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Democracy Watch calls on Ontario Integrity Commissioner to rule lobbyist who advised on Premier Ford’s campaign, and serves as PC Party Regional VP, violating lobbying law

Law prohibits doing anything that makes it improper for Premier or Cabinet ministers to participate in decisions that affect the lobbyists’ clients

Thursday, July 11, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it has sent to Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake calling on him to issue a public ruling on lobbyist Melissa Lantsman, who advised Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservative Party (PC Party) during the spring 2018 provincial election campaign, and was on Ford’s transition team, and is currently Regional Vice President for Toronto for the PC Party.

Ms. Lantsman was hired as Vice-President of Public Affairs at Hill & Knowlton Strategies after the election in June 2018 and is now registered to lobby Premier Ford and various Cabinet ministers on specific issues for 13 clients (as well as other clients on general issues).

It has been illegal under Ontario’s Lobbyists Registration Act (LR Act) since June 2014 for an Ontario lobbyist to do anything for a politician or government official that caused them to be in a real or potential conflict of interest or make it improper for them to further the interests of the lobbyist or their clients.

Incredibly, as Democracy Watch’s letter summarizes (pp. 6-7), the Integrity Commissioner has not issued any guideline or interpretation bulletin in the past five years concerning what the rules in the LR Act mean.

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 6-16 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 they are registered to lobby (or the politician’s political party), as it 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.

Integrity Commissioner Wake is not required to investigate or issue a public ruling, but Democracy Watch’s position is that it would be simply negligent for him to fail to do both given the ruling will be the first time he has publicly enforced section 3.4 of the LR Act and, therefore, the ruling will make it finally clear what actions by lobbyists that section prohibits.

“The Integrity Commissioner has been negligent in not issuing a ruling the past five years setting out what actions by lobbyists are prohibited by the conflict of interest rule in the lobbying law,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Given the clear evidence set out in Democracy Watch’s complaint, hopefully Integrity Commissioner Wake will do the right thing and issue a public ruling very soon finding that anyone who worked for Doug Ford or PC Party headquarters during the spring 2018 campaign, or is serving in a senior position of the party, violates the conflict of interest rule in the lobbying law if they lobby Premier Ford or any of his Cabinet ministers.”

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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