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Dozens of Ford and PC Party-connected lobbyists corrupting Ontario policy-making – Integrity Commissioner letting them violate law

Is Ford giving them gifts as they cash in on their so-called “public service”? Even a Ford PC Party MPP is concerned

Huge loopholes in law also need to be closed to stop secret, unethical lobbying

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, December 17, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released its report on the dozens of people who have become provincial lobbyists soon after they campaigned, fundraised or worked for Doug Ford and/or Ontario’s PC Party in the 2018 leadership race and election, and/or worked for Ford or one or more of his Cabinet ministers. Many of them are still advising Ford and/or in senior PC Party positions while they continue to lobby Ford’s Cabinet on long-term care, property development, COVID-19 relief, mining, and other big issues.

Even one of Ford’s MPPs is expressing concern, as Thornhill MPP Gila Martow issued a statement via Twitter and a docs webpage on Friday that said in part:

“Big box retailers should not be permitted to enrich themselves on the backs of small businesses simply because they can afford to hire well-connected lobbyists like Melissa Lantsman to get them preferential treatment.” (link in original)

Very unfortunately, Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake has let Melissa Lantsman and many other Ford/PC Party-connected lobbyists violate Ontario’s Lobbyists Registration Act (LR Act). Commissioner Wake finally confirmed publicly that he has been allowing Ford-connected lobbyists to do this in the negligently bad Interpretation Bulletin he issued in June 2020 interpreting the rule added to the LR Act on July 1, 2016 (section 3.4).

The rule prohibits lobbying any politician or other public office holder if it will create a real or potential conflict of interest or make it improper for them to further the interests of the lobbyist or their clients. But Commissioner Wake believes it’s fine to start lobbying one year after campaigning, fundraising, gifting or working with politicians or parties.

Among the dozens of lobbyists Commissioner Wake has let lobby unethically are: Chris Froggatt of Loyalist Public Affairs; Kory Teneycke of Rubicon Strategy; Michael Diamond of Upstream Strategy Group; Alex Simakov of Sussex Strategy Group; Brayden Akers of Navigator Ltd.; Andrew Brander of Crestview Strategies; Carly Luis of StrategyCorp (until she re-joined as Ford Cabinet staff in September 2020); Melanie Paradis of McMillan Vantage (until she started working for Erin O’Toole in Sept. 2020) – and many others at their lobbying firms – and (as noted above) Melissa Lantsman of Enterprise Canada. Click here to see the full list.

All other commissioners in Canada have ruled that the conflict of interest created by assisting a politician lasts for several years. For example, the federal Commissioner of Lobbying’s ruling says the conflict lasts four years. The federal lobbying law also prohibits Cabinet staff from lobbying for five years after leaving their position (s. 10.11 – though it has loopholes). (Click here to see Backgrounder on Conflict of Interest Rule).

“Dozens of people who have helped or worked for Doug Ford or his Cabinet ministers or the PC Party have set themselves up in lobbying firms and, even though many of them have never lobbied before, big businesses are hiring them because they know it will get them inside access to Ford and his ministers,” Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch. “With negligently bad decisions, Ontario’s so-called Integrity Commissioner is showing zero integrity by letting these lobbyists corrupt Ontario government policy-making as they cash in on their so-called public service.”

As a result of his negligently bad enforcement attitude, since July 2016 Commissioner Wake has also let off 85% of lobbyists he has found violating the LR Act, and issued 763 secret decisions that have let off an unknown number of other lobbyists who may have fundraised or campaigned or give significant gifts to politicians and then lobbied them only one year later, or violated the law in other ways. Click here to see details.

Commissioner Wake’s weak enforcement record shows he is a lapdog who should not have been appointed to a second term. Opposition MPs should have forced a committee vote on this (ss. 23(2)) but they all approved it on December 1st.

As well, huge loopholes in the LR Act allow countless other lobbyists to lobby in secret and unethically. None of the following lobbying activities are required to be disclosed: unpaid lobbying, business lobbying or non-profit organization lobbying of less than 50 hours a year, lobbying about the enforcement of a law, or in response to a request for feedback from a Minister, official or MPP. As a result, anyone lobbying in these ways is also allowed to give gifts to and campaign, fundraise and do favours for Ministers, MPPs, political staff and government officials they are lobbying.

“Until huge loopholes are closed in the lobbying law, public officials are banned from lobbying for years after they leave their position, and the Integrity Commissioner strengthens enforcement, secret, unethical lobbying will continue to corrupt Ontario government policy-making,” said Conacher.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: info@democracywatch.ca

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign