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Supreme Court refuses DWatch appeal of Federal Court of Appeal ruling Trudeau Cabinet was allowed to be biased when appointing Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner

Court of Appeal excused Cabinet’s bias based on 2001 Supreme Court ruling, and also ruled consultation with opposition was “reasonable”

Hopefully federal parties will soon make changes to ensure, as 5 provinces have, Cabinet is prohibited from choosing its own watchdogs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, July 30, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch announced that the Supreme Court of Canada has refused to allow DWatch to appeal the Federal Court of Appeal’s ruling on its combined cases challenging the Trudeau Cabinet’s appointment in December 2017 of their own watchdogs – the Ethics Commissioner and Commissioner of Lobbying (SCC File #39096), although the SCC did not impose costs on Democracy Watch. David Yazbeck of Raven, Cameron, Ballantyne & Yazbeck LLP represented Democracy Watch in the case.

The FCA ruled that the Trudeau Cabinet was biased when it appointed both commissioners (para. 5 of ruling). When the appointments happened, the Ethics Commissioner was investigating Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, and the Lobbying Commissioner was investigating two situations involving Trudeau (Barry Sherman/Apotex Inc.’s fundraiser and Mickey MacDonald/Clearwater Seafoods fundraiser), and also situations involving Minister Morneau, and Minister Chrystia Freeland.

“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 was just as clearly a conflict of interest for the Trudeau Cabinet to choose the ethics and lobbying commissioners who will judge whether the PM, his Cabinet ministers or their lobbyist friends violate the ethics law or lobbying law,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

However, the FCA excused the Cabinet’s bias based on a 2001 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that Cabinet is allowed to be biased when appointing people like the commissioners if the commissioners implement government policy and don’t uphold constitutional principles. Before and since that 2001 Supreme Court ruling, Canadian courts have ruled that protection of the independence of judges, including in how they are appointed, also applies to human rights commissions, the RCMP Commissioner, and other key law enforcement positions that uphold constitutional rights and principles.

Democracy Watch applied to the Supreme Court of Canada at the end of March for permission to appeal the FCA’s ruling, arguing that the Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner uphold the constitutional principles of democracy and rule of law just like judges do, and so must be fully independent from Cabinet in every way, including in how they are appointed. Democracy Watch made the same arguments before the FCA. The SCC refusing to hear the case means, unfortunately, it is fine with Cabinet ministers choosing their own watchdogs.

“Given it is essential that the ethics and lobbying watchdogs are not chosen by the Cabinet ministers they watch over, Democracy Watch is very disappointed that the Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear its appeal,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Hopefully, as Alberta, B.C., New Brunswick, Manitoba and Ontario have all done, federal parties will soon make changes to ensure that Cabinet ministers do not control the appointment process for key good government and democracy watchdogs.” P.E.I. also has a more independent process for choosing its government ethics watchdog (but not its lobbying watchdog), and B.C.’s all-party committee process is used for choosing all of its government watchdogs.

Democracy Watch also applied to the SCC on the basis that the Cabinet failed to consult with opposition party leaders as required by the Parliament of Canada Act before making the Ethics Commissioner appointment, and also failed to consult as required by the Lobbying Act before making the Lobbying Commissioner appointment. The FCA ruled the Cabinet’s consultation was reasonable (para. 3 of the ruling).

Democracy Watch’s disagrees given the Cabinet hid from opposition parties that it had qualified candidates for both commissioner positions, and used secretive, partisan appointment processes that gave opposition party leaders only a few days to respond to Cabinet’ nominations of one person for each commissioner.

– 30 –

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 Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign and Government Ethics Campaign


 

Supreme Court to rule on Thursday if DWatch can appeal Federal Court of Appeal ruling that it was fine for Trudeau Cabinet to be biased when appointing Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner

Court of Appeal excused Cabinet’s bias based on 2001 Supreme Court ruling, and also ruled consultation with opposition was “reasonable”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, July 28, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch announced that the Supreme Court of Canada will rule on Thursday whether DWatch can appeal the Federal Court of Appeal’s ruling on its combined cases challenging the Trudeau Cabinet’s appointment in December 2017 of their own watchdogs – the Ethics Commissioner and Commissioner of Lobbying (SCC File #39096). David Yazbeck of Raven, Cameron, Ballantyne & Yazbeck LLP is representing Democracy Watch in the case.

The FCA ruled that the Trudeau Cabinet was biased when it appointed both commissioners (para. 5 of ruling). When the appointments happened, the Ethics Commissioner was investigating Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, and the Lobbying Commissioner was investigating two situations involving Trudeau (Barry Sherman/Apotex Inc.’s fundraiser and Mickey MacDonald/Clearwater Seafoods fundraiser), and also situations involving Minister Morneau, and Minister Chrystia Freeland.

However, the FCA excused the Cabinet’s bias based on a 2001 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that Cabinet is allowed to be biased when appointing people like the commissioners if the commissioners implement government policy and don’t uphold constitutional principles. Before and since that 2001 Supreme Court ruling, Canadian courts have ruled that protection of the independence of judges, including in how they are appointed, also applies to human rights commissions, the RCMP Commissioner, and other key law enforcement positions that uphold constitutional rights and principles.

Democracy Watch argued before the FCA that the commissioners uphold the constitutional principles of democracy and rule of law just like judges do, as they both issue judge-like rulings on violations of ethics rules that are aimed at ensuring a high standard of government integrity. Cabinet ministers must not be allowed choose their own watchdogs who enforce laws that apply to the ministers, as that violates the fundamental principle that law enforcement officers can’t be controlled or influenced by politicians.

Democracy Watch applied to the Supreme Court of Canada at the end of March for permission to appeal the FCA’s ruling, arguing that the Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner enforce key constitution-related laws and so must be fully independent from Cabinet in every way, including in how they are appointed.

Democracy Watch also applied to the SCC on the basis that the Cabinet failed to consult with opposition party leaders as required by the Parliament of Canada Act before making the Ethics Commissioner appointment, and also failed to consult as required by the Lobbying Act before making the Lobbying Commissioner appointment. The FCA ruled the Cabinet’s consultation was reasonable (para. 3 of the ruling).

Democracy Watch’s disagrees given the Cabinet hid from opposition parties that it had qualified candidates for both commissioner positions, and used secretive, partisan appointment processes that gave opposition party leaders only a few days to respond to Cabinet’ nominations of one person for each commissioner.

“Opposition parties complained that the Trudeau Cabinet failed to consult with them as required by law before appointing the ethics and lobbying commissioners, and at the time the commissioners were investigating Trudeau and other ministers so the Cabinet was in a clear conflict of interest when making the appointment of these key democracy watchdogs,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Given it is essential that the ethics and lobbying watchdogs are independent and impartial from Cabinet ministers, Democracy Watch hopes the Supreme Court of Canada will hear its appeal and overturn the appointments and require an independent process for all future watchdog appointments that includes meaningful consultation with opposition parties.”

“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 ethics and lobbying commissioners who will judge whether the PM, his Cabinet ministers or their lobbyist friends violate the ethics law or lobbying law,” said Conacher.

– 30 –

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 Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign and Government Ethics Campaign

Democracy Watch calls for ethics inquiry into Finance Minister’s participation in WE Charity contracting process, and also for an RCMP investigation

Based on NDP and Conservative requests filed so far, neither Ethics Commissioner nor RCMP are investigating clear evidence that Minister Morneau others acting on his behalf participated in and/or tried to influence the decision to give a sole-source contract to WE Charity worth up to $43.5 million

Democracy Watch also calls on Ethics Commissioner to ensure investigation and ruling that Morneau violated ethics law by announcing $3 million in funding to WE Charity in August 2019

Ethics Commissioner should not investigate or rule himself as he was handpicked by Trudeau Cabinet through secretive, dishonest, biased process

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, July 27, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the 15-page letter it has sent to federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion and the 9-page letter it has sent to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, calling for investigations and rulings on the confirmed actions of Finance Minister Bill Morneau and others acting on his behalf participating in and trying to influence the decision the government claims public servants made on their own to recommend that a sole-source contract of up to $43,5 million be awarded to WE Charity to administer the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG) program.

DWatch’s letter to the Ethics Commissioner also calls on him to rule that, by announcing $3 million in funding to WE Charity in August 2019, Minister Morneau violated the federal ethics law.

Two weeks ago, Democracy Watch called for similar investigations by the Ethics Commissioner and RCMP of the actions of Prime Minister Trudeau and his PMO staff and officials in participating in the decision to hand WE Charity the contract.

As Democracy Watch’s letter details, Minister Morneau’s family has had extensive ties to WE Charity since at least the summer of 2017 which created a conflict of interest for him, including his one daughter working with the organization in the past, his other daughter currently working for the organization, and he and his wife donating a total of $100,000 to the organization since 2018.

Therefore, as the evidence revealed last week makes clear, especially in the July 22nd testimony at the House Finance Committee by Minister Morneau and Department of Finance Assistant Deputy Minister Michelle Kovacevic, by participating in and attempting to influence the contracting process with WE Charity from April 5 to June 3, 2020, including through actions by his staff and officials acting on his behalf, and by announcing $3 million in funding for WE Charity in August 2019, Minister Morneau violated subsection 6(1) and section 9 of the federal Conflict of Interest Act (and section 21 by failing to recuse himself, and possibly also sections 7 (by giving WE preferential treatment) and 8 (if secret inside information was used).

Democracy Watch is calling on the Ethics Commissioner to ensure this inquiry is undertaken because the letters from Conservative MPs Barrett, Poilievre and Cooper (July 23rd) and NDP MP Charlie Angus (also July 23rd) to Ethics Commissioner Dion only request that Mr. Dion investigate whether Minister Morneau violated the Act when he and his family accepted more than $41,000 in travel expenses from WE Charity in 2017.

The MPs’ requests do not ask the Ethics Commissioner to investigate and rule on whether Minister Morneau or anyone acting on his behalf violated the Act by participating in and/or tried to influence the decision to recommend a sole-source contract be given to WE Charity, nor whether Minister Morneau violated the Act by announcing the August 2019 funding for WE Charity.

Letter to RCMP re: breach of trust investigation

DWatch also released the 9-page letter it mailed to the RCMP on Monday calling for an investigation into whether Minister Morneau or anyone acting on his behalf, by participating in and attempting to influence the decision to recommend a sole-source contract be awarded to WE Charity, violated the section 122 breach of trust section of the Criminal Code.

Under the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in R. v. Boulanger (para. 58), there is a five-part test for breach of trust. The WE Charity contract situation involves evidence for all five parts, as Minister Morneau 1. is a public official; 2. who took part in an official decision; 3. that violates the ethics rules for his office; 4. and violates those rules in a significant way, and; 5. Minister Morneau and his family had accepted more than $41,000 in travel expenses from the WE Charity in 2017, and donated more than $100,000, which he did not disclose to officials during the contracting process. Given Morneau clearly knows the requirements of the Conflict of Interest Act as he was found guilty of not disclosing a private interest in 2017, was investigated in 2018 for violating subsection 6(1) of the Act, and has a conflict screen to prevent him from participating in decisions that affect his family’s company Morneau Shepell Inc., his actions point to a dishonest and corrupt intent in his actions which unethically furthered the financial interests of one of his family’s favourite charities.

“Democracy Watch is calling on the Ethics Commissioner to ensure an independent investigation and ruling on Minister Morneau and anyone acting on his behalf participating in and attempting to influence the decision-making process in spring 2020 in favour of recommending that a sole-source contract be awarded to WE Charity worth up to $43.5 million, and also on his announcement of $3 million in funding for WE Charity in August 2019,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Ethics Commissioner Dion cannot do this investigation as he was handpicked by the Trudeau Cabinet through a secretive, dishonest process that the Federal Court of Appeal ruled was biased, he has a record of 8 unethical and questionable actions when he was Integrity Commissioner and his senior lawyer is a Trudeau Cabinet minister’s sister-in-law. Commissioner Dion must delegate the investigation to someone independent of his office and all political parties, such as a provincial ethics commissioner.”

“The RCMP should also investigate as there is evidence that raises the question of whether the situation involves more than just ethics violations and amounts to a breach of trust,” 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 and Government Ethics Campaign and Stop Fraud Politician Spending Campaign

Democracy Watch files lawsuit against Ontario government’s new illegal, unconstitutional administrative tribunal appointment system

Case asks court to rule the new system violates Ontario law and is unconstitutional as it gives Cabinet ministers much more control of tribunal members, weakening their independence and politicizing law enforcement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, July 16, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the application it has filed in Ontario Superior Court challenging the Ford government’s changes last November to the appointments system for 19 tribunals (plus 13 other tribunals) in Ontario that issue quasi-judicial rulings in more than 150,000 cases each year, including the Human Rights Tribunal, Landlord and Tenant Board (the busiest with almost 80,000 cases annually), Child and Family Services Review Board, Social Benefits Tribunal, Environmental Review Tribunal and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (See the 19 tribunals listed under sections 1.1 and 2 in this regulation and more information about seven of the tribunals here). Jameel Madhany and Lindsay Woods of Lerners LLP are representing Democracy Watch in the case.

As a result of the changes (s. 3.2.2) and how the Ford government has implemented them, tribunal members at 32 tribunals in total (See them listed in Schedule 1 in this regulation) are being appointed by the Ford Cabinet for short, inconsistent terms of two years or less, with re-appointments also controlled by the Cabinet. This means tribunal members have little job security and are essentially serving at the pleasure of the Cabinet, which violates legal requirements of independence and impartiality, and politicizes and weakens the enforcement of many key laws across the province.

The government’s changes have included terminating a large proportion of experienced tribunal members and, as a result, almost half of tribunal member positions are vacant in some tribunals. There has also been an increase in complaints about tribunals filed with the Ontario Ombudsman (who is investigating delays at the Landlord and Tenant Board), in part because people with less expertise but connections to the Ford government have been appointed to the tribunals and related enforcement agencies, including a Toronto police officer appointed to the Human Rights Commission. Another cause of these problems is that experienced people who have served on one tribunal have been rejected when they apply to be a member of another tribunal.

Democracy Watch’s application asks the court to rule that the new tribunal appointments and re-appointments system the Ford government has set up violates the purpose and section 14 of the Adjudicative Tribunals Accountability, Governance and Appointments Act that require independent tribunals and a merit-based and competitive appointment process for new tribunal members, and also violates the constitutional principles of administrative tribunal independence and the rule of law.

Democracy Watch’s application also asks the court to cancel appointments made under the Ford government’s new system because they are illegal and unconstitutional.

“The Ford government’s changes put 32 tribunals that handle more than 150,000 important human rights, citizen, community and environmental protection cases each year much more under the control of Cabinet ministers, which politicizes and weakens the enforcement of several key laws across Ontario,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Hopefully the courts will reject Ford’s changes and rule that they violate Ontario’s tribunal law and are unconstitutional, and that will lead to strengthening the independence and expertise of these many important law enforcement tribunals that protect Ontarians from being abused and harmed in many ways.”

Ontario’s tribunal appointments and re-appointment system wasn’t ideal before the Ford government changed it, as it also lacked full independence from the Cabinet, but overall it was much more merit-based and independent than the new system. The old system was:

  1. a competitive application process controlled by the tribunals (it is now largely controlled by Cabinet);
  2. with an initial fixed term of two years (now the initial term is “up to two years”);
  3. and the recommendations of the Chair of each tribunal for re-appointment of a tribunal member were usually accepted (under Ford they have usually been rejected);
  4. with re-appointment possible for a second fixed term of three years (now “up to three years”), and then a final fixed term of five years (now “up to five years” – for 10 years total(and renewal beyond 10 years was possible, but no longer is).

As a result, the old system gave tribunal members more long-term job security, which increased their independence and expertise, and decreased vacancies. Changing back to this system, along with making appointments and re-appointments decisions even more independent, would strengthen the fairness of law enforcement across Ontario.

– 30 –

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 Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign and Stop Unfair Law Enforcement Campaign

Democracy Watch calls for different ethics inquiry into WE Charity contract, and also for different RCMP investigation

Based on NDP and Conservative requests filed so far, neither Ethics Commissioner nor RCMP are investigating key question of whether Prime Minister Trudeau and/or anyone acting on his behalf (including Katie Telford) tried to influence the recommendation for a sole-source WE contract

Democracy Watch also calls in separate letter for ethics investigation of Finance Minister Morneau actions given his family ties to the WE Charity

Ethics Commissioner should not investigate as he was handpicked by Trudeau Cabinet through secretive, dishonest process

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, July 13, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the 14-page letter it has sent to federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion calling on him to ensure a different independent investigation and ruling on whether Prime Minister Trudeau and/or anyone acting on his behalf tried to influence the decision he claims public servants made on their own to recommend that a sole-source contract be awarded to WE Charity to administer the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG) program.

As Democracy Watch’s letter details, given the Prime Minister’s extensive family ties to WE Charity, if he or anyone acting on his behalf (including any Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) staff, any Cabinet minister or their staff, any Privy Council Office appointee, or any deputy or associate deputy minister, or deputy or associate deputy head) participated in or attempted to influence any public servant’s decision, it would be a violation of subsections 6(1) and section 9 of the federal Conflict of Interest Act (and possibly also section 8 if secret inside information was used in the attempt).

On Sunday, the Globe and Mail published an article with new information about the role of Katie Telford, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, in the contracting process. According to the article: “The Prime Minister’s Office said Ms. Telford did not recuse herself from discussions about the contract…”

Democracy Watch is calling on the Ethics Commissioner to ensure a second inquiry is undertaken because the letters from Conservative MP Michael Barrett (June 28th) and NDP MP Charlie Angus (July 3rd) to Ethics Commissioner Dion did not request that Mr. Dion investigate whether PM Trudeau or anyone acting on his behalf tried to influence the decision to recommend a sole-source contract, a decision the PM claims the public service made on its own.

Commissioner Dion’s July 3rd response letters to MP Barrett and to MP Angus, and his office’s tweet that day say that he is only investigating whether Prime Minister Trudeau violated subsection 6(1) and sections 21 and 7 of the Act. And his response letters and tweet all strongly suggest that Commissioner Dion is only investigating the Prime Minister’s actions of announcing the WE Charity contract on June 25th, and defending the contract afterwards with the false claim that WE is the only organization that could administer the CSSG.

As Democracy Watch’s letter summarizes, DWatch’s position is that evidence revealed since July 3rd shows clearly those actions by Prime Minister Trudeau violated those sections. The PM’s spouse volunteers as an ambassador and champion for WE Charity, including hosting a podcast for it, and his mother and brother have been paid large sums to give speeches for the charity, and the PM has also appeared at several WE events. Given these ties, the PM had clear conflict of interest concerning any decision that furthered the interests of the charity.

As a result, when the PM revealed on July 8th that he didn’t recuse himself from the Cabinet decision to approve the WE Charity contract, he essentially admitted that he had violated subsection 6(1) and section 21 of the Act, which together require recusal when in even an appearance of a conflict of interest.

And by participating in approving a sole-source contract for WE Charity, while making the false claim that WE is the only organization that could administer the CSSG program, Prime Minister Trudeau also provided preferential treatment to WE based on who represents the charity, which violates section 7 of the Act.

Letter to RCMP re: breach of trust investigation

DWatch also released the 10-page letter it mailed to the RCMP last Friday calling for an investigation into whether the PM or anyone acting on his behalf attempted to influence anyone’s decision to recommend a sole-source contract be awarded to WE Charity.

This is different than the request the Conservative Party has reportedly sent to the RCMP that asks for an investigation into whether WE Charity essentially bribed the Prime Minister’s family in order to obtain the contract.

In DWatch’s opinion, if the PM or anyone acting on his behalf attempted to influence that decision, it is worthy of an investigation to determine if they violated the section 122 breach of trust section of the Criminal Code. Under the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in R. v. Boulanger (para. 58), there is a five-part test for breach of trust. The WE Charity contract situation involves evidence for all five parts, as the Prime Minister 1. is a public official; 2. who took part in an official decision; 3. that violates the ethics standards for his office; 4. and violates those rules in a significant way, and; 5. the Prime Minister made dishonest statements to excuse his participation in the decision, all to unethically further the financial interests of one of his wife’s favourite charities.

DWatch will be sending a follow-up letter to the RCMP with the new information revealed on Sunday by the Globe about Katie Telford’s involvement in the contracting process.

Letter re: Finance Minister Bill Morneau taking part in approval of contract

Democracy Watch also released the 6-page letter it has sent to the Ethics Commissioner concerning Finance Minister Bill Morneau participating in the Cabinet decision to approve the WE Charity contract. Given Minister Morneau’s one daughter has worked with the organization, and his other daughter works for the organization, DWatch’s position is that he violated subsection 6(1) and section 21 of the CofI Act by participating in the contract decision.

“Democracy Watch is calling on the Ethics Commissioner to ensure an independent investigation into the big, key question the Commissioner is not yet investigating – did Prime Minister Trudeau or anyone acting on his behalf attempt to influence the decision in favour of recommending that a sole-source contract be awarded to WE Charity?” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Ethics Commissioner Dion cannot do this investigation as he was handpicked by the Trudeau Cabinet through a secretive, dishonest process that is being challenged in court, he has a record of 8 unethical and questionable actions when he was Integrity Commissioner and his senior lawyer is a Trudeau Cabinet minister’s sister-in-law. Commissioner Dion must delegate the investigation to someone independent of his office and all political parties, such as a provincial ethics commissioner.”

“The RCMP should also investigate as there is evidence that raises the question of whether the situation involves more than just ethics violations and amounts to a breach of trust,” said Conacher.

– 30 –

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 Democracy Watch’s and Government Ethics Campaign and Stop Fraud Politician Spending Campaign

90,000+ call for key measures to stop discrimination by Canada’s banks

For more than 40 years, U.S. government has required banks to disclose lending and service records by race, gender, income and neighbourhood

Canadian governments have done nothing to stop bank discrimination, and are also years behind in key measures to stop police discrimination

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, June 16, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch announced that more than 90,000 people from across Canada have joined its letter-writing campaign and/or signed its Change.org petition calling on all federal parties to work together in this minority government situation to enact key measures to stop Canada’s big banks from discriminating against any customer, and to do more to help Canadians and small businesses, and pay their fair share of taxes, now and after the coronavirus crisis.

For more than 40 years, U.S. has required under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) banks to disclose their lending and service record by race, gender, income and neighbourhood, and required them to take corrective action if they are found to be discriminating against any of their customers.

The CRA needs to be strengthened, but since the 1980s it has resulted across the U.S. in trillions of dollars of lending to credit-worthy visible minorities, women entrepreneurs, and has also helped ensure low-income neighbourhoods have access to banking services instead of finding only predatory payday lender outlets in their area.

In contrast, despite broad support across Canada for key changes for more than 20 years (mainly by the Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition (CCRC) organized by Democracy Watch), Canadian governments have done nothing to stop discrimination by our big banks.

Canada’s Big Banks track their lending and service by the characteristics of customers – they could easily be required to disclose this information as part of their annual Public Accountability Statements, just like U.S. banks are required to do annually. In fact, four of Canada’s Big 6 Banks own and operate U.S. banks that are required to comply with the Community Reinvestment Act — Bank of Montreal (BMO) owns BMO Harris Bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) owns CIBC U.S., Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) owns City National Bank, and Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD) owns TD Bank.

As well Canadian governments have done nothing to stop gouging by our big banks. Canada’s Big 6 Banks reported record profits of more than $46 billion in 2019 – the 10th year in a row, and more than double their 2010 profits. The Big 6 Banks reaped record profits every year for the past 10 years in part by firing thousands of people, shifting jobs overseas (or using temporary foreign workers), cutting services, and hiking fees and credit card interest rates even as the Bank of Canada’s prime rate dropped to record low levels.

The Big 6 Banks also paid their CEOs a total of $75 million in 2019 in salary and bonuses (an average of $12.5 million). (See Canada’s Big Banks Backgrounder)

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has boasted that the federal government negotiated with the Big 6 Banks to temporarily cut some credit card interest rates for some customers (but not for small businesses) who request a deferral for a couple of months, and to process small business loans funded by the government (which are not being used very much by many small businesses), in addition to the up-to-6-month mortgage and loan deferrals and fee reductions the banks have already offered (but again, only for some customers, with the delayed amount still required to be paid later, plus interest).

However, Prime Minister Trudeau stated on April 6th that “we need to see even more action like this going forward because this is a time to think about each other, not about the bottom line.”

“The federal government cannot tell if the banks are still gouging or treating customers unfairly in this crisis, and won’t be able to tell post-crisis, because the banks are allowed to keep secret the profit levels in each area of their business, what type of borrowers they approve and reject for loan and credit relief, and how many complaints they are receiving,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “As the U.S. did more than 40 years ago, the federal government must require the banks to disclose this information and more to ensure the banks give everyone who needs it a real break in their loan and credit card payments during the crisis, and serve everyone fairly and well at fair interest rates and fees that give the banks a reasonable profit and not excessive gouging profit levels.”

“The federal Conservatives and Liberals have done nothing since 2010 to stop Canada’s big banks from hiking fees and credit card interest rates to gouge Canadians and more than double their profits to the highest levels of banks world-wide, while reducing service, treating many customers unfairly, and exploiting loopholes to lower the amount they pay in taxes,” said Conacher. In this time of crisis, and with the minority government, all parties must work together to make key changes to make banks help more now, to finally stop their excessive profits, gouging and abuse of consumers, and to make banks pay their fair share in taxes.”

Just like the initial spending actions taken by the federal and provincial governments were not enough to address the coronavirus crisis, the banks must do more. The Big 6 Banks’ decade of record profits and cuts to their prime lending rates show that they can afford to cut interest rates much more on loans like mortgages etc., and also to cut fees much more, and not raise them again to their gouging, excessive profit levels.

See Full List of Key Bank Accountability Changes.

As well, enforcement measures and penalties also need to be strengthened to ensure banks, and other financial institutions, serve everyone fairly and well at fair prices (See Backgrounder on Weak Enforcement).

– 30 –

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 Big Banks Coronavirus Accountability Campaign

85,000+ call on federal parties to Make the Big Banks Help more during the coronavirus crisis, and after

Big Banks’ temporary cuts to some credit cards and fees and mortgage and loan deferrals for only some customers are not enough – key measures needed to ensure fair interest rates, fees and treatment of all customers now, and into the future

Big 6 Banks gouged out record profits of more than $46 billion in 2019 – their 10th year in a row of record profits – so they can afford to help more, as the Prime Minister said recently

Loopholes also must be closed to ensure banks pay fair share of taxes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, May 14, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch announced that now more than 85,000 people from across Canada have joined its letter-writing campaign and/or signed its Change.org petition calling on all federal parties to work together in this minority government situation to make Canada’s big banks do more to help Canadians and small businesses, and pay their fair share of taxes, now and after the coronavirus crisis.

The call comes as Canada’s Big 6 Banks reported record profits of more than $46 billion in 2019 – the 10th year in a row, and more than double their 2010 profits. The Big 6 Banks reaped record profits every year for the past 10 years in part by firing thousands of people, shifting jobs overseas (or using temporary foreign workers), cutting services, and hiking fees and credit card interest rates even as the Bank of Canada’s prime rate dropped to record low levels.

