Law prohibits doing anything that makes it improper for Premier or Cabinet ministers to participate in decisions that affect the lobbyists’ clients
Democracy Watch has filed court cases challenging the Commissioner’s rulings that let lobbyists off who clearly violated this ethical lobbying rule
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it has sent to Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake calling on him to issue a public ruling that lobbyist Peter Van Loan has violated the provincial lobbying law by lobbying Ford and his Cabinet ministers, most specifically Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney, after providing assistance to them and the PC Party.
Mr. Van Loan was the chair of Minister Mulroney’s Ontario PC Party leadership campaign in 2017-2018, and also Director of Candidate Training and Recruitment for the PC Party from 2015-2018.
Mr. Van Loan has been registered since January 2019 to lobby Minister Mulroney and/or Premier Ford and various Cabinet ministers seeking specific decisions for at least 17 clients, including about very questionable highway and land development approvals as revealed in this recent Toronto Star/Hamilton Spectator/National Observer article. He is also registered to lobby for many other clients on general issues, many also related to land development.
“Any lobbyist who has assisted Ford or the PC Party or any of his ministers in any way since 2017 created a conflict of interest for them that means the lobbyist would violate the ethical lobbying rule if they lobby the Ford government anytime in the next several years,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.
It has been illegal under Ontario’s Lobbyists Registration Act (LR Act) since July 1, 2016 for an Ontario lobbyist to lobby a politician or government official for a specific decision after doing anything for them or giving them anything that causes them to be in a real or potential conflict of interest or that makes it improper for them to further the interests of the lobbyist or their clients.
Based on what the LR Act (section 3.4) and the Members’ Integrity Act (sections 2, 3, 4 and 6(1)) say, and the unanimous Federal Court of Appeal ruling Democracy Watch won in 2009 (paras. 52-53), and a similar federal lobbying rule, and past rulings concerning what are improper actions are by politicians (see pages 6-19 of Democracy Watch’s letter), Democracy Watch’s position is that it is a violation of section 3.4 of the LR Act for a lobbyist to do anything significant for, or give anything significant to, a politician (or the politician’s political party) and lobby them at the same time or for several years afterwards. The gift or assistance creates a potential conflict of interest that makes it improper for the politician to participate in any decision, or try to influence any decision that affects the interests of the lobbyist or their clients.
After making 763 secret rulings since 2018, including rulings letting dozens of unethical lobbyists off, Integrity Commissioner Wake ruled for the first time publicly last June in three cases that the conflict of interest created by a lobbyist’s assistance disappears after one year. Democracy Watch has challenged those rulings in court because every other commissioner in Canada has ruled that the conflict of interest lasts several years.
“The Integrity Commissioner has negligently let dozens of lobbyists off in the past several years even though their lobbying clearly violated the conflict of interest rule in the lobbying law and, even more negligently, he failed issue a public ruling until June 2020, four years after the rule came into effect,” said Conacher. “Hopefully Integrity Commissioner Wake will finally do the right thing and issue a public ruling very soon finding that anyone who worked for Ford, PC Party leadership candidates or party headquarters from 2017 on, or has served in a senior position of the party since then, cannot lobby Premier Ford or any of his Cabinet ministers because it violates the ethical lobbying rules.”
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign