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Federal party leaders should agree on eight key rules for minority government to ensure fair post-election decisions

Rules should make it clear when the legislature will open, what a vote of non-confidence is, what will trigger next election etc.

Should issue public statement of agreement on rules before Monday, and then first bill passed by Parliament should make the rules law (as many other countries have)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, September 16, 2021

OTTAWA – Today, with all surveys pointing to another minority government, Democracy Watch called on federal party leaders to learn the lessons of past minority governments and reach an agreement this week on eight public, written rules for a fair, democratic minority government, as more than 80% of Canadians want, and as the former Governor General called for in August 2016 in an interview with the Hill Times. Agreeing on the rules now will help ensure everything runs fairly, democratically and transparently in the days after the election, and through to the next election.

The rules should make clear: when the legislature will open; when it can be closed; what a vote of non-confidence is; when and how the opposition parties may get a chance to govern and; when and how the next election can be called before the fixed election date; which party will get to try governing first after the next election. (Click here to see Background listing the 8 rules)

The current rules are unclear because they are unwritten constitutional conventions – even constitutional scholars disagree what lines they draw. A large majority (78%) of constitutional scholars surveyed in fall 2012 supported writing down the conventions. The vagueness in the rules effectively allows the elected Prime Minister and ruling party to abuse their powers and violate the rules, as the only way to stop violations is for the unelected, unaccountable Governor General to decide that a violation has occurred and to try to stop the elected Prime Minister from doing what they want.

The Governor General, and lieutenant governors in several provinces, have almost never stopped a Prime Minister or Premier from doing whatever they want, and have allowed premiers to abuse their powers by not opening the legislature after an election, shutting it down arbitrarily for months, and calling snap elections in violation of fixed-election-date laws. The Governor General allowed Prime Minister Harper to call a snap election in 2008 in violation of the fixed-election-date law, to prorogue Parliament in a very questionable minority government situation, and to declare many votes in Parliament as confidence votes even though they were clearly not confidence votes. The Governor General also allowed Prime Minister Trudeau to call a snap election in August in violation of the fixed-election-date law.

In England, Australia and New Zealand, political party leaders and MPs agreed years ago to clear, public rules so what happens after an election is fair for all the parties, and for voters. Most countries in the world also have clear, public post-election rules.

As well, a survey of more than 2,000 Canadians by Harris-Decima in November-December 2012 showed that 84% of adult Canadians want enforceable rules to restrict key powers of the Prime Minister and provincial premiers.

“There are no legal or other justifiable reasons for Canada’s political party leaders and the Governor General to fail to approve eight key rules for a fair, democratic minority government,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “It is clearly in the public interest that the rules be approved to stop unfair abuses of power by the Prime Minister and ruling party that violate the rights of Parliament and the democratic will of the majority of voters.”

After the eight rules are enacted into law, Parliament should, as the legislatures in England, Australia and New Zealand have, examine and enact other fairness rules to ensure the legislature and MLAs can hold the government accountable. The rules should cover the following key areas: what can be included in omnibus bills; the freedom and powers of individual politicians to vote how they want on resolutions and bills; how members of legislature committees are chosen, and; what a Cabinet can do during an election campaign period until the next Cabinet is chosen.

“As long as the federal rules for Parliament are unwritten and unclear, the Prime Minister and ruling party will be able to abuse their powers and Parliament’s ability to hold the government accountable will be undemocratically restricted,” 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: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Stop PM/Premier Power Abuses Campaign

Democracy Watch and Wayne Crookes file court case challenging PM Trudeau’s snap election call

UK Supreme Court set strong precedent by ruling in 2019 that PM Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament was illegal because it unjustifiably prevented Parliament from fulfilling its constitutionally protected role

Snap election call illegal for same reason, and also because measure in election law fixes election date for every four years, a vote of non-confidence had not occurred, and because a large majority in Parliament voted against having an election

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, September 15, 2021

OTTAWA – Today, on the International Day of Democracy, Democracy Watch announced that it and Integrity B.C. founder Wayne Crookes have filed a case in Federal Court (PDF of application) challenging Prime Minister Trudeau’s request that the Governor General call a snap election. The case is not aimed at stopping the current federal election. Instead, it is aimed at winning a ruling that the Prime Minister violated the fixed election date measure in Canada’s election law, and that the PM is only allowed to ask the Governor General to call an election every four years on the fixed election date, with the only exception being if a vote of non-confidence in the government occurs before that date.

Democracy Watch filed a similar case against then-Prime Minister Harper’s snap election call in September 2008. The Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal both ruled that a constitutional convention had not been created when Parliament added section 56.1 to the Canada Elections Act in 2007, and that the measure was not specific enough to prohibit the Prime Minister from calling an early election.

Democracy Watch’s position, and the position of Andrew Heard, one of Canada’s foremost experts on constitutional conventions, is that the courts made an incorrect decision in that case because section 56.1 says “each” election “must be held” every four years, and adding the measure to the law created a rule and a convention that the PM is required to comply with, unless a non-confidence vote occurs.

