigns page and the Corporate Responsibility Campaign page for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Key Changes – Backgrounder

10 Key Changes Needed to Federal MP Ethics Code

(Democracy Watch: March 2022)

The 10 key changes needed to make the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons (“MP Code”) effective at preventing conflicts of interest and unethical gift- and favour-trading are as follows (Click here to see a detailed submission about these changes):

  1. Add a rule to require MPs and their staff to tell the truth to stop the misleading spin that regularly and fatally undermines reasonable policy debates and discussions, and another rule to prohibit MPs from switching parties in between elections except when their party leader violates the law or breaks significant election promises (and, generally, expand the Code to cover MPs as soon as their election is confirmed by Elections Canada, and to cover MP staff who, because they are not covered by the Code, can currently do the things that MPs are prohibited from doing on their MP’s behalf, and can also accept all gifts and favours);
  2. Close the huge loophole in the definition of “private interest” (in ss. 3(2) and (3)) to cover all conflicts of interest, not only specific financial conflicts, because the loophole means the Code doesn’t apply to 95% of decisions MPs participate in, and that allows them to take part in decisions when they, their family or friends can profit from the decision (and extend the Code to cover the private interests of extended family and friends of MPs and their staff);
  3. Add a new rule (as a restriction on s. 5 of the Code) to prohibit MPs from giving preferential treatment to anyone, especially anyone who has given them a gift or assisted them in any way;
  4. Prohibit MPs and their staff from having investments in businesses (which is allowed under ss. 17 and 24(3)(j)), and from having blind trusts, (both of which the Parker Commission recommended way back in 1987) and change s. 7 to prohibit them from other outside activities, because they create clear conflicts of interest (other than professional requirements like doctors who have to practise a specific amount each year in order to retain their licence);
  5. Require MPs to work full-time, and to disclose a summary of their work activities, including communications with anyone or any entity who is trying to influence their decisions, in an online, searchable database;
  6. Change the gifts and benefits rule to ban MPs and their staff from accepting anything from anyone (including volunteer assistance under ss. 3(1)), who is trying to influence their decisions because even small gifts influence decisions, and delete s. 15 of the Code to ban “sponsored travel” because it is an unethical gift and essentially a form of legalized bribery;
  7. Require MPs to disclose in the Public Registry their assets and liabilities worth more than $1,000 (the current disclosure requirement is for everything worth more than $10,000, which is much too high), and to disclose details about their past five year’s work before they became an MP to make it easy to track which organizations and issues they have ties to, and to disclose in the Public Registry which members of their extended family they have close relationships with including being aware of their business, investments and other private interests;
  8. Prohibit MPs and their staff from communicating with their former colleagues and government officials for a sliding-scale time period after they leave depending on what positions and committees they served in and how close their relationships are with Cabinet ministers, officials etc., and require them to disclose their post-activities online during this time period in a searchable database;
  9. Require MPs and their staff to take a formal training course when they first start their position, and annually, and require the Ethics Commissioner to publish online a summary of his/her advice each time advice is given that covers a new situation to any person covered by the Code, and to publish online all advisory opinions and guidelines issued by the Commissioner, and to regularly conduct an audit of a randomly selected sample of MPs’ financial statements and activities;
  10. Give members of the public, who employ and pay all MPs and their staff, the right to file a complaint with the Ethics Commissioner, and require the Commissioner to investigate and issue a public ruling on every complaint and situation s/he becomes aware of, and to impose a sliding scale of penalties depending the seriousness of the violation, and add a rule that anyone is allowed to challenge any decision by the Commissioner in court.

Many other changes are needed to other federal laws, including: closing similarly huge loopholes in the Conflict of Interest Act (which applies to Cabinet ministers, staff and appointees) and the Senate Ethics Code; closing huge secret, unethical lobbying loopholes; decreasing the donation and loan limit in the Canada Elections Act to $75 (as the current donation and loan limit of $3,300 is essentially legalized bribery for those who can afford to make the maximum donation); closing huge excessive secrecy loopholes in the federal Access to Information Act; strengthening the whistleblower protection law, and; changing the appointment process for the Ethics Commissioner and other democratic good government watchdogs (given MPs currently have a clear conflict of interest as they choose their own watchdogs) and banning re-appointments (as that gives a watchdog an incentive to please MPs in order to secure a re-appointment).

