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Backgrounder – Full List of Key Bank Accountability Changes

(April 2020)

Democracy Watch’s letter-writing campaign and petition call for the following key bank accountability changes needed to make Canada’s Big Banks give everyone a break on interest rates and fees, pay their fair share in taxes, and treat everyone fairly, now and after the coronavirus crisis is over:
  1. Require banks to cut all their interest rates and fees in half now, and to cut loan payments entirely for anyone who needs it for the next few months, without requiring payment or extra interest later;
  2. Require banks to disclose the profit level of every part of their business (credit cards, mortgages, lines of credit, each other type of loan, bank machines, and investment and insurance divisions) after fully independent audits (overseen by the Auditor General);
  3. Require banks to keep all their interest rates and fees at a level that gives them no more than a reasonable profit (for example, many U.S. states cap credit card interest rates);
  4. Require banks to disclose detailed information how many people and small businesses apply for credit cards and loans or all types, and loan interest rate cuts or other relief, and accounts, and how many are approved and rejected, by type of borrower and customer, and require corrective actions if a bank discriminates against any type of borrower or customer (as the U.S. has required banks to do for 40 years);
  5. Require the Big 6 Banks 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 low-cost banking at Canada Post outlets should also be allowed);
  6. Require banks, trust and insurance companies to promote in their mailings and emails to customers that they can join an independent, consumer-run Financial Consumer Organization (FCO – as recommended in 1998 by the MacKay Task Force, and the House Finance and Senate Banking committees) so consumers have a place to call for help if they are gouged or treated unfairly, and to get fully independent, expert advice (See details at: and also require the banks and largest mutual fund companies to promote in their mailings and emails to customers that they can join an independent, consumer-run Individual Investor Organization (IIO – as recommended by an Ontario legislative committee in 2006) so they have have a place to call for help if they are ripped off or treated unfairly, and to get fully independent, expert advice (See details at:;
  7. Strengthen key consumer protection rules, and require the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) to do unannounced, mystery-shopper audits to find violations, and to identify violators and fine them (the FCAC hasn’t done unannounced audits since 2005, tipped off the banks in March 2017 about the audit they did through the rest of 2017 on abuses, and then allowed the banks to see the draft audit results and suggest changes that weakened the report);
  8. Require all banks to be covered by the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (the Finance Minister has done nothing to require TD, Royal, Scotiabank or National Bank to stop using their own complaint judges and return to OBSI), and allow financial consumers and investors to complain directly to OBSI without having to go through a financial institution’s internal complaint system, and make OBSI’s rulings binding;
  9. Require the FCAC to name every bank and financial institution that it finds has violated any rule and, given the big banks each make billions in profit annually, to fine violators a minimum of $1 million on a sliding scale for various violations, and increase the maximum fine for violations to $50 million, which should be high enough to discourage violations;
  10. Close all the loopholes that allow Canada’s banks (and other big businesses) to evade paying taxes in Canada by pretending they make their money through companies they own in low-tax countries, and impose a special tax (as England and Australia have) on any Canadian business or bank that has excessively high profits like Canada’s Big Banks have had in the past several years, and;
  11. Require the Big Banks and other financial institutions to cut the pay of their CEO and other top executives to no more than 40 times their lowest paid employee (as in some European countries).

To see more details about why enforcement needs to be strengthened as proposed above in points #6-9, please click here.

For more information, see Democracy Watch’s
Big Bank Coronavirus Accountability Campaign

Democracy Watch’s second letter questions why Alberta Ethics Commissioner asking for more facts before ruling on Minister Schweitzer appointing Steve Allan as inquiry commissioner?

Group’s Dec. 11th letter contained several facts about how Steve Allan campaigned for Schweitzer, and donated to him directly

Courts and other ethics watchdogs in Canada have ruled in the past that election campaign assistance creates a clear conflict of interest

Monday, January 20, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the second letter it sent on Friday to Alberta Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler calling on her to issue a public ruling on Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Doug Schweitzer recommending the appointment of Steve Allan to a $290,000 job as commissioner heading up the inquiry into foreign-funding of environmental groups, given Allan assisted Minister Schweitzer in his election campaign.

Democracy Watch sent the second letter after receiving a letter from Commissioner Trussler saying that its December 11th letter didn’t provide “sufficient particulars” and that “If you wish me to consider your request you will need to provide the facts on which you are basing your allegations.”