Democracy Watch’s position is also that its current case is stronger because the situation when Trudeau called a snap election call is different from Harper’s snap election call in September 2008 in several key ways, especially because:

  1. In a 327-1 vote on May 25, 2021, MPs (including Trudeau) voted against holding an election, and all opposition party leaders clearly and publicly expressed their opposition in July-August to holding an election;
  2. As opposition parties made clear with public letters and statements before Trudeau’s election call, a majority of MPs voted in favour of everything the Trudeau Liberals have proposed since the last election, including the 2021 Liberal budget, or were in the process of reviewing proposed measures on the usual legislative timeline. Opposition parties clearly supported the Liberals continuing to govern, and the Trudeau government had the confidence of Parliament, when Trudeau called the election.
    (Click here to see Backgrounder for details.)

The British Supreme Court unanimously ruled in 2019 that PM Boris Johnson’s decision to advise the Queen to shut down Parliament was unlawful as it “ha[d] the effect of frustrating or preventing, without reasonable justification, the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions as a legislature and as the body responsible for the supervision of the executive” (para. 50 of the ruling). The same principle applies to Trudeau’s snap election call, which shut down Parliament for no good reason.

As well, the fixed election date rule in Canada’s election law, and the Prime Minister following the law for the past three elections, have created a constitutional convention rule that the PM is required to follow. In 2011, the Conservative government led by PM Harper called an election only after losing a vote of confidence in Parliament. In 2015, PM Harper called an election on the fixed date, as did PM Trudeau in 2019.

“Prime Minister Trudeau’s snap election call was illegal because Canada’s election law fixes election dates for every four years unless there is a vote of non-confidence in the government, which did not happen before his election call in August, said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “MPs from all parties, including Prime Minister Trudeau, voted against holding an election, all opposition party leaders were against it, and the Liberal government had the clear confidence of Parliament in every way except for calling an election.”

In the same way the British Supreme Court rejected the British PM’s shutting down of Parliament as an illegal abuse of power that went against the will of Parliament, the courts should rule that Trudeau’s snap election was illegal because it violated the fixed election date law and convention, and the democratic will and constitutionally protected role of Parliament,” said Conacher.

“Two of the most important things Canadians want from their politicians is to obey the law and to tell the truth – Mr. Trudeau has done neither here,” said Wayne Crookes, founder of Integrity B.C. “To call an election during the Covid-19 health emergency which has cost 27,314 Canadians their lives at an unneeded expense of about $500 million reflects very poorly on Mr. Trudeau and the Liberal Party. He has put self-interest before his duty to Canadians.”

As well, a survey at the end of July showed only 26% of Canadians want an election, and in mid-July the PM also denied that he was going to call an election.

More than 20,000 voters signed Democracy Watch’s petition on Change.org calling on Governor General Mary Simon to say no to any snap election call by Prime Minister Trudeau before the next fixed election date. Snap elections are unfair to voters, people who want to run as candidates, and most parties. That’s why Parliament decided to fix the federal election date in Canada’s election law.

Because they are illegal, dishonest and unfair, Democracy Watch and Wayne Crookes also went to court to challenge the snap election calls last fall by the B.C. NDP Premier and the New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Premier, both of which violated their provincial fixed election date laws. The New Brunswick case was heard in mid-March, and the B.C. case is scheduled to be heard in October.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Democratic Voting System Campaign and Stop PM/Premier Abuses Campaign

15,000+ sign petition calling on Governor General to say no to illegal, dishonest, unfair and dangerous snap election call by PM

UK Supreme Court set strong precedent ruling in 2019 that PM Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament was illegal – snap election call illegal for similar reasons

GG was handpicked by Trudeau through secretive, partisan process – but will hopefully do her job properly and stop the PM’s abuse of power

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Saturday, August 14, 2021

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch formally launched its petition on Change.org calling on new Governor General Mary Simon to say no to any snap election call by Prime Minister Trudeau before the next fixed election date. A snap election call would be illegal, dishonest, and unfair and dangerous for many voters. More than 15,000 voters have signed the petition in the past week.

“Almost all MPs, including Prime Minister Trudeau, voted against holding an election now, and all opposition parties are against it, and surveys show a large majority of Canadians are against it, so hopefully the Governor General will do her job properly and uphold the democratic will of Parliament instead of giving in to Trudeau’s selfish, dictatorial demand for a snap election,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Ph.D. student at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law. “The Governor General should reject any snap election call by Prime Minister Trudeau because it is illegal, dishonest and goes against the democratic will of Parliament, in the same way the British Supreme Court rejected the British PM’s shutting down of Parliament as an illegal abuse of power that went against the will of Parliament.”

The British Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that PM Boris Johnson’s decision to advise the Queen to shut down Parliament was unlawful as it “ha[d] the effect of frustrating or preventing, without reasonable justification, the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions as a legislature and as the body responsible for the supervision of the executive” (para. 50 of the ruling).

A snap election is similarly illegal because Canada’s election law has measures that fix the next election date for October 2023, four years after the last election, unless the government loses a confidence vote in Parliament.

