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Democracy Watch calls on Ethics Commissioner to delegate investigation into Prime Minister violating federal ethics law by inviting dozens of Liberal Party donors to gala dinner for Chinese Premier

Approximately 33% of non-government attendees at event were Liberal Party donors, some representing companies seeking decisions from the federal government – violation of ethics law to give them preferential access to the event

DWatch filed same complaint with former Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson in December 2016 – she negligently ignored the complaint

Commissioner Dion should delegate investigation to a provincial ethics commissioner – he is biased as Trudeau Cabinet chose him after secretive process

Thursday, November 1, 2018

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch sent a letter to federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion calling on him to delegate an inquiry into Prime Minister Trudeau violating the federal government ethics law by giving preferential treatment to the companies and/or organizations or other individuals represented by several Liberal Party donors when he invited those donors to a gala dinner in honour of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on September 22, 2016, as reported in the Globe and Mail.

According to the Globe’s article, some donors who attended the event represent companies that seek decisions from the federal government, including BMO Capital Markets, Huawei Technologies Canada Co., Power Corp., and Wealth One. As well, approximately 33% of non-government attendees at the event were Liberal Party donors – another indication that Prime Minister’s Trudeau’s invitations were based on preferential treatment for donors.

It is a violation of the federal ethics law, the Conflict of Interest Act (section 7), to give preferential treatment to anyone or any business or organization based on the identity of the person who represents them. A full inquiry is needed to determine to determine whether there were other invitees who are Liberal Party fundraisers or assist the Liberal Party in some other way(s), and also represent an individual, company and/or organization that seeks decisions from the federal government and/or has lobbyists registered to lobby the federal government.

“Inviting dozens of Liberal Party donors to a gala government event where they had access to the Chinese Premier, Prime Minister Trudeau and several Liberal Cabinet ministers clearly violates rules in the federal ethics law that prohibit giving preferential treatment to anyone based on their donation, especially when some of the donors who attended represent companies seeking favourable decisions from the Liberal government,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Given that about a third of the people at the event were Liberal Party donors also amounts to preferential treatment because one-third of Canadians are not Liberal Party donors.”

Democracy Watch filed the same complaint with former Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson in December 2016. Commissioner Dawson ignored the complaint – yet another example of her negligently weak enforcement record during her term in office that Democracy Watch and more than 1,500 Canadians have called on Canada’s Auditor General to audit.

Democracy Watch is re-filing the complaint not only because it has not been ruled on by the Ethics Commissioner but also because, as the Globe reported in September, the Liberals continue to invite lobbyists who are lobbying the government to exclusive fundraising events.

Democracy Watch recently called on the Ethics Commissioner to investigate all exclusive Liberal Party events involving lobbyists that have been held in recent years, also because former Ethics Commissioner Dawson negligently refused to investigate the events. Democracy Watch filed the same complaint with Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger, following up on the complaints about lobbyist-organized fundraising event it filed in March 2017 with former Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd in 2016-2017 that still haven’t been ruled on by Commissioner Bélanger.

As well, Democracy Watch is challenging Commissioner Bélanger’s January 2018 decision that ended the investigation into the fundraising event Apotex Chairman Barry Sherman held in August 2015, attended by Justin Trudeau, that raised $150,000 for the Liberal Party.

“Any high-priced, exclusive, invite-only fundraising event attended or hosted by the Prime Minister, Cabinet minister or their staff clearly violates rules in the federal ethics law that prohibit giving preferential treatment to anyone based on their donation, and prohibit soliciting or accepting their donation because of the conflict of interest it causes,” said Conacher. “It is also a clear violation of the lobbyists’ ethics code for any lobbyist to be involved in organizing any fundraising or other event for a politician.”

At the December 2017 House Ethics Committee hearing reviewing his nomination to become Ethics Commissioner, Mario Dion claimed that he would be focused on “the need for a truly accessible office to make sure that people who want to make a complaint know that the office exists and know the parameters of filing a complaint.” (page 11). As a result, even though the Ethics Commissioner is not required to investigate complaints filed by members of the public, Democracy Watch expects that Commissioner Dion will ensure an investigation of its complaint is undertaken and a public ruling is issued.

However, Democracy Watch has asked Commissioner Dion to recuse himself from investigating and ruling on all its complaints, and delegate them to a provincial ethics commissioner who is not tied to any political party. Democracy Watch has filed a court case challenging Commissioner Dion’s appointment because he was chosen by the Trudeau Cabinet after a secretive, very questionable process. Mr. Dion also has a record 8 unethical and questionable actions when he was federal Integrity Commissioner. Democracy Watch has also challenged Lobbying Commissioner Bélanger’s appointment in court for the same reasons.

“Commissioner Dion should not be ruling on any situations involving Liberals as he was hand-picked by the Trudeau Cabinet through a secretive, very questionable process,” said Conacher.

To stop patronage and cronyism, and the appointment of weak government watchdogs and law enforcement officers, Democracy Watch has called for this change to the appointments process for all Cabinet appointments in its Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign. Ontario uses this appointment system to appoint provincial judges, and it is considered to be a world-leading process.

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

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