Prime Minister Trudeau and his Cabinet put new Lobbying Commissioner in a conflict of interest by handpicking her through a secretive, PMO-controlled process that failed to consult with opposition parties as required
More than 11,000 Canadians have called for key changes to make the Cabinet appointment process actually open, independent and merit-based
NOTE: This morning, the new Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger sent Democracy Watch a letter stating that she will not continue the investigations into its complaints about two fundraising events for the Liberal Party of Canada that Barry Sherman, former Chair of Apotex Inc. was involved in organizing and hosting. This is exactly the kind of decision that a biased Lobbying Commissioner would make as it is exactly the decision the Trudeau Liberal Cabinet would want. Democracy Watch will challenge Commissioner Bélanger’s decisions in court on the basis that she is biased and her decisions are legally incorrect.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, January 25, 2018
OTTAWA – Democracy Watch released the letter it sent today to new federal Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger requesting that she not make any decisions concerning investigations of situations involving the Trudeau Cabinet or Liberals because the Cabinet created a conflict of interest for her by handpicking her through a secretive, PMO-controlled process. As well, the Cabinet failed to consult with opposition party leaders before making her appointment as required by the Lobbying Act.
As a result, Commissioner Bélanger has an appearance of bias that taints any decision she may make, including the decision she has stated she will make by February 2nd about whether she will continue the investigation into Democracy Watch’s complaint alleging that Barry Sherman, Chair of Apotex until he passed away recently, violated rules in the Lobbyists Code of Conduct by hosting an August 2015 fundraising event at his home that Justin Trudeau attended.
In addition to the Barry Sherman/Apotex fundraising event complaint, the office of the Commissioner of Lobbying is investigating four other Democracy Watch complaints about situations involving Prime Minister Trudeau or other Cabinet ministers (See the five situations summarized under A.1 here). Democracy Watch’s letter requests that Commissioner Bélanger not make any decisions concerning any of the five situations or any other situation involving the Trudeau Cabinet or Liberals.
On January 15th, Democracy Watch filed an application in Federal Court challenging the appointment of the new Lobbying Commissioner by the Trudeau Cabinet because of the failure to consult with opposition party leaders, and because the Cabinet was in a conflict of interest as the office of the Lobbying Commissioner was investigating situations involving Prime Minister Trudeau and other Cabinet ministers at the time the appointment was made.
To allow the investigations into Democracy Watch’s complaints to continue, Democracy Watch proposes that Commissioner Bélanger delegate the situations to a provincial commissioner who is independent of her, the Trudeau Cabinet, and all federal political parties. This process has been used at the provincial level by ethics commissioners. For example, in 2016 Marguerite Trussler, Alberta’s Ethics Commissioner, recused herself from investigating and ruling on a complaint because she was friends with two people involved in the matter.
“The Trudeau Cabinet put the new Lobbying Commissioner in a conflict of interest by handpicking her through a secretive, PMO-controlled process, and as a result the Commissioner is tainted by bias and must not rule on any situations involving the Trudeau Cabinet or Liberals,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Adjunct Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Ottawa.
“It would be a clear conflict of interest if someone sued Prime Minister Trudeau or a Cabinet minister and the Cabinet chose which judge would hear the case, and it is just as clearly a conflict of interest for the Cabinet to choose the new Lobbying Commissioner when she is judging whether the PM and other Cabinet ministers are involved in illegal situations,” said Conacher.
More than 11,000 Canadians have signed a petition supporting Democracy Watch’s Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign calling on federal parties to work together to change the appointment process for all officers of Parliament and judicial and watchdog positions, to make it actually merit-based and independent from Cabinet, and to prohibit reappointments.
For many appointments, including of the new Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner, the Trudeau Cabinet continues to use the same secretive, PMO-controlled, partisan process that past governments used.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
and Chairperson of the Government Ethics Coalition
Tel: (613) 241-5179