As well, a snap election would violate the constitutional convention rule that has been created by the fixed election date law, and the Prime Minister and Parliament following the law for the past three elections. In 2011, the Conservative government led by PM Harper only called an election after losing a vote of confidence in Parliament. In 2015, PM Harper called an election on the fixed date, as did PM Trudeau in 2019.

A snap election will also be dishonest because anything Trudeau says about needing to call an election now will be false. A majority of MPs have voted in favour of everything the Trudeau Liberals have proposed since the last election, including the Liberal budget, so the opposition parties have shown they support the Liberals continuing to govern.

In addition, Prime Minister Trudeau and almost all MPs in the House of Commons, including all Liberals, voted in May against holding an election while COVID is still a danger, which it is. A recent poll showed only 26% of Canadians want an election this fall, and, just a few weeks ago, the PM also denied that he was going to call an election.

A snap election will be dangerous for many voters. A fourth wave of COVID-19 is expected across Canada this fall, more contagious than ever, as many people are still not fully vaccinated. Voters who are vulnerable to COVID-19 will, completely justifiably, feel hesitant about going to a polling station to vote.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s government called a snap election last winter – then a COVID outbreak happened, the election date was postponed twice, and voter turnout plunged to a record low as many voters were prevented from voting by the sudden new requirement to register for, receive, fill in and mail back their ballot on short deadlines.

Elections Canada has never run an election with mail-in ballots being the way a lot of voters vote, nor have any of the federal parties.

Whenever a snap election is called, it is unfair because voters have no time to plan and arrange their lives so they can run as a candidate, volunteer or participate in the election in other ways. That’s why Parliament decided to fix the federal election date in Canada’s election law. It makes the election more fair for everyone.

Because they are illegal, dishonest and unfair, Democracy Watch went to court to challenge the snap election calls last fall by the B.C. NDP Premier and the New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Premier, which both violated their provincial fixed election date laws.

PM Trudeau controlled the selection of Governor General Mary Simon (even more than PM Harper did in the past) by setting up a façade of an Advisory Panel that he appointed, co-chaired by his friend and Cabinet appointee Dominic LeBlanc.

Instead, to democratize the selection of the GG, and every other key federal position that upholds democratic good government rules, Trudeau should have used a fully independent committee to conduct a public, merit-based search for a shortlist of qualified candidates. A survey of 1,601 Canadians in February 2021 found that 91% of people surveyed, of all types and from all political parties, support having a committee of MPs choose the Governor General instead of the PM alone. More than 80% of Canadians also want public, written rules for a minority government like England, Australia and New Zealand have.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Change.org petition calling on the GG to say no to snap election
Democracy Watch’s Democratic Voting System Campaign, Stop PM/Premier Abuses Campaign and Democratic Head Campaign

Thousands sign petition calling on Governor General to say no to illegal, dishonest, unfair and dangerous snap election call by PM

UK Supreme Court set strong precedent ruling in 2019 that PM Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament was illegal – snap election call illegal for similar reasons

GG was handpicked by Trudeau through secretive, partisan process – but will hopefully do her job properly and stop the PM’s abuse of power

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, August 9, 2021

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch formally launched its petition on Change.org calling on new Governor General Mary Simon to say no to any snap election call by Prime Minister Trudeau before the next fixed election date. A snap election call would be illegal, dishonest, and unfair and dangerous for many voters. More than 2,500 voters have already signed the petition since it was posted two days ago.

“The Governor General should reject any snap election call by Prime Minister Trudeau because it is illegal, dishonest and goes against the will of Parliament, in the same way the British Supreme Court rejected the British PM’s shutting down of Parliament as an illegal abuse of power,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Ph.D. student at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law.

“Hopefully, despite the fact that she was handpicked by Trudeau through a process that he controlled, Governor General Simon will do her job properly and reject the PM’s illegal, dishonest, unfair and dangerous snap election call,” said Conacher.

The British Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that PM Boris Johnson’s decision to advise the Queen to shut down Parliament was unlawful as it “ha[d] the effect of frustrating or preventing, without reasonable justification, the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions as a legislature and as the body responsible for the supervision of the executive” (para. 50 of the ruling).

A snap election is similarly illegal because Canada’s election law has measures that fix the next election date for October 2023, four years after the last election, unless the government loses a confidence vote in Parliament.

As well, a snap election would violate the constitutional convention rule that has been created by the fixed election date law, and the Prime Minister and Parliament following the law for the past three elections. In 2011, the Conservative government led by PM Harper only called an election after losing a vote of confidence in Parliament. In 2015, PM Harper called an election on the fixed date, as did PM Trudeau in 2019.

A snap election will also be dishonest because anything Trudeau says about needing to call an election now will be false. A majority of MPs have voted in favour of everything the Trudeau Liberals have proposed since the last election, including the Liberal budget, so the opposition parties have shown they support the Liberals continuing to govern.

In addition, Prime Minister Trudeau and almost all MPs in the House of Commons, including all Liberals, voted in May against holding an election while COVID is still a danger, which it is. A recent poll showed only 26% of Canadians want an election this fall, and, just a few weeks ago, the PM also denied that he was going to call an election.