Democracy Watch’s second letter questions what more facts Commissioner Trussler thinks are needed, given its first, 9-page letter linked to Minister Schweitzer’s recommendation that Steve Allan be appointed in the Kenney Cabinet’s order that appointed Allan, and also linked to, and summarized, a CBC article that set out how:

  1. Steve Allan participated in the invitation for a nomination race campaign event for Minister Schweitzer in July 2018, which was distributed to invitees by Minister Schweitzer’s assistant at Denton’s law firm, where he was a lawyer at the time;
  2. Allan also sent an April 2019 email to several associates urging them to vote for Minister Schweitzer in the Alberta provincial election, an email that said, in part, “If the UCP wins, there is an excellent chance Doug will be in Cabinet” and;
  3. Allan also donated $1,000 to Minister Schweitzer’s UCP leadership campaign.

In its second letter, Democracy Watch not only links to the appointment order and CBC article, it also attached a copy of both the order and article, in case Commissioner Trussler concern is that the webpage links were not evidence.

“Given the clear evidence set out in both of Democracy Watch’s complaint letters, hopefully Ethics Commissioner Trussler will do the right thing and issue a public ruling very soon finding that Minister Schweitzer violated the provincial ethics law by participating in the decision to appoint Steve Allan as inquiry commissioner,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

Subsection 2(1) and 3 of Alberta’s Conflicts of Interest Act prohibit a Minister from influencing or taking part in a decision when knowing that the decision might further the interests of a person directly associated with the Minister, or improperly further anyone’s interests, and the Preamble to the Act says all provincial politicians are expected to act with integrity and impartiality” and perform their duties of office and arrange their private affairs in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of each Member…”

By assisting Minister Schweitzer’s election efforts in these ways, Mr. Allan created a sense of obligation on the part of Minister Schweitzer to return the favour, which recommending Mr. Allan to a position that pay $290,000 definitely did. In this way, Minister Schweitzer improperly further Mr. Allan’s private interests.

As a result, as pages 3-9 of Democracy Watch’s complaint letter set out, based on a 1993 ruling by B.C.’s Conflict of Interest Commissioner about people assisting with a Minister’s election campaign (especially p. 31, and pp. 34-39), and the unanimous Federal Court of Appeal ruling Democracy Watch won in 2009 (paras. 52-53), and a related federal lobbying rule, and past rulings concerning what are improper actions are by politicians by the federal and Ontario ethics commissioners, and the federal lobbying commissioner Democracy Watch’s position is that Minister Schweitzer violated the Conflict of Interest Act by participating in the appointment of Steve Allan.

Ethics Commissioner Trussler is not required to investigate, but Democracy Watch’s position is that it would be simply negligent for her to fail to do so given the clear evidence that Minister Schweitzer and Mr. Allan are directly associated, and that Mr. Allan provided significant assistance to Minister Schweitzer’s election efforts.

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

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign

Three key political finance questions for federal party leaders

Which financial institution gave them an election loan? For how much? What will their deficit/surplus be after election subsidies are received?

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch and the Money in Politics Coalition (made up of 50 groups with a total of more than 3 million members), joined by almost 90,000 voters, called on the media to ask federal party leaders 3 key questions that will very likely effect the timing of the next election:

  1. Which financial institution gave them a loan to pay their election expenses?
  2. How much was the loan?
  3. What will their estimated deficit/surplus be in 4 months after they receive the subsidies the public pays for any candidate or party that wins 10% of the popular vote?

The parties know the details of their loans, and can now make fairly accurate projections, based on the election results and past fundraising patterns for November-January post-election periods, of what their financial position will be mid-February when they receive the post-election subsidies.

The public has a right to know this information, and shouldn’t have to wait and always be guessing the financial position of the parties, especially not in a minority government situation when the finances of each party is a big factor affecting when the next election will happen, given the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Bloc (and, possibly the Greens) all some power in making that decision. Unfortunately, due to unwritten rules, the Prime Minister still has the most power, and the ability to abuse that power.

“The public has a right to know which financial institutions bankrolled the parties’ election campaigns, and what the debt levels are of each party, as those are major factors in federal Cabinet ministers’ and MPs’ conflicts of interest concerning banking law decisions, and in the timing of the next election given the minority government,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Chairperson of the Money in Politics Coalition. “Hopefully the media will ask the federal party leaders the key questions about the state of their party finances, and they will soon give the public the information they have a right to know.”

“Banks and other financial institutions should not be allowed to loan parties and candidates any more than individuals are allowed to donate, as it creates a real conflict of interest for federal ministers and MPs,” said Conacher. “Instead, any loans should come from a public fund, but only after parties can prove they actually need the money to reach voters and run election campaigns.”

The media hasn’t paid much attention to these key questions, and any coverage is always out of date by six months or more because of weak federal party finance disclosure rules. Looking over the past year, there is only this CBC article about the financial status of most of the main federal parties as of December 31, 2018, and then this follow-up CBC article about the NDP’s finances as of December 31, 2018. This Canadian Press article a couple of months later covered the same figures for 2018.

The CBC then did this article about the parties’ first-quarter fundraising totals, and this iPolitics article summarized the parties’ fundraising totals for 2019 up to June 30, 2019. However, neither of these articles contain any statistics on how much the parties spent up to June 30, 2019, or after.

As a result, no one except the parties knew how much money they had in the bank when the federal election began, nor how big their loans are, from which financial institution(s). Voters have a right to know before they vote who bankrolled each party’s, and each candidate’s, campaign, but this information is still hidden from them by weak disclosure rules.

Many commentators were saying at the beginning of the election that the Conservatives had tons of money for their campaign, the Liberals had an adequate amount of money, the Greens had some money, and that the NDP was in a lot of debt. But all of those comments were inaccurate guesses based on the information in the above articles, none of which took into account what the parties spent since Jan. 1, 2019.

For example, the Conservatives had $9.9 million in the bank at the end of 2018, and raised $16.5 million up June 30, 2019, and may have raised $5 million up to the beginning of the election. However, they may have spent $25 million from January to September 2019, which means they may have actually only had $6.4 million in the bank going into the election.

As a result, if the Conservatives planned to spend the full estimated $28 million allowed (under the election spending limit) on their campaign, they must have had a loan or loans of about $21 million from some financial institution or institutions.

The Liberals had $2.3 million in the bank at the end of 2018, and raised $8.85 million up to June 30, 2019, and may have raised $3.5 million up to the beginning of the election. However, they may have spent $10 million so far in 2019, which means they may have actually only had $4.65 million in the bank going into the election campaign, and likely needed a loan or loans of about $23 million in order to spend the maximum allowed during the election campaign.

The other parties have also likely gone into debt with a loan or loans from a financial institution(s). If any party’s loan(s) come from a bank, the bank is regulated by the federal government under the Bank Act, so the bank will have done a huge favour to the party by lending them millions for their election campaign.

Democracy Watch’s position is that loans to parties should be limited just like donations are, to prevent the conflict of interest created by the big banks lending so much money to the federal parties’ election campaigns. It would be much more democratic if election loans to parties came from a public fund, with the amount each party would be allowed to borrow based on the number of donors and members it has, combined with the average amount it has raised in the previous two years.

Many other changes are needed to make Canada’s political finance system democratic and ethical. See details on Democracy Watch’s Money in Politics Campaign page.

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

Democracy Watch’s Money in Politics Campaign

Backgrounder on Key Changes to Ensure Honest, Fair Canadian Elections

(October 28, 2019)

Democracy Watch testified at the House Committee’s hearings on Bill C-76 in June 2018 and highlighted all the serious flaws in the bill that are set out below, along with 20 or so other changes needed to ensure fair, democratic elections and strong enforcement – changes that Democracy Watch submitted to the Special Committee on Electoral Reform and to the government in fall 2016.

Democracy Watch’s recommendations were almost completely ignored by the Trudeau Liberals, as were the recommendations of many experts, a House Committee (made up of a majority of Liberal MPs), the Chief Electoral Officer, and the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

The key changes needed to ensure honest, fair, democratic federal elections in the future are as follows:

To stop secret, fake online election advertising by anyone (not just foreigners)

  1. Bill C-76 only prohibited big social media companies from knowingly running an ad paid for by a foreigner or foreign entity (section 190 of the Bill, adding new subsection 282.4(5) to the CEA), and requires them to publish a registry of election-related ads and maintain it for two years (section 208.1 of the Bill, adding new section 325.1 to the CEA). Those measures will do nothing to stop secret, fake online election ads paid for by Canadians or Canadian entities, and will do little to stop foreign-paid ads as the social media companies will just claim they didn’t know the ads were paid for by foreigners.
To see details of the key changes needed to actually stop secret, false, online election ads by foreigners and Canadians, click here.