Join the call for these and other key government ethics changes across Canada at Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign

Background on Key Problems

Background on Key Problems that Make the
Federal Judicial Appointments System Too Political

To become a federally appointed judge, a person must either be a lawyer for 10 years or a lawyer and quasi-judicial tribunal member for a combined total of 10 years (See s. 3 of the Judges Act, and ss. 5.2 and 5.3 of the Federal Courts Act). There are Judicial Advisory Committees for each province and territory that review applications and recommend long lists of qualified candidates to the Minister of Justice.

The problems with the federal judicial appointments system that the case challenges are longstanding, and have been raised in the past, (see also here and here and here, and also all the evidence linked in Democracy Watch’s December 2020 affidavit, and most provinces have the same problems with their appointment system), as follows:

  1. Canada’s federal judicial appointment system is just a self-enforced policy of the federal government that can be changed at any time. In contrast, in the UK and in most provinces the appointment system is enshrined in law so that a Cabinet can’t change it without introducing a public bill that is debated by the legislature and the public.
  2. The Minister of Justice and Cabinet appoint a majority of the seven members of each Judicial Advisory Committee. They appoint:
    1. three of the members directly;
    2. one from a list of nominees submitted by the Law Society of the province/territory;
    3. one from a list of nominees submitted by the provincial or territorial chapter of the Canadian Bar Association;
    4. one from a list of nominees submitted by the jurisdiction’s Attorney General, and;
    5. then the chief judge of the jurisdiction chooses the last member of each committee.

In contrast, Cabinet ministers in Quebec (sections 15 and 16) do not select any of the advisory committee members, and in Manitoba (s. 3.3) and B.C. (s. 21) choose a minority of the members of the advisory committee for their provincial courts. Ideally, the Cabinet should not choose any of the members of the committees. The federal Minister alone chooses to promote sitting judges to appeal courts. Ideally, a fully independent committee should be recommending a short list of 1-3 sitting judges as candidates for promotion to appeal courts.

  1. The federal judicial advisory committees are appointed by the Minister and Cabinet to renewable two-year terms. Ideally, even if the Minister and Cabinet members are removed from appointing any of the committee members (as recommended above in #2) the terms should not be renewable, to ensure regular turnover of committee members.
  2. Each committee submits a long list of candidates, which gives the Minister a lot of leeway to appoint whomever s/he wants. Ideally, the committees should submit only 1-3 candidates for each open judge position, with the minister required to choose from that short list, as in Quebec and the UK (and in the UK, where the committee only submits one candidate, the minister must explain in writing to the committee if s/he rejects the recommended candidate).
  3. Before making the final choice, the Minister shares each list of candidates with Cabinet ministers and MPs, and also party officials, from the province or territory. Ideally, the Minister should be prohibited from sharing the list with anyone.

BACKGROUNDER

Backgrounder on 4 Errors Made by federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion in his ruling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s participation in approving the WE Charity grant in spring 2020

(November 10, 2021)

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s May 2021 ruling on Prime Minister Trudeau’s participation in the WE Charity grant approval process made four key errors in letting Trudeau off even though Trudeau clearly violated the federal government ethics law.

The Ethics Commissioner concluded that, because PM Trudeau’s spouse volunteers as an ambassador and champion for WE Charity, including hosting a podcast for it, and his mother and brother have been paid large sums to give speeches for the charity, and the PM has also appeared at several WE events, there was a strong appearance of conflict between the Trudeau family’s relationship with WE and Mr. Trudeau’s duty to make decisions that best serve the public interest.” (paragraphs 248-250).

Trudeau has said he should have recused himself, and Ethics Commissioner Dion says at the end of his ruling that “it is always advisable to recuse oneself and inform the Commissioner promptly when facing an apparent conflict of interest” (paragraph 269). Why? Because it is clearly improper to take part in a decision when in an apparent conflict.

  1. Failure to rule that Trudeau had a real conflict of interest

However, the Ethics Commissioner’s ruling first claims, wrongly, that Trudeau was not in a real or potential conflict of interest. Democracy Watch’s position is that, because of the extensive, direct and ongoing family ties between the Trudeau family and WE, especially the fact that his spouse is a WE ambassador and podcaster, the PM was clearly in a potential conflict of interest when WE Charity began engaging with the government about the grant, and then in a real conflict of interest as soon as WE Charity engaged with Cabinet and the PMO.