The Big 6 Banks also paid their CEOs a total of $75 million in 2019 in salary and bonuses (an average of $12.5 million). (See Canada’s Big Banks Backgrounder)

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has boasted that the federal government negotiated with the Big 6 Banks to temporarily cut some credit card interest rates for some customers (but not for small businesses) who request a deferral for a couple of months, and to process small business loans funded by the government, in addition to the up-to-6-month mortgage and loan deferrals and fee reductions the banks have already offered (but again, only for some customers, with the delayed amount still required to be paid later, plus interest).

However, Prime Minister Trudeau stated on April 6th that “we need to see even more action like this going forward because this is a time to think about each other, not about the bottom line.”

“The big banks can afford to do much more to help during this crisis, and must be required by law passed by the federal Liberals and all parties to disclose much more information about how they treat customers and borrowers, and about their profits in every part of their business, to ensure they don’t gouge or abuse anyone and are effectively required to serve everyone fairly and well with fair interest rates and fees,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

“The federal government cannot tell if the banks are still gouging or treating customers unfairly in this crisis, and won’t be able to tell post-crisis, because the banks are allowed to keep secret the profit levels in each area of their business, what type of borrowers they approve and reject for loan and credit relief, and how many complaints they are receiving,” said Conacher. “As the U.S. did 30 years ago, the federal government must require the banks to disclose this information and more to ensure the banks give everyone who needs it a real break in their loan and credit card payments during the crisis, and serve everyone fairly and well at fair interest rates and fees that give the banks a reasonable profit and not excessive gouging profit levels.”

“The federal Conservatives and Liberals have done nothing since 2010 to stop Canada’s big banks from hiking fees and credit card interest rates to gouge Canadians and more than double their profits to the highest levels of banks world-wide, while reducing service, treating many customers unfairly, and exploiting loopholes to lower the amount they pay in taxes,” said Conacher. In this time of crisis, and with the minority government, all parties must work together to make key changes to make banks help more now, to finally stop their excessive profits, gouging and abuse of consumers, and to make banks pay their fair share in taxes.”

Just like the initial spending actions taken by the federal and provincial governments were not enough to address the coronavirus crisis, the banks must do more. The Big 6 Banks’ decade of record profits and cuts to their prime lending rates show that they can afford to cut interest rates much more on loans like mortgages etc., and also to cut fees much more, and not raise them again to their gouging, excessive profit levels.

All federal parties need to work together now to require the banks:

  1. To cut all their interest rates and fees in half now, and cut loan payments entirely for anyone who needs it;
  2. To disclose detailed profit reports after fully independent audits and keep rates and fees at reasonably low levels in the future (for example, many U.S. states cap credit card interest rates);
  3. To empower consumers and increase consumer protection by supporting the creation of an independent, consumer-run bank watchdog group (as recommended by MPs and senators in 1998);
  4. To disclose approval rates for credit, loans and account services by neighbourhood and type of borrower, and require corrective actions by any bank that discriminates (as the U.S. has required for 30 years under the Community Reinvestment Act) as part of their annual Public Accountability Statements);
  5. To re-open basic banking branches in neighbourhoods (where they closed them in the 1990s) to help get rid of predatory pay-day loan companies (and banking at Canada Post outlets should also be allowed to help ensure everyone has access to basic banking services at fair rates and fees);
  6. To cut bank executive pay down to a reasonable level (as in some European countries);
  7. To pay their fair share of taxes now, and in the future, by closing all the loopholes they exploit and (as England and Australia have) imposing an excess profits tax, and;
  8. Finally, enforcement measures and penalties also need to be strengthened to ensure banks, and other financial institutions, serve everyone fairly and well at fair prices (See Backgrounder on Weak Enforcement)

See Full List of Key Bank Accountability Changes.

– 30 –

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 Big Banks Coronavirus Accountability Campaign

Democracy Watch calls on B.C. Special Prosecutor to reverse decision not to prosecute anyone in lobbyist donations scandal

Investigation ending like quick-wins probe – years later with very questionable decision not to prosecute anyone

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, May 12, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch called on the B.C. Special Prosecutor David Butcher to reverse his decision announced yesterday not to prosecute anyone involved in the lobbyist donation scheme revealed by the Globe and Mail in March 2017 in which several lobbyists donated money their clients gave them. Mr. Butcher’s decision is based on his exaggerated conclusion that convictions wouldn’t be possible, and the RCMP’s misplaced reasoning in its August 2019 report that the trials may cost more than the illegal donations.

“In situations like this, where a rule in a law has not been drawn clearly in past court rulings, prosecutors should generally prosecute when there is evidence of a violation and let the courts decide whether the accused has crossed the line,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “By failing to prosecute anyone, the special prosecutor has let all the alleged violators off the hook without even identifying them, and blocked the courts from ruling on their very questionable and likely illegal actions.”

David Butcher was appointed Special Prosecutor to assist the RCMP investigation at the end of March 2017. Elections B.C. reported in April 2017 that the B.C. Liberals had returned $174,313 in donations dating back to 2010 ($92,874 of which the Liberals had admitted were “prohibited” donations), and that the NDP had returned $10,500.

“The B.C. Liberals admitted they returned almost $93,000 in illegal donations in April 2017, so it’s unbelievable that special prosecutor Butcher has decided three years later not to prosecute any of those easily identifiable donors for violating B.C.’s political donations law,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Mr. Butcher should drop his weak excuses and reverse his unjustifiable decision and prosecute the people who violated this key democracy law.”

