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Federal democracy and good government watchdogs are lapdogs in key ways — will Conservatives make much-needed changes?

Set out below is a letter-to-the-editor by Democracy Watch Board Member Duff Conacher which was published in the Globe and Mail May 15, 2012


Many of the federal officers of Parliament who are supposed to enforce key democracy and good government laws are unfortunately lapdogs in important ways (Watchdogs of Parliament forge closer ties – May 12).

The ruling party chooses them and, in a majority government, can appoint whomever they want (opposition party leaders are consulted, but have no power to stop any appointment).

All of the laws they enforce have loopholes that allow for dishonesty, conflicts of interest and other unethical activities, excessive secrecy, and waste of the public’s money.

None of the officers can penalize anyone who violates the key rules they enforce — they can bark by issuing reports, but can’t bite.

And, unfortunately, some of them are unaccountable themselves — it is illegal to challenge a ruling of the Ethics Commissioner or Commissioner of Lobbying in court no matter how incorrect their ruling is.

All of the laws for the officers are being reviewed by Parliament this year.  Hopefully, they will finally be made into watchdogs who can hold politicians and public servants accountable, and can be held accountable themselves when they fail to do their jobs properly.


For more details, go to Democracy Watch’s Clean Up the System page