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Liberals, Conservatives and Bloc approve Commissioner of Lobbying’s proposal to gut key ethical lobbying rules

All but NDP approve of Commissioner’s proposed new Lobbyists’ Code that will corrupt policy-making by allowing lobbyists to lobby politicians and party leaders soon after secretly fundraising or campaigning for them

MPs from all parties on House Ethics Committee also want other “legalized bribery” loopholes – call for changes to continue allowing “sponsored travel” gift, and to increase value of other gifts/hospitality, from lobbyists

26 citizen groups, 32 lawyers and professors, and Globe and Mail oppose the proposed gutting of the rules, as do 20,000+ petition signers

Monday, March 27, 2023

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch called on the House of Commons Ethics Committee to reverse the position it has taken (other than the NDP) in a March 20th letter sent to Commissioner of Lobbying Nancy Bélanger.

In the letter (pages 4-5), the Liberal, Conservative and Bloc MPs on the Committee approve of the Commissioner’s proposed changes to the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct that will gut key ethical lobbying rules in ways that will allow lobbyists to secretly campaign and fundraise unlimited amounts of money for politicians and parties and lobby them at the same time or only 1-2 years after. (Click here to see the Committee’s letter in English (pages 4-5); Cliquez ici pour voir la lettre en français (pages 4-5)).

Current Code Rules 6 and 9 and a guideline Commissioner Bélanger has issued for Rule 9 prohibit lobbying for at least 4 years (a “full election cycle” i.e. until after the next election) after anyone does any significant campaigning or event organizing, or any fundraising, for a politician or party as a paid campaign staff person or as a volunteer, with no exceptions based on the time they spend doing these activities or their level of interaction with candidates or party officials while doing the activities.

“It’s shameful that the Liberal, Conservative and Bloc MPs on the Ethics Committee have decided, behind closed doors, to support changes that will gut key ethical lobbying rules in ways that essentially try to legalize bribery by allowing for favour-trading between lobbyists and politicians that will corrupt federal policy-making processes,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch, which coordinates a coalition of 26 groups that oppose the changes. “The NDP has said it opposes the changes, but is it going to do anything more to try to stop the changes, like introducing a resolution in the House opposing the changes that dares MPs from other parties to publicly approve them?

“If the Commissioner of Lobbying goes ahead with her proposed changes gutting key federal ethical lobbying rules, Democracy Watch will file a lawsuit challenging the new rules as they will violate voters’ constitutional democracy rights to government integrity, equal participation in policy-making processes, and adequate information to make voting decisions,” said Conacher.

In the Ethics Committee’s letter (pages 1-4), MPs from all parties also say they want Commissioner Bélanger to add other legalized bribery loopholes to her proposed rules on gifts and hospitality. The Committee wants a loophole so lobbyists can continue to give “sponsored travel” junket trips to MPs and their family members and associates, and wants to increase the annual limit on gifts from a lobbyist to $200, and on hospitality (wining and dining) also to $200.

“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.”

The Commissioner sent a March 3rd letter that misled the Committee about the effects of the changes, and big business and big union lobbyists also misled the Committee when they testified about the changes.

Recently, the Globe and Mail’s editorial board joined Democracy Watch and 25 other citizen groups with a total membership of 1.5 million Canadians in calling on the Committee to reject key changes to the federal Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct proposed by Commissioner of Lobbying Nancy Bélanger because the changes will gut ethical lobbying rules in ways that will allow secret, corrupt favour-trading between lobbyists and federal politicians. Click here to see the list of the 26 groups and other details.

More than 20,000 voters signed on to Democracy Watch’s petition on or its letter-writing campaign and sent emails to the Commissioner calling on her to stop gutting the Code, and also calling on federal party leaders and the Committee to reject the Commissioner’s proposed Code changes, and to make other key changes to stop all secret, unethical lobbying.

As well, in an open letter sent to the Ethics Committee, 11 lawyers from 4 law firms (and also lawyers in private practice or other roles), and 21 law and political science professors from 14 universities in 8 provinces joined in calling on the Committee to reject the Commissioner’s proposed changes, and also to reject the Commissioner’s claim (which is based on a secret opinion from one law firm) that the current 4-year lobbying prohibition violates the Charter. (Click here to see the letter in English; Cliquez ici pour voir la lettre en français). Several Supreme Court of Canada and other court rulings have clearly stated that Charter rights can be restricted to protect government integrity.

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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