Please support democracy

Without your support, Democracy Watch can't win key changes to stop governments and big businesses from abusing their power and hurting you and your family. Please click here to support democracy now

Democracy Watch in court Monday challenging Ontario Integrity Commissioner’s refusal to issue public rulings on Premier Ford’s staff and deputy minister possibly violating provincial ethics rules

Integrity Commissioner’s ruling in March 2019 on OPP Commissioner appointment contained clear evidence Ford’s former Chief of Staff, deputy minister and others gave preferential treatment to Ron Taverner and others

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, September 28, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, at 10 am, the Ontario Divisional Court is holding an online hearing of the application it filed last October challenging Integrity Commissioner David Wake’s refusal to issue a public ruling on Premier Ford’s former-Chief of Staff Dean French (and possibly other Ford staff) providing preferential treatment to Ford’s friend Ron Taverner, and Mario Di Tommaso and Chris Froggatt.

The media and the public can watch the online hearing for Court case file #548-19 on YouTube at 10 am today by clicking here or going to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNkhfB2QPGw&feature=youtu.be.

Democracy Watch is arguing that the preferential treatment violated the provincial government’s ethics laws, and that the Integrity Commissioner is required to issue a public ruling on his investigation finding Mr. French and the others guilty. Democracy Watch is represented by Rebecca Shoom of the law firm Lerners LLP.

On March 25, 2019, Democracy Watch sent a letter to Integrity Commissioner Wake and then-Conflict of Interest Commissioner Sidney Linden calling on them to issue a public ruling on Ford’s staff, and also former Secretary to the Cabinet Steve Orsini, providing preferential treatment in violation of Public Service of Ontario Act (PSOA) ethics regulations.

Both commissioners refused to issue public rulings — then-Commissioner Linden in late March 2019, and Commissioner Wake in early April 2019. Commissioner Linden retired on May 1, 2019 when his office was merged into Integrity Commissioner Wake’s office. On September 30, 2019, Democracy Watch sent another letter to Commissioner Wake requesting a public ruling. Commissioner Wake responded with the same position he had expressed in April 2019.

There is nothing in the PSOA that prohibits Commissioner Wake from issuing a public ruling, and the public has a clear right to know if these public servants violated the law.

“There is clear evidence in Integrity Commissioner Wake’s ruling on the OPP Commissioner appointment process that Premier Ford’s former Chief of Staff Dean French and his former deputy minister violated Ontario government ethics rules by giving preferential treatment to Ron Taverner, and also to Mario Di Tommaso, and that French also gave preferential treatment to Chris Froggatt. Other Ford staff may have also violated the rules,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Hopefully the court will order Integrity Commissioner Wake to issue a public ruling finding Premier Ford’s staff guilty of violating provincial ethics rules.”

Commissioner Wake’s March 20, 2019 ruling on Premier Ford’s actions concerning Ron Taverner’s proposed appointment contained clear evidence that Mr. French and Mr. Orsini provided preferential treatment to Mr. Taverner in the offer of an executive job with the government’s Ontario Cannabis store, and to him and Mario di Tommaso also throughout the OPP Commissioner appointment process.

The ruling also contained clear evidence that Mr. French also provided preferential treatment to Chris Froggatt by connecting him (and him only) to give communications advice to Mr. Taverner. There was also some evidence in Commissioner Wake’s ruling that Derek O’Toole, then-Senior Policy Advisor in Premier Ford’s office, and Greg Harrington, then-Policy Advisor to Mr. French, also provided preferential treatment to Mr. Taverner.

See the Evidence from the Integrity Commissioner’s Ruling on Premier Ford that, in Democracy Watch’s view, details the extent of this preferential treatment.

All public servants in the Ontario government, including ministers’ staff and the Secretary to the Cabinet, are prohibited by regulations under the Public Service of Ontario Act from giving preferential treatment to any person or entity, and are required to “endeavour to avoid creating the appearance that preferential treatment is being given to a person or entity…” See the Summary of the Ontario Government Ethics Law and Regulations for details.

– 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 Government Ethics Campaign and Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign

Liberals’ $160 million Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund over 4 years, in partnership with 8 financial institutions, is 0.9% of $13.4 billion in 2019 outstanding small business loans in Canada

Black Canadians are at least 3.5% of Canadian population, likely more, and visible minorities 22% in total, so the Fund should be $600 million+

Would be much more effective to enact key measures to stop discrimination and abuse by Canada’s banks – as 95,000+ voters call for

For more than 40 years, U.S. government has required banks, including banks owned by 4 of Canada’s Big 6 Banks, to disclose lending and service records by race, gender, income and neighbourhood, and has also required trillions of dollars in corrective lending after discrimination was revealed

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, September 16, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, in response to the federal Liberal government’s announcement last week of the Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund for small businesses of a minimal $160 million over four years, Democracy Watch, along with the more than 95,000 people from across Canada who have joined its letter-writing campaign and/or signed its Change.org petition, called 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.

The U.S. enacted such measures more than 40 years ago, and they apply to the U.S. banks that 4 of Canada’s Big 6 Banks own. As a result of these measures, trillions of dollars in lending and investment from banks and other financial institutions has flowed just since 1996 to visible minority entrepreneurs and low-income communities across the U.S. (See Summary below of the key measures needed)

The approximately $160 million Fund over four years, announced by Prime Minister Trudeau in partnership with Canada’s Big 6 Banks and also VanCity and Alterna Savings credit unions, and some Black-led business organizations adds up to 0.9% of the total $13.4 billion in small business loans outstanding at the end of 2019.

According to the 2016 census by Statistics Canada, Black Canadians make up at least 3.5% of Canada’s total population (approx. 1.2 million people), and possibly more given how the data is collected, and all visible minorities make up a total of 22% of the population (approx. 7.6 million people), plus an additional 5% indigenous peoples (approx. 1.7 million people).

As a result, the Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund should be at least $600 million over four years, and even more to support other visible minorities and indigenous peoples who suffer from discrimination in business financing. But it would be much more effective to enact measures to stop banks and other business and home finance companies from discriminating.

“The Trudeau Liberal Black business funding program is much too little, much too late, and will do nothing to stop discrimination in lending and financing by Canada’s big banks,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “As the U.S. government did more than 40 years ago, it would be much more effective if the federal government required Canada’s banks to disclose their loan records by the race, gender, income and neighbourhood of borrowers, and required them to make corrective loans and investments if they discriminate against any customers.”

Instead of enacting measures like the U.S. decades ago, and despite broad support across Canada for key changes for more than 20 years (mainly by the Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition (CCRC) coordinated by Democracy Watch), Canadian governments have done nothing to stop discrimination by our big banks.

Canada’s Big Banks track their lending and service in Canada by the characteristics of customers – so they could easily be required to disclose in their annual Public Accountability Statements the same information that the U.S. banks are required to disclose annually.

“If past and current federal Conservative and Liberal party leaders were actually concerned about the economic well-being of visible minorities in Canada, their governments would have long ago enacted measures to track and stop discrimination in lending by our big banks,” said Conacher. “Hopefully, they will soon finally make the changes needed to hold Canada’s big banks accountable for discrimination in lending.”

Former Finance Minister Bill Morneau 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.”

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. See Canada’s Big Banks Backgrounder.

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



Brief Summary of Key Bank Accountability Measures

  1. Discrimination in lending accountability measures

For more than 40 years, the U.S. has required under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) banks, including the U.S. banks owned by four of Canada’s Big 6 Banks, to disclose their lending and service record by race, gender, income and neighbourhood, and required them to make corrective loans and investments if they are found to be discriminating against any of their customers.

In the U.S., 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.

The CRA needs to be strengthened, but just since 1996 it has resulted across the U.S. in more than $1 trillion of lending to credit-worthy visible minority and women entrepreneurs, and more than $1 trillion in community development and housing loans, and the CRA has also helped ensure low-income neighbourhoods have access to banking services instead of finding only predatory payday lender outlets in their area.

  1. Fee and interest rate gouging accountability measures

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).

“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.”

See Full List of Key Bank Accountability Changes Needed in Canada.

See Canada’s Big Banks Backgrounder.

See Backgrounder on Weak Bank Accountability Enforcemen in Canada.

On International Democracy Day, Democracy Watch calls for key changes to make Canada an actual, leading democracy

Changes needed across Canada to effectively require everyone in politics, law enforcement and business to be honest, ethical, open, representative and waste-preventing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, September 15, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, on International Democracy Day 2020, Democracy Watch called on political parties across Canada to work together to make key changes to make Canada an actual, leading democracy, and to make provinces, territories and municipalities leading democratic jurisdictions.

“No one in Canadian politics, law enforcement or big business is effectively required to be honest, ethical, open, representative or waste-preventing, and until key changes are made Canada will continue to fail to measure up to international best-practice democracy, good governance and corporate responsibility standards,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

“The system is the scandal in Canada and, as a result, it is not surprising to see scandalous actions and decisions by politicians, government and law enforcement officials and big business executives regularly across the country,” said Conacher.

The top 10 key needed changes to make Canada, and provinces, territories and municipalities actual, leading democracies are as follows (and click here to see a summary of many of these key changes):

  1. Enact an honesty-in-politics law that allows for complaints to a fully independent commissioner about broken promises, and about dishonest statements made anywhere (including in the legislature, and during elections) by anyone involved in politics, with mandatory high fines as the penalty;
  2. Require all regulated industry and service sectors (banks, insurance, airlines, telecom, financial and investment services, health care institutions, energy and water) to include a notice in their mailings and emails to customers inviting them to join and fund citizen watchdog groups for each industry and sector, and increase royalties for all resource development sectors and put part of the increase into a fund that citizen watchdog groups jointly oversee and use for jointly decided initiatives, and make corporate responsibility requirements and bank accountability requirements strong and effective;
  3. Establish a Public Appointments Commission whose members are approved of by the leaders of parties that receive more than 5 percent of the popular vote in the election, and require the Commission to conduct public, merit-based searches and choose a short list of a maximum of 3 candidates for all Cabinet appointments, with the Cabinet required to choose from the short list;
  4. Enact a meaningful public consultation law that requires broad, in-depth public consultation with voters (including legislature committee hearings) before any government or government institution makes a significant decision, and free and empower MPs to represent voters and hold the government accountable by restricting the powers of the Premier and party leaders;
  5. Ban political donations and gifts from businesses, unions and other organizations, and (as in Quebec) limit individual donations to $100 annually and establish per-vote and donation-matching public funding, and limit election spending by parties and candidates to about $1 per voter, and advertising spending by third parties to $50,000;
  6. Prohibit everyone in politics from participating in any way in any decision-making process if they have even the appearance of a conflict of interest (even if the decision applies generally), including banning anyone who leaves politics from communicating with anyone involved in politics about their decisions for 3-5 years;
  7. Require everyone in politics to disclose through an online registry any communication they have with anyone with regard to decisions they are making (to close the secret lobbying loopholes that now exist) and prohibit lobbyists from helping with political campaigns or fundraising;
  8. Change the voting system to ensure a more accurate representation of the popular vote results of each election in the seats held by each party in the legislature (and in city councilors elected) while ensuring that all elected officials are supported by, and are accountable to, voters in each riding/constituency (with a safeguard to ensure that a party with a low-level, narrow-base of support does not have a disproportionately high level of power in the legislature) – and actually fix election dates (as Britain has);
  9. Strengthen the access-to-information law by reducing loopholes, applying it to all government and government-funded institutions, requiring that records of all decisions and actions be disclosed regularly, and giving the Information Commissioner the power and mandate to order disclosure (as at the federal level, and in B.C., Ontario and Quebec) and changes to government institutions’ information systems (as in Britain), and to penalize violators, and ensure whistleblower protection by strengthening the rules and empowering the Public Interest Commissioner to protect all whistleblowers in the public and private sectors; and
  10. Reduce waste by prohibiting omnibus budget bills, and empowering the Auditor General to: audit all government and government-funded institutions; audit projected spending to ensure truth-in-budgetting; prohibit government advertising if it is misleading or partisan; order changes to clean up the financial management of any institution, and; penalize violators of spending or procurement rules.

And also make key law enforcement changes to ensure that all the above rules are enforced effectively by fully independent (and independently chosen — see #3 above), fully empowered and accountable law enforcement agencies, and that law enforcement is fair and impartial across Canada.

Last, but not least, shut down the undemocratic, unaccountable Senate, and choose the Governor General and provincial Lieutenant Governors through an all-party, democratic process to ensure they have the independence and legitimacy to fulfill their key role of impartially stopping abuses of power by the Prime Minister and provincial premiers.

– 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 Campaigns

Democracy Watch calls for key changes to stop conflicts of interest in federal government spending

Changes needed to lower political donation and loan limit; to close loopholes that allow secret lobbying, excessive government secrecy and sole-source spending; to prohibit profiting from decisions, and to strengthen enforcement and impose high fines for violations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, August 10, 2020

OTTAWA – This afternoon, during its appearance before the House of Commons Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee for its study of how to prevent conflicts of interest in government spending, Democracy Watch will call on MPs on the committee not only to recommend several key changes, but also to jointly sponsor a bill to make the changes during this minority government.

Many of the changes Democracy Watch is calling for have been recommended by the Ethics Committee or other House committees unanimously in past reports, and some were promised by the Liberal Party in its 2015 election platform, so there is no reason why MPs on the committee can’t move forward with a bill in the fall to make the changes. By jointly sponsoring the bill, and recruiting their colleagues to vote for it, the bill could easily pass by the end of the year, even if party leaders try to maintain the currently corrupt system by opposing the bill.

“MPs on the ethics committee could easily work together to sponsor a bill that would lower the political donation and loan limit to $100 as in Quebec, and close loopholes that allow secret, unethical lobbying, excessive government secrecy, spending without competitive bidding, and politicians and top government officials to profit from their decisions in secret,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The bill must also strengthen enforcement by establishing an independent commission to choose government watchdogs, and requiring watchdogs to audit everyone regularly and issue public rulings on all questionable situations, and by extending whistleblower protection to everyone in federal politics, and imposing high fines for ethics violations, including dishonesty.”

“If MPs on the ethics committee don’t recommend these changes, and work together to ensure they are made, they will show they aren’t serious about ending the currently corrupt system,” said Conacher.

“Secret, unethical lobbying, excessive government secrecy, unethical big money influence campaigns, and unethical decision-making and spending are all legal in federal politics, and Canadians are more likely to get caught parking their car illegally than politicians are likely to get caught violating key ethics rules, and the penalties for illegal parking are higher than the penalties for serious ethics violations by federal politicians and top government officials,” said Conacher. “This dangerously undemocratic and corrupt system is the scandal, and it must finally be cleaned up by closing all the loopholes, increasing transparency, and strengthening political ethics rules, enforcement and penalties.”

To see the detailed Backgrounder on all these much-needed, key changes, click here, and see a Summary below of the key changes, and the reasons they are needed.

– 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, Government Ethics Campaign, Honesty in Politics Campaign, Open Government Campaign, Stop Fraud Politician Spending Campaign, Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign and Protect Whistleblowers Campaign



Summary of Key Changes Needed to Ensure Ethical Decision-making in the Federal Government: The System is the Scandal

Stop big money in politics

Stopping big money in politics is key. The current federal donation limit is too high and it allows individuals and organizations and their lobbyists to do favours for parties and candidates by funneling and bundling donations that unethically influence the decisions of Cabinet ministers (Click here for details about how the current donation limit is a façade). Clinical testing by psychologists has shown that even small gifts and favours have influence and are the best way to influence someone’s decisions.

“The only way to stop the unethical influence of big money in politics is to stop big money donations and loans, as Quebec has, and to ban gifts, including sponsored travel, and restrict and require disclosure of all favours including volunteer help on campaigns,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch (Click here to see the 11 key changes needed to stop big money in federal politics).

Stop secret, unethical lobbying

In 2012, the House Ethics Committee unanimously recommended some key changes to the Lobbying Act (no changes were made) but not all the changes needed to close all the loopholes and require that all lobbying be publicly disclosed and in compliance with the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct (as the Aga Khan’s unethical lobbying of Prime Minister Trudeau showed clearly). The Lobbying Act was supposed to be reviewed by the Ethics Committee in 2017, but the Committee and Parliament have negligently failed to undertake the review.

One of the key changes is to require all politicians, their staff, appointees, and government officials and employees to register in the Registry of Lobbyists every communication with anyone communicating with them in respect of any decision.The only exception to this disclosure requirement should be if someone sends an email letter through a lobby group’s website (as the group would be required to register that mass letter-writing campaign action in its lobbying registration in the Registry).

“If even some of the loopholes that allow for secret lobbying had been closed years ago, everyone at WE Charity would have been prohibited from lobbying the Prime Minister’s and Finance Minister’s offices and department because of their connections,” said Conacher. “The secret, unethical lobbying loopholes in the federal “Some Lobbying Act” must be closed because they are a recipe for corruption and waste of the public’s money, in part because lobbyists who are not required to register their lobbying are not covered by the lobbyists’ ethics code and so are allowed to develop close relationships with politicians and officials they are lobbying, including campaigning or doing favours for them.”

Stop excessive government secrecy

Secret lobbying is just one part of excessive federal government secrecy. Like the Harper Conservatives did, the Trudeau Liberals have broken almost all their 2015 open government election promises, including applying the Access to Information Act to ministers’ offices, and making federal government information open by default.

“The many loopholes in the federal ‘Guide to Keeping Information Secret Act’ must be closed to end the culture of excessive secrecy that often hides wrongdoing and wrongdoers in the federal government,” said Conacher.

Stop unethical decision-making

A loophole in the federal Conflict of Interest Act, which also exists in the MPs’ ethics code and the Senate ethics code, allows all federal Cabinet ministers, their staff and appointees, to participate in decisions even when they have a direct interest in the outcome and could profit from their decision, as long as the decision applies generally. Staff of MPs and senators are not even covered by any ethics rules.

“The federal ethics law should be called the ‘Almost Impossible to be in a Conflict of Interest Act’ because it has a huge loophole which means it doesn’t apply to 99 percent of the decisions and actions of Cabinet ministers, their staff and appointees, and allows them to profit from their decisions, and MP and senator ethics codes have the same loophole,” said Conacher. “This loophole must be closed, and everyone in federal politics must be prohibited from participating in any decision-making process when they have even the appearance of a conflict of interest.”

To be clear, the Conflict of Interest Act, and MP and senator codes, already prohibit participating in decision-making processes that only specifically affect one or a few people or entities when in the appearance of a conflict of interest, although this could be clarified by specifying that apparent conflicts of interest are covered. The key change needed is to close the huge loophole that allows ministers, top government officials, MPs and senators, and their staff, to participate in all decisions, including decisions that apply generally, when they have any kind of conflict of interest.

“Because of this huge loophole in the federal ethics law, it would have been legal for Prime Minister Trudeau and Finance Minister Morneau if they had decided themselves to create a youth volunteer service granting fund that many organizations could apply to for funding even if they knew for sure that one of their families’ favourite charities, WE Charity, would receive significant grants from the fund,” said Conacher.

“As well, a rule requiring honesty should be added to the federal ethics law and codes, to ensure politicians and government officials are penalized if they mislead voters about anything, including their own wrongdoing,” said Conacher. See details here.

In truly incredible contrast, the rules and code that Cabinet ministers have imposed on lower level federal government employees, who don’t have much decision-making power, prohibit them from participating in all decisions if they have even a potential or apparent of a conflict of interest (even if the decision applies generally), and require them to provide honest advice, and they can be suspended or fired for violations.

As well, so-called “blind trusts” should be banned (as the 1984 Starr-Sharp Report and 1987 Parker Commission both recommended) because the person knows what investments they put in their trust. Instead, all politicians and officials should be required to sell their investments while in office (as the Parker Commission also recommended).

Conflict of interest “screens” should also be banned because they are smokescreens that hide whether a politician or official is actually recusing themselves from decisions when they have a conflict of interest.

Stop questionable sole-source spending

Loopholes also need to be closed that allow federal government institutions to hand out sole-source contracts for very questionable reasons, and they should be required to do a compliance check with the Auditor General when initiating any significant spending process.

Strengthen enforcement, penalties and whistleblower protection

The watchdogs who enforce these rules (ethics, lobbying, information and integrity commissioners, and auditor general and procurement ombudsman) are handpicked by the Cabinet through secretive, biased processes, as the Federal Court of Appeal recently ruled.

As a result, the watchdogs often act like lapdogs, failing to conduct audits to discover wrongdoing (audits which are needed to supplement FINTRAC’s anti-bribery inspections (that also need to be strengthened)), and letting many people off the hook with very questionable, secret rulings. Very unfortunately, the Federal Court of Appeal has ruled that federal ethics and lobbying watchdogs’ rulings can’t be challenged (To see the ruling, click here).

As well, there are no penalties for politicians who violate key ethics rules, or for politicians government officials who violate key spending rules, other than a public report.

“Canada’s key good government watchdogs must be chosen by an independent commission, not by Cabinet ministers and officials they watch over, and they must be required to conduct audits and issue public rulings on every questionable situation, and empowered to impose high fines on violators, with everyone having the right to challenge their rulings in court,” said Conacher.

Finally, staff of politicians and parties are not protected by the federal whistleblower protection system, weak as it is. A House Committee unanimously recommended in June 2017 most of the key changes to make the system effective. All of these changes need to be implemented.

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.

– 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 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