To require honesty by everyone during the pre-election and election periods

  1. Bill C-76 does nothing to strengthen subsection 482(b)) of the Canada Elections Act, which prohibits false election promises by parties and candidates but needs to be strengthened because the Commissioner of Canada Elections negligently refuses to enforce it. The Commissioner responded to Democracy Watch’s complaint about Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau baiting voters with his false promise of electoral reform during the 2015 election with a decision refusing to enforce the rule;
  2. Bill C-76 also made false claims about candidates legal by narrowing the rule that prohibit false claims, and requiring proof of intent to affect the election (section 91 of the Canada Elections Act). The current rule prohibits any false claim “in relation to the personal character or conduct of a candidate or prospective candidate.” Bill C-76 narrows the rule so it only covers false claims that these people (or a party leader or officials) violated the law or have been charged or investigated for a violation, and false claims about the citizenship, place of birth, education, professional qualifications or membership in a group or association of these people. Senators tried to amend Bill C-76 to restore the broader rule but the amendment was rejected.
  3. The words in section 91 requiring that to charge someone with making a false claim you have to prove they made the claim with the “intention of affecting the results of an election” also must be deleted because it is almost impossible in many cases that they had that intention (the Chief Electoral Officer and the Commissioner of Canada Elections both called for this change, and the change summarized above in #2, when testifying before the Senate Committee that review Bill C-76).

To stop wealthy interests from dominating pre-election and election campaigns

  1. Bill C-76 more than doubled the spending limits for third party interest groups and individuals during election campaigns from approximately $200,000 up to $500,000 (section 224 of Bill C-76 changing subsections 350(1) to 350(4.1) of the Canada Elections Act (CEA)). The Trudeau Cabinet claimed this increase was needed because the spending limit is being extended to cover election surveys and “partisan activities” such as door-knocking, phone calls and rallies. However, only citizen groups do those kinds of activities (businesses usually only spend money on ads), and social media and email have significantly lowered ad costs for third parties. The limit for ad spending should be decreased back to at least $200,000 (if not lower, an assessment is needed to determine the actual current costs of reaching voters across Canada), and new, separate limits should be set for spending on surveys, and spending on partisan activities.
  2. Bill C-76 also set meaninglessly high limits of $1.5 million for party ad spending and $1 million for third-party (interest group) ad spending during the 60-75 days before the election campaign period begins (section 223 of Bill C-76, adding sections 349.1 to 349.94 to the CEA). The pre-electionm limits are meaningless because, as this past summer proved, it is highly unlikely that any party or third-party will spend anywhere near those amounts during July and August – the only times the limits apply (as the pre-campaign limits only apply when the election is held on the fixed election date of the third Monday in October). As well, the pre-campaign limit only applies to “partisan advertising” that promotes or opposes a party or a candidate, not to issue-based advertising. The limit should be lowered, and extended to cover issue ads.
  3. Bill C-76 also didn’t lower the much too high donations limits that allow wealthy people to use money as a way to influence politicians, including the annual individual donation limits for 2019 of $1,600 to each party and another $1,600 to the riding associations of each party (both increase each year by $25). Bill C-76 also doesn’t lower the $5,000 amount an election candidate can give to their own campaign or the $25,000 a party leadership candidate can give to their campaign. To actually have a democratic political finance system, all these limits shold be lowered to $100 and, if the parties can prove they need it, per-vote and matching public funding should be established.
To see details, click here.

To protect privacy of voters, and all Canadians

Bill C-76 also didn’t do enough to require political parties to protect the private, personal information they collect about voters, as it only requires that they publish their privacy protection policy on their website (sections 254-255 of the Bill, changing section 385 and adding section 385.1 to the CEA) instead of extending federal privacy laws to cover parties.

The House of Commons Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics issued its report in December 2018 on stopping secret, false online election ads, and protecting voters’ privacy, and recommendations 1-3, 6-8, 10, 19, 22-24 match the changes that Democracy Watch has been calling for in these areas.

More celebrities coming to the to help young voters Make a #VoteDate — National #VoteParty on October 21st

Celebrity promo videos showing before movies in 160 Cineplex theatres across Canada

Please air the videos as PSAs on your TV or radio station (the audio track) before Oct. 21st – click here to see them on the website, and click here to see them on’s YouTube channel, and please contact [email protected] if you need them sent to you in order to air them as a PSA

Friday, October 11, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, released its second Canadian celebrity montage video calling on voters to Make a #VoteDate with a non-voter – all part of’s campaign to increase the number of voters, especially young voters, who vote. The video will be shown before movies in 160 Cineplex Entertainment theatres across Canada starting this Friday until Oct. 17th.

The second video features David Suzuki (environmentalist and host of CBC TV’s “The Nature of Things”), Lindsay Broughton (country singer), Greg Bryk (actor on Space TV’s “Bitten” and in Brad Pitt’s latest film “Ad Astra”), Mary Walsh (comedian and former co-host of CBC TV’s “This Hour Has 22 Minutes”) and Rick Miller (comedian, creator of the “BOOM” and “BOOM X” theatre shows, and former host of “Just for Laughs” TV show).

Last Friday Cineplex starting showing’s first Canadian celebrity montage video featuring Rick Mercer (comedian and former host of CBC TV’s “Rick Mercer Report”), Elena Juatco (actress from ABC’s “Open Heart” and CTV’s “JANN” show), MAGIC! (#1 song “Rude” and other top songs), Ashley Callingbull (actress and Mrs. Universe), and Michelle Morgan (actress from CBC’s “Heartland”).

Cineplex Entertainment has generously donated the cost of showing the videos at its theatres. Both videos are also available on’s homepage, and along with many other videos can also be seen on’s Celebrity Videos webpage. isn’t urging young voters to vote, it’s inviting young voters to Make a #VoteDate at with a non-voter and take them to vote with you.

Don’t vote alone, Vote Party together.

Many other celebrities are also supporting the partner initiative including George Stroumboulopoulos, Patrick McKenna and Julian Taylor.

All are invited to come to the national #VoteParty on October 21st election night. Share your reaction to the election results, and what’s going at your local Vote Party, on Twitter with #VoteParty, and on Facebook at:

Vote Party promises to be a great party. is an initiative of Democracy Education Network, since 1993 one of Canada’s leading civics education organizations.

Let’s get this Vote Party started!

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Duff Conacher, Coordinator of
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Le commence aujourd’hui – Le #partyvote national aura lieu le 21 octobre

Regardez l’annonce vidéo avant chaque film dans tous les cinémas Cineplex le 4-17 octobre

Fixez un #rendezvousdevote à avec une personne qui ne vote pas

03 octobre 2019

OTTAWA – Aujourd’hui, a lancé sa nouvelle initiative nationale visant à augmenter le nombre d’électeurs, notamment les jeunes électeurs, qui votent.

Regardez l’annonce vidéo, avec Florence K, musicienne et animateur du programme radio « C’est formidable », avant chaque film dans tous les cinémas Cineplex le 4-17 octobre. Vous pouvez regarder l’annonce aussi ici et n’exhorte pas les jeunes électeurs à aller voter, il invite les jeunes électeurs à fixer un #rendezvousdevote avec un jeune qui ne vote pas et d’aller voter ensemble.

Ne votez pas seul, allez voter ensemble.

Ensuite, venez au #PartyVote national le 21 octobre au moment de la soirée électorale. Partagez votre réaction aux résultats des élections et dites ce qui se passe à votre « party » local sur Twitter et Instagram en utilisant le mot-clic #PartyVote, et sur Facebook à :

Le « party vote » se promet d’être une grande fête. est une initiative du Réseau d’éducation de la démocratie, l’une des principales organisations canadiennes d’éducation civique établie depuis 1993.

Commençons maintenant ce « party » pour célébrer le vote!

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Duff Conacher, Coordonnateur
Cell: 416-546-3443
Courriel: [email protected]


Celebrities coming to to help young voters vote — National #VoteParty on Election Night October 21st ad running before all movies in Cineplex theatres across Canada Oct. 4-17 with message:
Make a #VoteDate at and take a non-voter to vote with you

Monday, September 30, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, launched its national effort to increase the number of voters, especially young voters, who vote in the federal election, following up on its successful effort during the 2015 fall federal election that reached 3.5 million people across Canada.

The launch includes a Canadian celebrity montage video on the homepage featuring Rick Mercer, MAGIC! (#1 song “Rude”), Ashley Carlingbull (actress and Mrs. Universe), Michelle Morgan (from CBC’s “Heartland”) and Elena Juatco (from CTV’s “Jann”).

Cineplex is generously supporting this initiative by showing the video before all movies in 162 Cineplex theatres across Canada from this Friday, October 4th until Thursday, Oct. 17th. The company will also be livestreaming the federal election leadership debates in 24 of its theatres across the country. Canadians can reserve free tickets by visiting will also soon release videos by many other well-known Canadians, as will its partner initiative isn’t urging young voters just to vote, it’s also encouraging them to:
Make a #VoteDate with a non-voter and take them to vote with you.

Don’t vote alone, Vote Party together.

And then all are invited to come to the national #VoteParty on October 21st election night. Share your reaction to the election results, and what’s going on at your local Vote Party, on Twitter with #VoteParty, and on Facebook at:

Vote Party promises to be a great party.

Anyone who wants to invite other people in their area to a local Vote Party on October 21st can upload their party details, and if they want send out invitations at: is an initiative of Democracy Education Network, since 1993 one of Canada’s leading civics education organizations.

Let’s get this Vote Party started!

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Duff Conacher, Coordinator of
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]