In the Trudeau II Report about the SNC-Lavalin scandal involving the Prime Minister and other top government officials, Commissioner Dion defined “private interests” as including “financial, social or political interests (paragraphs 288 to 292). In his ruling on the WE Charity grant, he concluded that the grant definitely benefited WE’s private interests but ignored the fact that the grant would very likely, by helping WE financially and deepening the relationship between WE and the PM’s government and family, also benefit the social interests of his WE-ambassador spouse and his family members who spoke at WE events, and the PM’s political interests as WE would have continued to promote the PM as it has for more than a decade (paragraphs 233-238 and 243-244).

  1. Failure to rule that Conflict of Interest Act covers apparent conflicts of interest

Secondly, the Ethics Commissioner’s ruling claims, wrongly, that being in an appearance of a conflict of interest is not a violation of the federal Conflict of Interest Act (CofI Act), and that only being in a real or potential conflict of interest is (paragraphs 252-268).

This part of the ruling is wrong because the purpose of the CofI Act is to prevent all “conflicts of interest” whether real, apparent or potential (subsections 3(b) and (c)), and the Act prohibits federal politicians and government officials from participating in specific decisions like handing out grants and contracts when they are “in a conflict of interest” (sections 4 and 6) which includes any type of conflict of interest, real, apparent or potential (as the Federal Court of Appeal ruled unanimously in 2009 (para. 49)).

  1. Failure to rule that Trudeau and Keilburger borthers, who head up WE Charity, are friends

Thirdly, the CofI Act prohibits politicians furthering not only their own interests but also “those of his or her relatives or friends or to improperly further another person’s private interests” (​sections 4 and 6). As mentioned above, the WE Charity grant could benefit Trudeau and his relatives’ interests. In addition, the Ethics Commissioner ignored evidence that Trudeau and his spouse are friends of the Kielburger brothers who head up WE. Craig Keilburger described Trudeau as a friend in a ​November 2015 interview with the Ottawa Citizen. At the same time ​at the WE event where he gave his first speech as Prime Minister, Trudeau describe both Craig and his brother Marc as friends. Given this, and that the ties between the families have only increased since then, again including that Trudeau’s spouse is a WE Ambassador, the Ethics Commissioner was wrong to conclude that that they are not friends (paragraphs 239 to 241 of his ruling).

  1. Failure to find that Trudeau acted improperly, which is a violation of the Act

Fourthly, Commissioner Dion’s ruling ignores the real meaning of the second part of section 4 of the CofI Act that prohibits taking part in a decision if it offers an opportunity to “improperly further” another person’s or entity’s interests. That is a very broad prohibition, as the Commissioner himself concluded in the Trudeau II Report on the SNC-Lavalin scandal (paragraphs 286 and 296-301). According to the Commissioner, “improper” includes a violation of any of the PM’s Code rules, and that Code’s Annex B rule prohibits the PM and ministers from being in an appearance of conflict of interest.

Again Trudeau has said he should have recused himself, and Ethics Commissioner Dion says at the end of his ruling that “it is always advisable to recuse oneself and inform the Commissioner promptly when facing an apparent conflict of interest” (paragraph 269). Why? Because it is clearly improper to take part in a decision when in an apparent conflict.

List of Senators

List of Senators Who Hold or Have Recently Held Business/Organization Board Positions and/or Employee Positions and/or Who Have Stock Market Investments

(according to the senators’ most recent disclosures in the Senate’s Public Registry)

NOTE 1: In Democracy Watch’s opinion, the most serious conflicts with a senator’s work duties and duty to uphold the public interest are caused by working for, or being on the board of, a private company (especially investment firms) or organization that is federally regulated or affected by federal spending, taxes, subsidies or other programs and/or having stock market investments or mutual fund investments in companies that are federally regulated. Working for, or being on the board of, a company or organization that is provincially regulated can also cause conflicts, as can having stock market or mutual fund investments in companies that are provincially regulated.

NOTE 2: Senators are required to disclose publicly whether they have stock market investments (i.e. investments in “publicly traded securities”) or mutual fund investments, but are not required to disclose which companies they are invested in. In contrast, U.S. senators are required to disclose details of their stock market and mutual fund investments, and changes to those investments, worth more than $1,000.

