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Liberals’ proposed candidate for Ethics Commissioner has record of eight unethical and questionable actions as Integrity Commissioner

Mario Dion chosen through secretive, PMO-controlled, partisan process – not independent, merit-based process as Prime Minister claimed yesterday

Opposition parties not consulted – any MP with personal integrity and concern for government ethics will vote to reject Dion

Last March, Liberals had qualified candidates to replace lapdog Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson but refuse to say how many

10,000+ call on Liberals to make changes to match Ontario’s and Britain’s world-leading appointment processes

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch detailed the eight unethical and questionable actions of Mario Dion, the Trudeau Cabinet’s proposed candidate for Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, when he was Integrity Commissioner.

Democracy Watch called on all MPs to show personal integrity and concern for government ethics by voting to reject Dion. Even Liberal MPs should be very disturbed by Mr. Dion’s record, and by the fact that he was chosen through a secretive, PMO-controlled, partisan process that failed to consult opposition party leaders as required by the Parliament of Canada Act.

“Given his many unethical and questionable actions when he was Integrity Commissioner, Mario Dion would likely be just as bad a lapdog as Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson who has let 95 percent of alleged violators off the hook, including many Cabinet ministers who clearly violated federal ethics rules,” said Duff Conacher. “If MPs have personal integrity, they will vote to reject the Trudeau Cabinet’s proposal to make Mario Dion the new Ethics Commissioner because of Dion’s record of wrongdoing, and because the Cabinet handpicked Dion through a secretive, partisan process.”

Mr. Dion’s eight unethical wrongdoing and questionable actions when he was Integrity Commissioner are as follows:

  1. Soon after starting as Integrity Commissioner in early 2011, Mr. Dion secretly warned Clerk of the Privy Council Wayne Wouters of a situation that could cause Wouters embarrassment (Democracy Watch’s opinion is that this action violated the law Mr. Dion was supposed to be enforcing, the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, as well as federal ethics rules. Even former Liberal Cabinet minister Joe Volpe, who faced many accusations of wrongdoing during his 2006 campaign for the Liberal leadership, was concerned about this action by Mr. Dion.
  2. In spring 2011, Integrity Commissioner Dion had only a paper audit completed of past cases that his predecessor failed to investigate properly, and he refused to fully examine many of the 228 cases the Auditor General identified as wrongfully closed;
  3. In October 2012, a Federal Court judge ruled against the Integrity Commissioner Dion’s office because it failed to investigate a whistleblower’s case properly;
  4. In October 2012, Integrity Commissioner Dion kicked one person off of his Advisory Committee for writing a letter-to-the-editor than mentioned the above Federal Court ruling (other members of Advisory Committee, including Democracy Watch, resigned in protest);
  5. In Part 1 and Part 2 of an April 2014 report, the Auditor General found “gross mismanagement” by Dion’s office in two whistleblower cases;
  6. In May 2015, a Federal Court judge again ruled against some of Integrity Commissioner Dion’s actions concerning the same whistleblower as in #2 above;
  7. In 2012, Mr. Dion declared publicly on CBC’s Inside Politics show that, given his long history in the federal bureaucracy, he recused himself in cases where he was friends with a person named in the case (see para. 41 of this case ruling for an example of a recusal). However, Dion’s registry under the Conflict of Interest Act does not list any recusals, even though subsection 25(1) of the Act clearly requires a public declaration of every recusal. Democracy Watch’s opinion is that Mr. Dion very likely violated the Act by failing to disclose his recusals, and;
  8. Mr. Dion also consistently failed to name government officials who were found guilty of wrongdoing, thereby allowing them to move on to other jobs without anyone knowing they were wrongdoers.

As Democracy Watch revealed recently, the Trudeau government’s affidavit responding to one of the court cases Democracy Watch filed in July admits that the Liberals had a “pool of qualified candidates” for the Ethics Commissioner position last March. The government has refused to disclose how many qualified candidates it had, nor why it believes Mr. Dion is the best candidate.

Ideally, as Democracy Watch is calling for in its Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign, the government would establish two fully independent committees, one for judicial and quasi-judicial appointments, and one for other Cabinet appointments. The members for both committees would come from non-government organizations, and would serve fixed, non-renewable terms.

The committees would conduct public, merit-based searches and develop a short list of qualified candidates for each open position, and then the Cabinet would be required to choose from the short list (even better with opposition party leader approval for some of the key watchdog positions). Ontario has a committee like this to appoint provincial court judges, and Britain has such a committee to appoint judges and administrative tribunal members.. More than 10,000 Canadians have signed Democracy Watch’s Stop Political Lapdog Appointments petition on calling for these changes.

“The Trudeau government has claimed again and again that it has changed the Cabinet appointment process to make it independent and merit-based but, in fact, representatives from the PMO and ministers’ offices are making the decisions which means the process is as political and partisan as in past governments,” said Conacher. “It is very dangerous to our democracy that the Prime Minister and Cabinet can dictate who will be the government’s transparency and ethics watchdogs, and also the watchdogs for lobbying, elections and overall federal law enforcement, including enforcement of anti-corruption measures.”

“To make Cabinet appointments actually merit-based, the Trudeau Liberals must change the law to establish fully independent committees to find a short list of qualified candidates for each watchdog position, and require the Cabinet to choose from the short list,” said Conacher.

Democracy Watch also called on the Liberals, and all governments, to change the law to ensure all Cabinet appointees who watch over the government or oversee key democracy laws and processes (especially every Officer of Parliament) serve only one term.

“Like judges, all government and democracy watchdogs must only serve one term, with no possibility that the government can reappoint them, to ensure watchdogs don’t try to please the government in order to keep their job,” said Conacher. “To safeguard our democracy the ruling party must not be allowed to reappoint any government watchdog.”

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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 Bad Government Appointments Campaign and Government Ethics Campaign