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Group calls on Commissioner of Lobbying to disclose rulings on five violations after RCMP let lobbyists off the hook

Do the violations include unregistered, unethical lobbying by Facebook, WE Charity and/or SNC-Lavalin lobbyists, or unethical lobbying by Imperial Oil and other business lobbyists at events they sponsor?

Are the RCMP and Commissioner keeping rulings on 11 total violations secret because they relate to her gutting of key ethical lobbying rules?

26 groups with 1.5 million+ supporters, 41 lawyers and professors, 20,000+ voters and the Globe and Mail oppose the Commissioner gutting the rules

Thursday, April 13, 2023

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch called on Commissioner of Lobbying Nancy Bélanger to release her rulings on five violations of the Lobbying Act that she referred to the RCMP from January 2018 to fall 2020. The key question is whether Commissioner Bélanger and the RCMP are hiding the rulings on the five violations, and on six other violations, because they involve key ethical lobbying rules that the Commissioner is proposing to gut despite widespread opposition.

The Commissioner testified in November 2020 before the House Ethics Committee that she had referred 11 cases to the RCMP since she became Commissioner in January 2018.

On February 3, 2023, she told the Committee that she had not referred any more cases to the RCMP, but that the RCMP had let the lobbyists involved in five situations off the hook and referred the cases back to her (click here and see page 7 of PDF). She also said that the RCMP had charged one lobbyist – not surprisingly, given how secretive it is, the RCMP did not issue a news release about the charge.

That means there are also five other lobbying law violation cases the RCMP has been investigating for more than two years. How could these five investigations possibly take that long, and why are these five violations still being kept secret?

The five violation situations that have been referred back to the Commissioner may include:

  1. The unregistered lobbying and favours for Cabinet ministers that Kevin Chan and others at Facebook did (click here to see DWatch’s April 2018 complaint to the Commissioner);
  2. The unregistered lobbying that WE Charity lobbyists did from January 2019 to August 2020, and the trip gifts they gave to former Finance Minister Bill Morneau and his family;
  3. The lobbying by former PCO Clerk Kevin Lynch for SNC-Lavalin that was not registered by CEO Neil Bruce (click here to see DWatch’s March 2019 complaint), and also by SNC-Lavalin lawyer Robert Pritchard and others;
  4. The lobbying by Imperial Oil of then-Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer, and by CPA Canada of Minister Karina Gould, at a May 2019 event they sponsored?

“It’s shameful that the RCMP and Crown prosecutors continue to take so long to investigate lobbyists who violate the law, and continue to fail to prosecute most violations,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “By continuing to hide her rulings on the five lobbying violation situations, Commissioner Bélanger is not only protecting the lobbyists and the politicians and public officials they were lobbying, she is also covering up situations that may relate to her proposed gutting of key ethical lobbying rules.”

Commissioner Bélanger is currently proposing to gut key federal ethical lobbying rules in the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct in ways that will allow lobbyists to do significant campaigning for, and fundraise unlimited amounts of money for, politicians and their parties and lobby them at the same time or soon afterwards. Click here to see Backgrounder.

MPs on the Committee (except the NDP MP) support the gutting of these rules, and all MPs on the Committee also want loopholes added to other rules proposed by Commissioner Bélanger so that it will effectively be legal for lobbyists to use gifts, hospitality and “sponsored travel” as unethical ways of influencing MPs.

The Globe and Mail’s editorial board in an editorial, and then another editorial, and a coalition of 26 citizen groups with 1.5 million total supporters, and 41 lawyers and professors (many of them leading experts in government ethics), and 20,000+ voters, all oppose the Commissioner’s proposed changes, and the Committee’s call for loopholes to be added to the gift rules, because gutting these key ethical lobbying rules violates Canadians’ Charter rights to integrity and equal opportunity to participate in policy-making processes. Click here for details about the groups, lawyers, professors and voters.

“A total of 26 citizen groups supported by more than one-and-a-half million Canadians, 41 lawyers and professors from across Canada, and more than 20,000 voters oppose the Commissioner of Lobbying’s attempt to gut key ethical lobbying rules in ways that will allow lobbyists to lobby Cabinet ministers and MPs soon after campaigning, fundraising or doing favours for them, and so the House Ethics Committee should reverse its position and loudly and clearly reject the Commissioner’s unethical proposals,” said Conacher. “The Commissioner’s proposed unethical changes are based on one secret opinion that she commissioned from one law firm through a sole-source contract, an opinion she refuses to make public, which makes her proposed changes even more questionable.”

“It’s shocking that MPs on the Ethics Committee would call for loopholes to allow lobbyists to buy them off, essentially bribe them, with fundraising, favours, trips, gifts and wining and dining worth thousands of dollars each year,” said Conacher. “The changes that the Ethics Committee wants are deeply unethical and will allow for corrupt favour-trading between lobbyists and politicians.”

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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 Stop Secret, Unethical Lobbying Campaign and Government Ethics Campaign and Money in Politics Campaign