NOTE 3: Eight senators appointed in June and July 2021 have not yet made their first disclosure of their business/organization work and board positions, investments, assets and liabilities. These senators are as follows: David M. Arnot, Michèle Audette, Bernadette Clement, Amina Gerba, Clément Gignac, Jim Quinn, Karen Sorenson and Hassan Yussuff.

Denise Batters – has stock market investments

Douglas Black – works for Dentons Canada LLP, works for Clearspring Capital Partners, and has stock market investments

Patricia Bovey – has a consultancy, has stock market investments

Larry Campbell – was board member of Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (up to June 1, 2021)

Claude Carignan – practises law; has stock market investments

Daniel Christmas – has stock market investments

Jane Cordy – has stock market investments

Brent Cotter – has consultancy

Mary Coyle – has stock market investments

Pierre J. Dalphond – practises law, has stock market investments

Donna Dasko – has stock market investments

Dennis Dawson – has stock market investments

Colin Deacon – has stock market investments

Marty Deacon – on several organization boards, has stock market investments

Tony Dean – has stock market investments

Pat Duncan – has mutual fund investments

Renée Dupuis – has mutual fund investments

Éric Forest – has stock market investments

Josée Forest-Niesing – has stock market investments

Brian Francis – has stock market investments

George Furey – has stock market investments

Raymonde Gagné – has stock market investments

Rosa Galvez – has mutual fund investments

Marc Gold – on several organization boards, has stock market investments

Stephen Greene – has mutual fund investments

Diane Griffin – on a few organization boards, has stock market investments

Peter Harder – on board of Magna International Inc., has stock market investments

Nancy Hartling – has mutual fund investments

Leo Housakos – has stock market investments

Mobina Jaffer – partner in a law firm, on board and owns shares in three property corporations and a poultry farm

Marty Klyne – on board of FHQ Developments, has stock market investments

Stan Kutcher – has stock market investments

Patti LaBoucane-Benson – consultant, board member of House of Anansi Press, has mutual fund investments

Frances Lankin – has mutual fund investments

Tony Loffreda – has stock market investments

Michael L. MacDonald – has mutual fund investments

Elizabeth Marshall – has stock market investments

Yonah Martin – board member of several organizations

Sarabjit Marwah – on board of Cineplex Inc. and George Weston Ltd., and has stock market investments

Paul Massicotte – board member of several private investment firms, has several private investments

Marilou McPhedran – board member of one organization, has mutual fund investments

Marie Françoise Mégie – board member of a business and two organizations, has stock market investments

Terry Mercer – has mutual fund investments

Julie Miville-Dechêne – has mutual fund investments

Rosemary Moodie – practicing medicine, board member of three organizations, has mutual fund investments

Victor Oh – honourary positions with 16 organizations

Ratna Omidvar – board member of several organizations, has stock market investments

Kim Pate – adjunct law professor, member of organization advisory committee, has mutual fund investments

Dennis Glen Patterson – board member of Nunatta Environmental Services Inc., has stock market investments

Chantal Petitclerc – board member and works for Chantal Petitclerc Inc., board member of several organizations, including a new one in June 2020 and another new one in June 2020, has mutual fund investments

Mohamed-Iqbal Ravalia – has private company and stock market investments

Raymonde Saint-Germain – has stock market investments

Judith G. Seidman – board member of a consultancy, has stock market investments

Paula Simons – has mutual fund investments

Larry W. Smith – works for and board member of consultancy, has stock market investments

Scott Tannas – works for Western Financial Group Inc. (insurance company), board member of nine private companies and one organization, has stock market investments

Josée Verner – has mutual fund investments

Pamela Wallin – board member of two organizations, has stock market investments

David M. Wells – board member and works with consultancy, part owner of Battery Management Corp., has private investments and stock market investments

Howard Wetston – member of Toronto Hydro Corporation Board of Directors and Westcourt Capital Corporation Advisory Board, member of three organizations (including as Senior Fellow of C.D. Howe Institute), has stock market investments

Vernon White – has consultancy, adjunct professor at three universities, Fellow at Australian Strategic Policy Institute, external advisor to Fabriik (crypto-currency trading company), board member of eight organizations

Yuen Pau Woo – Senior Resident Fellow, Jack Austin Centre for Asia Pacific Business Studies (at Beedie School of Business Simon Fraser University), board member of 10 organizations, has mutual fund investments

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