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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

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.

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

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