The RCMP’s investigation is ending like another long-delayed investigation overseen by Butcher – the so-called “quick-wins probe” that lasted five years and resulted in only one person pleading guilty even though the RCMP recommended charges against other people.

In this case, according to the first page of Mr. Butcher’s statement released yesterday, the RCMP’s report stated that there was “no substantial likelihood of conviction” in many of the donation situations and, secondly, that “where violations have occurred the RCMP has determined that is not in the public interest to pursue a prosecution, as the cost of doing so would be disproportionate to the value of the donations under investigation.”

Mr. Butcher exaggerates what the RCMP reported to say on the third page of his statement that “I have concluded that there is no prospect of any conviction in this case.”

The RCMP report paragraph quoted on the first page of Mr. Butcher’s statement didn’t say that there was no chance of conviction, it said that violations occurred but conviction wouldn’t be likely, and that the cost of prosecuting outweighs the amount of the donations.

Those are lame excuses that Mr. Butcher should not have exaggerated to try to create cover for his unjustified decision not to prosecute anyone.

Many people are prosecuted in Canada without full, clear evidence, including many who have stolen less than the cost of prosecuting them. They are prosecuted in part to send the message to the public that you can’t break the law and get away with it.

The message Mr. Butcher’s decision not to prosecute sends is that you can break the law in B.C. and get away with it, if you are part of the province’s political and legal elite – which won’t surprise many people in the province.

“Once again, David Butcher is burying, through unjustifiable delay and excuses, the possibility of powerful people in B.C. who have violated a key democracy-protecting law being prosecuted and convicted,” said Conacher.

At the end of his statement, Mr. Butcher says about the 2018 changes to B.C.’s political donations banning corporate and union donations and limiting individual donations to $1,200 annually that: “These amendments should squarely address the concerns expressed by the media and the complainants in this case.” This is entirely wrong. Democracy Watch’s concern was that lobbyists broke the law, and the only thing that will address that concern is having the lobbyists who violated the law prosecuted.

– 30 –

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 Money in Politics Campaign and Stop Unfair Law Enforcement Campaign and Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign

50,000 + call on federal parties to Make the Big Banks Help more during the coronavirus crisis, and after

Big Banks’ temporary cuts to some credit cards and fees and mortgage and loan deferrals for only some customers are not enough – key measures needed to ensure fair interest rates, fees and treatment of all customers now, and into the future

Big 6 Banks gouged out record profits of more than $46 billion in 2019 – their 10th year in a row of record profits – so they can afford to help more, as the Prime Minister said recently

Loopholes also must be closed to ensure banks pay fair share of taxes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, April 21, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch announced that more than 50,000 people have joined its letter-writing campaign and/or signed its Change.org petition calling on all federal parties to work together in this minority government situation to make Canada’s big banks do more to help Canadians and small businesses, and pay their fair share of taxes, now and after the coronavirus crisis.

The call comes as Canada’s Big 6 Banks have once again reported record profits of more than $46 billion in 2019 – the 10th year in a row, and more than double their 2010 profits. The Big 6 Banks have reaped record profits every year for the past 10 years in part by firing thousands of people, shifting jobs overseas (or using temporary foreign workers), cutting services, and hiking fees and credit card interest rates even as the Bank of Canada’s prime rate dropped to record low levels.

The Big 6 Banks also paid their CEOs a total of $75 million in 2019 in salary and bonuses (an average of $12.5 million). (See Canada’s Big Banks Backgrounder)

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has boasted that the federal government negotiated with the Big 6 Banks to temporarily cut some credit card interest rates for some customers (but no small businesses) who request a deferral for a couple of months, and to process small business loans funded by the government, in addition to the mortgage and loan deferrals and fee reductions the banks have already offered (but again, only for some customers, with the delayed amount still required to be paid later, plus interest).

However, Prime Minister Trudeau stated on April 6th that “we need to see even more action like this going forward because this is a time to think about each other, not about the bottom line.”

“The federal government cannot tell if the banks are still gouging or treating customers unfairly in this crisis, and won’t be able to tell post-crisis, because the banks are allowed to keep secret the profit levels in each area of their business, what type of borrowers they approve and reject for loan and credit relief, and how many complaints they are receiving,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “As the U.S. did 30 years ago, the federal government must require the banks to disclose this information and more to ensure the banks give everyone who needs it a real break in their loan and credit card payments during the crisis, and serve everyone fairly and well at fair interest rates and fees that give the banks a reasonable profit and not excessive gouging profit levels.”

“The federal Conservatives and Liberals have done nothing since 2010 to stop Canada’s big banks from hiking fees and credit card interest rates to gouge Canadians and more than double their profits to the highest levels of banks world-wide, while reducing service, treating many customers unfairly, and exploiting loopholes to lower the amount they pay in taxes,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. In this time of crisis, and with the minority government, all parties must work together to make key changes to make banks help more now, to finally stop their excessive profits, gouging and abuse of consumers, and to make banks pay their fair share in taxes.”

Just like the initial spending actions taken by the federal and provincial governments were not enough to address the coronavirus crisis, the banks must do more. The Big 6 Banks’ decade of record profits and cuts to their prime lending rates show that they can afford to cut interest rates much more on loans like mortgages etc., and also to cut fees much more, and not raise them again to their gouging, excessive profit levels.

