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David Johnston’s key adviser Sheila Block seems to have donated only to the Liberal Party for years

Johnston violating ethics law by ruling on old friend Trudeau’s actions — group will file complaint with Ethics Commissioner office

Public inquiry needed with commissioner(s) chosen by all-party leaders, or House committee needs to be given security clearance to review evidence behind closed doors with Liberal MPs not filibustering again to block review

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch revealed that a search of Elections Canada’s database shows that lawyer Sheila R. Block, whom David Johnston retained to assist him in obtaining, reviewing and analyzing secret information that Prime Minister Trudeau gave them access to, seems to have donated a total of $7,593.38 (listed under “Sheila Block” and “Sheila R. Block”) to only the Liberal Party of Canada from 2006 to 2022. Johnston confirms that he retained Ms. Block for these purposes on in Section II.2) of his first report (page 6 of PDF) which he released yesterday.

Democracy Watch announced that it will file a complaint with the federal Ethics Commissioner’s office that David Johnston is violating the federal Conflict of Interest Act by ruling on his old friend Justin Trudeau’s actions on foreign interference. DWatch already filed a complaint with the Commissioner about Trudeau violating the Act by handing a government contract to his old friend Johnston – click here to see details.

It is a violation of the Act to participate in any decision or action when there is an opportunity to further your own interests, your relative’s interests, or the interests of a friend, and both Trudeau and Johnston are covered by the Act.

No one should call Mr. Johnston the “Independent Special Rapporteur” because he is not independent in any way from Prime Minister Trudeau – he was chosen by Trudeau; is an old family friend of Trudeau; serves at his pleasure; has no job security, and; has no powers under any statute or regulation to investigate anything.

As a result, it was not at all surprisingly that Johnston’s first report claimed that the Trudeau Cabinet has done nothing wrong, nor that Johnston failed to recommend a public inquiry and tried to close off further questioning of the Trudeau’ Cabinet’s actions.

A House committee could inquire fully into foreign interference if MPs on the committee are given security clearance to view all documents covered by secrecy provisions, and if Liberal MPs don’t filibuster again to block the committee’s review. However, a public inquiry would have more clear powers to examine Trudeau’s and his Cabinet’s actions on foreign interference. But Trudeau would also violate the Act by choosing the inquiry commissioner(s).

To be actually independent, inquiry commissioner(s) must be chosen by all party leaders in the House of Commons or, even better, by an independent appointments commission.

There is no need to wait for an independent inquiry before closing loopholes and correcting flaws in ethics, donation, election and lobbying laws that make secret foreign interference in Canadian elections legal and easy to do. On May 9th, DWatch presented to the Procedure and House Affairs Committee a list of key changes that need to be made to laws and enforcement in eight areas to prevent future foreign interference.

“Incredibly, David Johnston denied his friendship with Prime Minister Trudeau yesterday, and continues to fail to recognize that he is in a clear conflict of interest that violates the federal ethics law because, as a friend, the law prohibits him from judging Trudeau and his Cabinet minister’s actions,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The pattern of donations in Elections Canada’s database that seems to show that David Johnston’s lawyer has donated significant amounts only to the Liberal Party for more than 15 years only adds another layer to the layer cake of conflicts of interest that mean that everything Johnston says and reports on the subject of foreign interference has no credibility at all.”

The Trudeau government should, finally, change the political, partisan, Cabinet-controlled appointment process for all the democratic good government watchdogs, including for the Interim Ethics Commissioner (and including inquiry commissioners for any public inquiry), because the Cabinet is biased and so the process is not merit-based. A fully independent committee, together with an all-party committee, should be appointing all the watchdogs because they all enforce laws that apply directly or indirectly to politicians from all parties.

“The Federal Court of Appeal has ruled that the Cabinet is biased when they choose watchdogs who enforce laws that apply to the Cabinet, and so the appointments system must change for all the watchdogs by having a fully independent committee doing a public, merit-based search for qualified candidates, and then an all-party committee making the final choice,” said Conacher.

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

Democracy Watch’s and Government Ethics Campaign and Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign and Stop Foreign Interference in Canadian Politics Campaign