A snap election will be dangerous for many voters. A fourth wave of COVID-19 is expected across Canada this fall, more contagious than ever, as many people are still not fully vaccinated. Voters who are vulnerable to COVID-19 will, completely justifiably, feel hesitant about going to a polling station to vote.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s government called a snap election last winter – then a COVID outbreak happened, the election date was postponed twice, and voter turnout plunged to a record low as many voters were prevented from voting by the sudden new requirement to register for, receive, fill in and mail back their ballot on short deadlines.

Elections Canada has never run an election with mail-in ballots being the way a lot of voters vote, nor have any of the federal parties.

Whenever a snap election is called, it is unfair because voters have no time to plan and arrange their lives so they can run as a candidate, volunteer or participate in the election in other ways. That’s why Parliament decided to fix the federal election date in Canada’s election law. It makes the election more fair for everyone.

Because they are illegal, dishonest and unfair, Democracy Watch went to court to challenge the snap election calls last fall by the B.C. NDP Premier and the New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Premier, which both violated their provincial fixed election date laws.

PM Trudeau controlled the selection of Governor General Mary Simon (even more than PM Harper did in the past) by setting up a façade of an Advisory Panel that he appointed, co-chaired by his friend and Cabinet appointee Dominic LeBlanc.

Instead, to democratize the selection of the GG, and every other key federal position that upholds democratic good government rules, Trudeau should have used a fully independent committee to conduct a public, merit-based search for a shortlist of qualified candidates. A survey of 1,601 Canadians in February 2021 found that 91% of people surveyed, of all types and from all political parties, support having a committee of MPs choose the Governor General instead of the PM alone. More than 80% of Canadians also want public, written rules for a minority government like England, Australia and New Zealand have.

– 30 –

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Change.org petition calling on the GG to say no to snap election
Democracy Watch’s Democratic Voting System Campaign, Stop PM/Premier Abuses Campaign and Democratic Head Campaign

Trudeau Liberal government continues to ignore key open government problems as it develops new national action plan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, July 29, 2021

OTTAWA – Today, as the Trudeau Liberal government consults on its new National Action Plan for the international Open Government Partnership process, the nation-wide Open Government Coalition, Government Ethics Coalition and Money in Politics Coalition, made up of more than 70 citizen groups in total with more than three million members (all coordinated by Democracy Watch) called on the government to make commitments to strengthen open government in areas the Liberals have failed to act on since 2015.

Two years ago, during the Open Government Partnership Summit held in Ottawa, Democracy Watch gave an overall F grade in its report card on the Trudeau Liberal open government record. The Liberals haven’t improved since, as they continue to ignore many key loopholes in federal Canadian laws that allow for secret, unethical lobbying, secret donations, secret expenses, excessive secrecy overall, conflicts of interest and sole-source contracts. As well, enforcement of key democracy and good government laws is too weak, as is whistleblower protection and public consultation, and many key changes are clearly needed to ensure everyone in federal politics is effectively required to act honestly, openly, ethically, representatively and to prevent waste.

The Trudeau Cabinet has ignored its own MPs calling for key open government changes. The Cabinet’s Bill C-58 changing the federal Access to Information Act ignored many of the recommendations made in the unanimous June 2016 report of the House of Commons Access, Privacy and Ethics Committee, and was actually a step backwards in some ways. And the Cabinet also ignored all of the recommendations made in the unanimous June 2017 House Committee report for key changes to strengthen the federal whistleblower protection system, an area in which Canada ranks below dozens of other countries.

Democracy Watch and its coalitions have been pushing for years for key transparency and integrity changes to the federal Lobbying Act, Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, and Conflict of Interest Act and related MP and Senate ethics rules. As well, opposition MPs and the Information Commissioner and the Open Government Coalition have been pushing to strengthen the Access to Information Act for years, including through a global coalition open letter in 2017.

“The Trudeau Liberals broke many of their promises to close loopholes in Canada’s open government law, and transparency rules for government spending, and they have done nothing to strengthen protections for whistleblowers who report government wrongdoing nor to close loopholes that allow secret lobbying and secret political donations,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The Trudeau Liberals’ plans, like the Harper Conservatives’ past plans, continue to focus more on making currently available information available online through open data systems than on real open government changes.”

“Secret, unethical lobbying, secret donations, secret expenses, excessive secrecy overall, and conflicts of interest and sole-source contracts are all currently legal, enforcement of key democracy and good government laws is too weak, as is whistleblower protection and public consultation, and many key changes are clearly needed to ensure everyone in federal politics is effectively required to act honestly, openly, ethically, representatively and to prevent waste,” said Conacher.

In all these ways, the Liberals’ proposed open government plan for the next five years violates the Open Government Partnership (OGP) requirements set out in the Open Government Declaration that all countries are required to sign. To fulfill the Declaration requirements, the Liberals’ Plan must commit to strengthening open government in every way. Their Action Plan should include measures to strengthen not only transparency laws and financial administration laws, but also federal ethics, lobbying, anti-corruption, political finance, whistleblower protection and public consultation laws, and enforcement of all these laws, in government and in the private sector.

As a result, the OGP Steering Committee should pressure the Liberals to ensure Canada’s Action Plan includes commitments to increase transparency in all these key areas of unethical, undemocratic government secrecy.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Open Government Campaign, Protect Whistleblowers Campaign, Government Ethics Campaign and Money in Politics Campaign

Democracy Watch in court today vs. Integrity Commissioner rulings allowing Ford/PC Party-connected lobbyists to lobby Ford Cabinet secretly and unethically

9 Court cases challenge Commissioner’s first three public rulings on lobbying ethics rule since July 2016, and failure to penalize six lobbyists who violated law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, July 20, 2021

OTTAWA – Today, the Ontario Divisional Court is holding the first hearings on nine court cases Democracy Watch filed last December challenging nine rulings by Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake. Commissioner Wake is trying to stop all the cases, claiming his rulings can’t be challenged in court. DWatch is asking the court to allow the cases to proceed, and to order the Commissioner to disclose details about all his rulings that the Commissioner wants to keep secret. Nick Papageorge of Ross McBride LLP is representing Democracy Watch for the cases. See details about the nine cases below.

To register to watch the hearing on Zoom at 10 am Tuesday, email the Divisional Court registry office at: [email protected].

Three of the nine cases challenge the first three public rulings of the Integrity Commissioner’s unknown number of decisions in the past few years that have let dozens of people (and maybe more) violate enforcing section 3.4 of Ontario’s Lobbyists Registration Act (LR Act) by lobbying Doug Ford and his Cabinet ministers soon after they campaigned, fundraised or worked for 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 ministers since the election.

Section 3.4 was added to the LR Act on July 1, 2016, and it 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.

Many of these people 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. Click here to see a fairly complete list of lobbyists who are lobbying unethically, and click here to see Toronto Star articles about even more lobbyists lobbying the Ford Cabinet unethically.

Even one of Ford’s MPPs has expressed concern, as Thornhill MPP Gila Martow issued a statement via Twitter and a docs webpage last December 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)

Commissioner Wake’s rulings are based on a very weak Interpretation Bulletin he finally issued in June 2020 that claims when a lobbyist assists a politician with fundraising or campaigning or gives them a gift, the conflict of interest created by the assistance or gift disappears soon afterwards, so the lobbyist can then lobby the politician and their staff.

All other commissioners in Canada have ruled that the conflict of interest created by assisting a politician in any significant way 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 in Ontario’s Lobbying Law.

The other six cases challenge Commissioner Wake’s arbitrary failure to penalize six lobbyists who violated Ontario’s lobbying law in serious ways, mainly by failing to register and disclose their lobbying for a year or more. The Commissioner has failed to penalize 23 of 27 lobbyists (85%) who have violated the law since 2018.

During the 2019-2020 fiscal year, Commissioner Wake only penalized one lobbyist, Lawrence Gold, for violating LR Act by failing to register and disclose his lobbying for a long period of time. The Commissioner only imposed the minimum penalty of naming Mr. Gold publicly. Four of the other six lobbyists who were not penalized by the Commissioner did exactly the same thing as Mr. Gold. The other two lobbyists violated the law by lobbying politicians after campaigning for them or giving them gifts, in violation of section 3.4 of the LR Act.

All nine cases also ask the courts to rule that Commissioner Wake was biased when he issued the six rulings, given he knew that he would need the unanimous approval of Ford’s Cabinet and all MPPs to be re-appointed for a second five-year term, which happened on December 1st (although many MPPs were not present for that snap vote).

“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. “Democracy Watch is challenging the first three very weak decisions that Ontario’s so-called Integrity Commissioner has made public that have allowed lobbyists to corrupt Ontario government policy-making as they cash in on their so-called public service. Hopefully the courts will stop this unethical lobbying of Ford’s Cabinet.”

“Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner has also failed to penalize almost all the lobbyists he has found in violation of the lobbying law since 2018, and so Democracy Watch is taking the commissioner to court to challenge the worst of his many bad rulings,” said Conacher. “Hopefully the courts will issue rulings that require the Commissioner to start enforcing the lobbying rules strictly by penalizing all lobbyists who violate the law.”

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 lobby unethically.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
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



Backgrounder on Democracy Watch’s 9 cases challenging Ontario Integrity Commissioner rulings on lobbyists in 2019-2020

Since April 2018, Commissioner Wake has issued 192 secret Advisory Opinions, closed 135 secret compliance reviews at the initial stage, and resolved 436 cases informally in secret (Click here to see Backgrounder on Integrity Commissioner’s Rulings 2018-2020). At least some of those 763 secret decisions by Commissioner Wake have allowed dozens of other lobbyists to lobby unethically.

The first three cases challenge rulings #6 and 7 on page 52 of the Commissioner’s 2019-2020 Annual Report, and ruling #10 on page 53 of the Report. These are the first public Commissioner rulings enforcing section 3.4 of the LR Act. The cases are Division Court file numbers 632/20, 633/20 and 634/20. Click here to see the Notice of Application challenging ruling #6 (the other two applications are very similar).

The other six cases challenge rulings #s 5, 14, 17 and 23 (the four lobbyists who also failed to register) and rulings #s 13 and 20 (the two lobbyists who violated the lobbying ethics rule) in the Commissioner’s 2019-2020 Annual Report. The six cases are Division Court file numbers 644/20, 645/20, 646/20, 647/20, 648/20 and 669/20.

To register to watch the hearing on Zoom at 10 am Tuesday, July 20, 2021, or to access the court files, email the Divisional Court registry office at: [email protected]

Final choice of Governor General should have been by all federal party leaders or, even better all party leaders across Canada

GG is a key guardian of Canada’s democracy – must be fully independent and impartial, should not have been handpicked by PM through biased process

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, July 6, 2021

OTTAWA – Today, as part of its Democratic Head Campaign which is supported by thousands of Canadians, Democracy Watch criticized Prime Minister Trudeau’s failure to send the shortlist of candidates for next Governor General (GG) to at least federal opposition party leaders or, even better, party leaders in all legislatures across Canada (given the GG appoints lieutenant governors), to ensure a fair choice for GG.

While the choice of Mary Simon may be good (although she is not fluent in French), like all the other Officers of Parliament, the Governor General (GG) must be independent of the PM because s/he makes many key decisions about the operations of Parliament and the government, and so the PM should not be choosing the GG alone because it taints the position with partisanship.

PM Trudeau rigged the selection of the Governor General (even more than Prime Minister Harper did) by setting up a façade of an Advisory Panel, co-chaired by his friend and Cabinet appointee Dominic LeBlanc, with every other member of the Panel also appointed by Trudeau. The Panel vetted a short list of candidates, and LeBlanc very likely ensuring that the candidate that Trudeau favoured was on the short list.

Instead, to democratize the selection of the GG, and every other federal good government watchdog, Trudeau should have used a fully independent committee (with members approved by all federal party leaders) to conduct a public, merit-based search for a shortlist of qualified candidates. Then, all federal party leaders should have reviewed the short list and approve the choice of GG.

Even better, given that the GG appoints the Lieutenant Governor of each province, Prime Minister Trudeau should have sent the shortlist of nominees to the party leaders of each legislature and have them rank the nominees. The GG would be the person who receives the most votes from this ranked ballot vote.

Prime Minister Trudeau also failed to take a step to Canadianize the selection of the Governor General by not requesting that Queen Elizabeth approve of the person chosen through the process. The Queen does have to approve the person formally, but if the PM had not requested the approval, and the Queen agreed to his nominee, then a new constitutional convention would have been established that Canada chooses its own Head of State. This would be a significant step toward full independence by Canada.

Both of these changes to the Governor General’s appointment process could have been made by the PM alone – no changes to any law, or Canada’s Constitution, were needed.

“Given how important it is for the Governor General to be independent of the Prime Minister and impartial, especially in a minority government situation, Prime Minister Trudeau should have involved opposition parties in choosing the Governor General,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Ph.D. student at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, It would be even better to involve party leaders from across Canada given that the GG appoints the provincial lieutenant governors.

“Prime Minister Trudeau should have also told the Queen who Canada has chosen as Governor General, and not asked her approval, and if she had accepted that as the new protocol it would be clear that Canada chooses its own head of state,” said Conacher.

As well, Democracy Watch called on federal party leaders in the House of Commons to agree on public, written rules for a minority government, as more than 80% of Canadians want. In England, Australia and New Zealand, political party leaders and MPs agreed years ago to clear, public rules so what happens to call an election, and after and in-between elections, is fair for all the parties, and for voters. Most countries in the world also have clear, public rules.

“Nobody knows for sure what an unwritten rule says, and that’s why Britain, Australia, New Zealand and most other countries have written down their key constitutional rules,” said Conacher. “It’s clearly in the public interest that Canada’s rules be written down to stop abuses of power by the PM and Cabinet, including calling a snap election, that violate the rights of Parliament and the democratic will of the majority of voters.”

– 30 –

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Democratic Head Campaign and Stop PM/Premier Abuses Campaign

Democracy Watch in court today vs. Ethics Commissioner’s ruling that let everyone off except PM Trudeau for pressuring Attorney General to stop SNC-Lavalin prosecution

Case also raises Ethics Commissioner Dion’s bias in ruling – Trudeau Cabinet chose him after secretive, biased process

RCMP and prosecutors must explain publicly what they have decided re: prosecuting PM Trudeau and others for obstruction of justice

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, June 23, 2021

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch’s application is being heard virtually in the Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) challenging federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s ruling that let everyone off the hook, except Prime Minister Trudeau, for pressuring former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to stop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC). Daniel Tucker-Simmons of Avant Law is representing Democracy Watch in the case, Federal Court of Appeal File #A-331-19.

DWatch is challenging this part of the ruling in court because in paragraphs 262-281 (pages 41-44) the Ethics Commissioner summarizes the actions of Finance Minister Bill Morneau, some of his staff, PCO Clerk Michael Wernick, and PMO staff that put pressure on the Attorney General. However, in paragraphs 282-286 (page 44), the Ethics Commissioner then excuses the actions of everyone except Prime Minister Trudeau on the very questionable basis that the other officials “could not have influenced the Attorney General” and were acting “under the direction or authority of the Prime Minister…”

As the Ethics Commissioner ruled, by attempting to influence the Attorney General, Trudeau violated section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act. Morneau, Wernick and the others also attempted to influence the AG. It is irrelevant whether they had the same power over the AG as the PM has.

“The Ethics Commissioner made the right ruling by finding Prime Minister Trudeau guilty of violating the ethics law for pressuring the Attorney General to drop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, but he should have also found other PMO and government officials guilty because they also pressured the Attorney General,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The Ethics Commissioner’s ruling set a dangerous precedent because it says Cabinet ministers and staff can violate the ethics law as long as they are just following orders from the PM, or don’t have direct power over the government official they are trying to influence, and that’s why Democracy Watch is challenging the ruling.”

Democracy Watch is also arguing that Ethics Commissioner Dion should have delegated the investigation and ruling on the situation to a provincial ethics commissioner who had no ties to any federal party, given that he was chosen by the Trudeau Cabinet after a secretive, Cabinet-controlled process. The Federal Court of Appeal ruled the Trudeau Cabinet was biased when it appointed Ethics Commissioner Dion. Dion also had a record 8 unethical and questionable actions when he was federal Integrity Commissioner.

“Ethics Commissioner Dion should not be ruling on any situations involving Liberals as he was hand-picked by the Trudeau Cabinet through a biased, secretive process, and has an unethical past enforcement record, and so he should delegate investigations to a provincial ethics commissioner,” said Conacher.

Given the evidence in the Ethics Commissioner’s ruling, Democracy Watch continues to call, including in an open letter in February 2021, on the RCMP and Crown prosecutors to issue a full, public explanation if they decide not to prosecute Prime Minister Trudeau and other government officials for obstruction of justice for trying to stop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

“Given the evidence, the public has a right to know the reasons if the RCMP and prosecutors decide not to prosecute Prime Minister Trudeau and others for obstruction of justice for trying to stop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin,” said Conacher.

– 30 –

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign

35,000 voters call on Doug Ford not to use notwithstanding clause to overrule courts and arbitrarily extend third-party ad spending limits

Limits are needed for democratic, fair elections, but the democratic, reasonable way to determine democratic, reasonable limits is through an independent study

Bill 254 also doubled donation limit allowing wealthy donors to buy even more influence, likely helping Ford’s PC Party most – limit should be lowered to $100

Per-vote and all public funding should also be reviewed by independent commission to prove it is needed, and is democratic and fair

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, June 14, 2021

OTTAWA – Today, 35,000 voters joined with Democracy Watch in calling on Premier Doug Ford not to use the notwithstanding clause in Bill 307 to impose Ford’s arbitrary limits on third-party interest group ad spending that an Ontario Court ruling struck down as unconstitutional last Tuesday. Democracy Watch called on Premier Ford to back off and work with other parties to quickly establish an independent commission to determine reasonable, democratic spending limits by September, which could be enacted by year end.

The Ford government, without offering any real reason, imposed Bill 254 this spring, which increased from 6 to 12 months the pre-election period during which total ad spending by each third-party interest group or individual is limited to about $600,000.

It’s undemocratic and dictatorial, and likely illegal, for Doug Ford to invoke the notwithstanding clause to impose his arbitrary and unconstitutional spending restrictions on advertising by interest groups for the year before the election,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Chairperson of the Money in Politics Coalition. “Restricting massive ad campaigns by wealthy interest groups is a good, democratic idea, as the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled, but the reasonable, democratic way to set reasonable, democratic spending limits is through an independent, multi-partisan commission that will study the actual costs of reaching voters and other key factors.”

In its submission to the Ontario legislature committee reviewing the Ford government’s Bill 254, Democracy Watch called for changes to reverse the many undemocratic, unethical and unconstitutional political finance measures in Bill 254.

“All the measures in the Ford government’s Bill 254 that violate the fundamental democratic principle of one person, one vote must also be changed because they are unfair and tilt the rules in favour of Ford’s PC Party,” said Conacher.

The Ford government’s Bill 254 also doubled the annual donation limit, which will allow wealthy donors to buy even more unethical influence over parties and politicians, and will likely benefit Ford’s PC Party the most. Democracy Watch’s analysis of 2020 party donations shows the PCs received almost 50% of their donations of more than $100 from only 20% of their donors who donated $1,000 or more. The other main parties’ top donors also provided disproportionate amount of funding.

Democracy Watch’s analysis also shows that the median donation to provincial parties of donations of more than $100, which is the most accurate indication of the amount an average voter can afford, is: PCs ($200), Liberals ($50); NDP ($25); Greens ($30).

“Doubling the donation limit as the Ford government’s Bill 254 did will allow wealthy donors to buy even more unethical influence over parties and politicians, especially given that the full identity and associations of donors are not disclosed, and will likely benefit Ford’s party the most,” said Conacher. “The only way to stop the unethical, undemocratic influence of big money on Ontario politics is to limit donations to $100 or less, which is an amount an average voter can afford.”