All federal parties need to work together now to require the banks:

  1. To cut all their interest rates and fees in half now, and cut loan payments entirely for anyone who needs it;
  2. To disclose detailed profit reports after fully independent audits and keep rates and fees at reasonably low levels in the future (for example, many U.S. states cap credit card interest rates);
  3. To empower consumers and increase consumer protection by supporting the creation of an independent, consumer-run bank watchdog group (as recommended by MPs and senators in 1998);
  4. To disclose approval rates for credit, loans and account services by neighbourhood and type of borrower, and require corrective actions by any bank that discriminates (as the U.S. has required for 30 year under the Community Reinvestment Act) as part of their annual Public Accountability Statements);
  5. To re-open basic banking branches in neighbourhoods (where they closed them in the 1990s) to help get rid of predatory pay-day loan companies (and banking at Canada Post outlets should also be allowed to help ensure everyone has access to basic banking services at fair rates and fees);
  6. To cut bank executive pay down to a reasonable level;
  7. To pay their fair share of taxes now, and in the future, by closing all the loopholes they exploit (as England and Australia have), and;
  8. Finally, enforcement measures and penalties also need to be strengthened to ensure banks, and other financial institutions, serve everyone fairly and well at fair prices (enforcement is much stronger in the U.S. and England — See Backgrounder on Weak Enforcement in Canada)
(See Full List of Key Bank Accountability Changes).

– 30 –

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 Big Banks Coronavirus Accountability Campaign

Petition calls on federal parties to Make the Big Banks Help more during the coronavirus crisis, and after

Big Banks’ temporary mortgage and loan deferrals, and cuts to some credit cards and fees, for some customers are not enough – key measures needed to ensure fair interest rates, fees and treatment of all customers now, and into the future

Big 6 Banks gouged out record profits of more than $46 billion in 2019 – their 10th year in a row of record profits – so they can afford to help more, as PM said yesterday

Loopholes also must be closed to ensure banks pay fair share of taxes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, April 7, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch launched a letter-writing campaign and Change.org petition calling on all federal parties to work together in this minority government situation to make Canada’s big banks do more to help Canadians and small businesses, and pay their fair share of taxes, now and after the coronavirus crisis.

The call comes as Canada’s Big 6 Banks have once again reported record profits of more than $46 billion in 2019 – the 10th year in a row, and more than double their 2010 profits. The Big 6 Banks have reaped record profits every year for the past 10 years in part by firing thousands of people, shifting jobs overseas (or using temporary foreign workers), cutting services, and hiking fees and credit card interest rates even as the Bank of Canada’s prime rate dropped to record low levels.

The Big 6 Banks also paid their CEOs a total of $75 million in 2019 in salary and bonuses (an average of $12.5 million). (See Canada’s Big Banks Backgrounder)

The campaign launches as Finance Minister Bill Morneau is boasting that the federal government has negotiated with the Big 6 Banks to temporarily cut some credit card interest rates for some customers (but no small businesses) who request a deferral for a couple of months, and to process small business loans funded by the government, in addition to the mortgage and loan deferrals and fee reductions the banks have already offered (but again, only for some customers, with the delayed amount still required to be paid later, plus interest).

Prime Minister Trudeau stated on April 6th that “we need to see even more action like this going forward because this is a time to think about each other, not about the bottom line.”

Just like the initial spending actions taken by the federal and provincial governments were not enough to address the coronavirus crisis, the banks must do more. The Big 6 Banks’ decade of record profits and cuts to their prime lending rates show that they can afford to cut interest rates much more on loans like mortgages etc., and also to cut fees much more, and not raise them again to their gouging, excessive profit levels.

All federal parties need to work together now to require the banks:

  1. To cut all their interest rates and fees in half now, and cut loan payments entirely for anyone who needs it;
  2. To disclose detailed profit reports after fully independent audits and keep rates and fees at reasonably low levels in the future;
  3. To empower consumers and increase consumer protection by supporting the creation of an independent, consumer-run bank watchdog group (as recommended by MPs and senators in 1998);
  4. To disclose approval rates for credit, loans and accounts by neighbourhood and type of borrower, and require corrective actions by any bank that discriminates (as the U.S. has required for 30 years);
  5. To re-open basic banking branches in neighbourhoods where they closed them in the 1990s to help get rid of predatory pay-day loan companies (and banking at Canada Post outlets should also be allowed);
  6. To cut bank executive pay down to a reasonable level;
  7. To pay their fair share of taxes now, and in the future, by closing all the loopholes they exploit (as England and Australia have), and;
  8. Finally, enforcement measures and penalties also need to be strengthened to ensure banks, and other financial institutions, serve everyone fairly and well at fair prices (See Backgrounder on Weak Enforcement)
    (See Full List of Key Bank Accountability Changes).

“The federal Conservatives and Liberals did nothing to stop Canada’s big banks from hiking fees and credit card interest rates to gouge Canadians and more than double their profits since 2010 to the highest levels of banks world-wide, while reducing service, treating many customers unfairly, and exploiting loopholes to lower the amount they pay in taxes,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. In this time of crisis, and with the minority government, all parties must work together to make key changes to make banks help more now, to finally stop their excessive profits, gouging and abuse of consumers, and to make banks pay their fair share in taxes.”

“Because the big banks control more than 90 percent of the banking market in Canada they can hike fees and interest rates whenever they want, and treat customers however they want, and so the federal government must finally make key changes to protect 30 million bank customers from gouging and abuse during this crisis, and into the future,” said Conacher. “Every dollar of excessive profit for the banks, and every person and business the banks unjustifiably cut off from credit, costs the Canadian economy because it means that the banks are overcharging for their essential services and loans, and choking off the spending and job creation that will help Canada recover from this crisis.”

– 30 –

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 Big Bank Coronavirus Accountability Campaign