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Democracy Watch files court cases challenging Lobbying Commissioner’s rulings letting off lobbyists who helped Chrystia Freeland win election, then lobbied her officials

Council of Canadian Innovators Ben Bergen and Dana O’Born co-managed Freeland’s 2015 election campaign, then lobbied her then-Parliamentary Secretary David Lametti, her office staff and senior department officials

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch announced that it has filed court cases challenging the federal Commissioner of Lobbying’s rulings on the complaint Democracy Watch filed in July 2017 about lobbyists Ben Bergen and Dana O’Born of the Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI).

The Lobbying Commissioner ruled last March, after a completely unjustifiable delay of almost three years, that Mr. Bergen and Ms. O’Born did not violate the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct, which prohibits assisting a politician in any significant way and then lobbying their office or officials afterwards, even though they co-managed Chrystia Freeland’s 2015 election campaign, continued to work in senior roles with her riding association post-election, and then were hired in senior positions at CCI and lobbied Freeland’s then-Parliamentary Secretary David Lametti, her office staff, and senior officials in her department including deputy ministers, assistant deputy ministers and special assistants.

Rules 6-9 of the Lobbyists’ Code prohibit lobbyists from doing anything significant for, or giving anything significant to, anyone they are lobbying or are going to lobby.

Democracy Watch’s initial complaint also requested that the Lobbying Commissioner recuse herself from ruling on the situation because she was handpicked by Trudeau. The Federal Court of Appeal ruled last February that the Trudeau Cabinet was biased when it appointed Bélanger, and DWatch’s court case also alleges that Bélanger was biased when ruling on Bergen and O’Born.

Democracy Watch is also challenging two other rulings issued by Lobbying Commissioner Bélanger in Federal Court (see details here about the Apotex/Barry Sherman-Trudeau Liberals case and here about the Mickey MacDonald/Clearwater Seafoods-Trudeau Liberals case). All four cases are on hold until the Supreme Court of Canada decides whether to allow DWatch to appeal the Federal Court of Appeal’s ruling on DWatch’s case challenging the ruling issued by former Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd in the Aga Khan/Justin Trudeau case.

“The federal lobbying ethics code prohibits anyone from lobbying a Cabinet minister or their officials for four years after helping them get elected or assisting them in some other significant way, and so Lobbying Commissioner Bélanger should have found Minister Freeland’s former election campaign managers and riding association senior officials guilty of violating the code given the Council of Canadian Innovators that they head up lobbied many senior officials in Minister Freeland’s former department, including her former Parliamentary Secretary David Lametti,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “By letting the CCI lobbyists off the hook, and issuing other similarly weak rulings recently letting off other unethical lobbyists, Lobbying Commissioner Bélanger is continuing the negligent enforcement record of her predecessor Karen Shepherd who let off 84% of the lobbyists she found violating the law during her decade as commissioner.”

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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 Government Ethics Campaign and Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign