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Lapdog Commissioner of Lobbying rolls over and allows Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs to violate Lobbyists’ Code twice

Commissioner also confirms she is reviewing lobbying by associates of Pierre Poilievre’s top advisor Jenni Byrne

Procedure and House Affairs Committee and Board of Internal Economy still ignoring Ethics Committee’s call to ban all sponsored travel

Thursday, April 18, 2024

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch highlighted key information revealed in Commissioner of Lobbying Nancy Bélanger’s testimony before the House Ethics Committee on Tuesday.  In her testimony, Commissioner Bélanger confirmed she is dedicated lapdog as she let the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) violate the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct twice in the past year.

Commissioner Bélanger also confirmed that she is reviewing the activities of lobbyists registered under lobbying firm Forecheck Strategies, which has several interconnections with the lobbying firm of Jenni Byrne, who is one of the top advisors to Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre and also advised him during his party leadership campaign.  Democracy Watch filed a complaint recently alleging violations of the Lobbyists’ Code by the Forecheck lobbyists who placed Mr. Poilievre in an appearance of a conflict of interest by lobbying his staff and 13 of his Shadow Cabinet ministers.

Click here to see Commissioner Bélanger discussing her review of the Forecheck/Jenni Byrne/Poilievre situation from the 12:22:35 mark to the 12:26:25 mark of the video of the hearing, and again from the 12:45:10 mark to 12:49:50 mark.

Concerning letting CIJA off twice for violations of the Lobbyists’ Code, as revealed in questioning by NDP MP Matthew Green on Tuesday, Commissioner Bélanger first exempted CIJA’s sponsored travel July 16-24, 2023 trip given to six MPs from the new $40 limit on any gift and hospitality (and $200 annual limit) in the new Lobbyists Code that came into effect July 1, 2023.  The new limits essentially prohibit lobbyists from giving sponsored travel as a gift to any public office holder.

As disclosed in the 2023 annual report on sponsored travel by MPs, the following seven MPs went on the trip with their total costs of $134,255.13 paid by CIJA:

MP (others) who went on CIJA trip Their costs paid by CIJA
Conservative MP Scott Aitchison
Liberal MP Kody Blois (accompanied by his spouse Kimberley MacLachlan)
Liberal MP Valerie Bradford
Liberal MP George Chahal (accompanied by Amandeep Chahal)
Conservative MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay (accompanied by her spouse Brent Chapman)  


Conservative MP Jasrah Singh Hallan $23,017.04
Conservative MP Shelby Kramp-Neuman (accompanied by her spouse Tadum Neuman)  


Total costs paid by CIJA $134,255.13

NOTE: Before July 2023, CIJA regularly paid for MPs to go on their sponsored travel trips, including trips that a total of 14 Bloc, Conservative and Liberal MPs went on in January 2023 or March 2023, as listed in the 2023 travel report.

Secondly, Commissioner Bélanger let off CIJA even though, according to her, the CIJA they invited all seven MPs to a lobbying reception on January 30, 2024, which MP Scott Aitchison attended.  Commissioner Bélanger had told CIJA that they were prohibited under the Lobbyists Code from lobbying the MPs for two years after giving them the July 2024 trip gift.

Click here to see Commissioner Bélanger discussing how she has let CIJA violate the Lobbyists’ Code twice from the 12:34:22 mark to 12:37:30 mark of the video of the hearing.

“In addition to her past rulings that let off lobbyists who clearly violated the lobbying ethics code, Commissioner of Lobbying Bélanger has again confirmed that she is a dedicated lapdog by letting off the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs even though they violated the ethics code twice,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

Democracy Watch has been campaigning since the MP Code and Senate Code were enacted in 2004-2005 for a ban on sponsored travel.  In a March 2023 letter to Commissioner Bélanger, the House Ethics Committee tried to convince her to exempt sponsored travel from the new gift limits in the new Lobbyists’ Code.  However, the Committee reversed its position and passed a motion at the end of January calling on the Procedure and House Affairs Committee (PROC) and Board of Internal Economy (BOIE) to work together to delete the exemption in the MP Code that allows for sponsored travel.  When PROC reviewed the MP Code in spring 2023 behind closed doors, it ignored the sponsored travel loophole and 9 other unethical loopholes in the Code, as it has in every review of the Code it has undertaken since 2004.

Several organizations that try to influence MPs (such as the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada) are not required to register as lobbyists because of huge loopholes in the Lobbying Act, and so are not covered by the new gift limits in the Lobbyists’ Code.  As a result, the only way to stop them offering the unethical gift of sponsored travel to MPs is to ban all sponsored travel.

“Sponsored travel worth thousands of dollars is, like political donations and loans worth thousands, a form of legalized bribery, and it should have been banned long ago,” said Conacher.  “Studies conducted by psychologists worldwide have found that even small gifts influence decisions.”

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

See Democracy Watch’s Stop Secret Unethical Lobbying Campaign page and Government Ethics Campaign page