Bill 254 also extended and increased the annual per-vote funding for parties. Democracy Watch’s analysis, contained in its Bill 254 submission (pp.10-12), revealed that the provincial per-vote funding system provides on average half to two-thirds of each of the four main parties’ annual funding. Combined with the tax credits that donors receive, it adds up to too high public funding for parties and candidates.

“An independent commission is needed to study the actual costs of running parties and riding associations and, only if parties and candidates can prove they need it, public funding should then be adjusted to reflect those actual costs, and to ensure the funding is fair and based on actual voter support,” said Conacher.

The only good parts in Bill 254 were the measures allowing independent candidates to raise money before election campaigns begins (however, more disclosure must be required of donations and spending of such candidates), and the measures giving the Chief Electoral Officer the power to fine violators of Ontario’s election law.

– 30 –

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Democracy Watch Co-founder, Chair of the Money in Politics Coalition
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Money in Politics Campaign

Doug Ford’s use of notwithstanding clause to overrule courts and extend third-party ad spending limits is dictatorial, and likely illegal

Limits are needed for democratic, fair elections, but the democratic, reasonable way to determine democratic, reasonable limits is through an independent study

Bill 254 also doubled donation limit allowing wealthy donors to buy even more influence, likely helping Ford’s PC Party most – limit should be lowered to $100

Per-vote and all public funding should also be reviewed by independent commission to prove it is needed, and is democratic and fair

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, June 10, 2021

OTTAWA – Today, in response to the Doug Ford government’s move to use the notwithstanding clause to make impose Ford’s arbitrary limits on third-party interest group ad spending that an Ontario Court ruling struck down as unconstitutional on Tuesday, Democracy Watch called on Premier Ford to back off and work with other parties to quickly establish an independent commission to determine reasonable, democratic spending limits by September, which could be enacted by year end.

The Ford government, without offering any real reason, imposed Bill 254 this spring, which increased from 6 to 12 months the pre-election period during which total ad spending by each third-party interest group or individual is limited to about $600,000.

It’s undemocratic and dictatorial, and likely illegal, for Doug Ford to invoke the notwithstanding clause to impose his arbitrary and unconstitutional spending restrictions on advertising by interest groups for the year before the election,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Chairperson of the Money in Politics Coalition. “Restricting massive ad campaigns by wealthy interest groups and individuals in the months leading up to an election is a good, democratic idea, as the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled, as is prohibiting huge ad campaigns by wealthy individuals and lobby groups all the time, but the reasonable, democratic way to set reasonable, democratic spending limits is through an independent, multi-partisan commission that will study the actual costs of reaching voters and other key factors.”

In its submission to the Ontario legislature committee reviewing the Ford government’s Bill 254, Democracy Watch called for changes to reverse the many undemocratic, unethical and unconstitutional political finance measures in Bill 254.

“All the measures in the Ford government’s Bill 254 that violate the fundamental democratic principle of one person, one vote must also be changed because they are unfair and tilt the rules in favour of Ford’s PC Party,” said Conacher.

The Ford government’s Bill 254 also doubled the annual donation limit, which will allow wealthy donors to buy even more unethical influence over parties and politicians, and will likely benefit Ford’s PC Party the most. Democracy Watch’s analysis of 2020 party donations shows the PCs received almost 50% of their donations of more than $100 from only 20% of their donors who donated $1,000 or more. The other main parties’ top donors also provided disproportionate amount of funding.

Democracy Watch’s analysis also shows that the median donation to provincial parties of donations of more than $100, which is the most accurate indication of the amount an average voter can afford, is: PCs ($200), Liberals ($50); NDP ($25); Greens ($30).

“Doubling the donation limit as the Ford government’s Bill 254 did will allow wealthy donors to buy even more unethical influence over parties and politicians, especially given that the full identity and associations of donors are not disclosed, and will likely benefit Ford’s party the most,” said Conacher. “The only way to stop the unethical, undemocratic influence of big money on Ontario politics is to limit donations to $100 or less, which is an amount an average voter can afford.”

Bill 254 also extended and increased the annual per-vote funding for parties. Democracy Watch’s analysis, contained in its submission, revealed that the provincial per-vote funding system provides on average half to two-thirds of each of the four main parties’ annual funding. Combined with the tax credits that donors receive, it adds up to too high public funding for parties and candidates.

“An independent commission is needed to study the actual costs of running parties and riding associations and, only if parties and candidates can prove they need it, public funding should then be adjusted to reflect those actual costs, and to ensure the funding is fair and based on actual voter support,” said Conacher.

The only good parts in Bill 254 were the measures allowing independent candidates to raise money before election campaigns begins (however, more disclosure must be required of donations and spending of such candidates), and the measures giving the Chief Electoral Officer the power to fine violators of Ontario’s election law.

– 30 –

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Democracy Watch Co-founder, Chair of the Money in Politics Coalition
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Money in Politics Campaign