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Lobbying Commissioner rules MPs and senators have put loopholes in federal ethics rules to allow lobbyists to bribe them with travel junkets

2018 sponsored travel list shows 77 MPs accept unethical trip gifts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, May 23, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch responded to the recent ruling by Commissioner of Lobbying Nancy Bélanger on Democracy Watch’s complaint filed on May 26, 2016 about the gifts of paid travel that various lobbying organizations have given to MPs (and a few senators) since spring 2009.

The complaint listed 16 businesses and lobby organizations from various sectors that are registered in the federal Registry of Lobbyists and that, from 2009 to 2016 according to the Sponsored Travel reports and registry of the federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, paid for travel junkets by MPs (and in one case, also by senators). Sometimes the MP’s spouse or staff has accompanied the MP or senator on the trip, and often the trips have cost thousands of dollars.

Commissioner Bélanger ruled that, because the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons allows the gift of “sponsored travel” (section 15), as does the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators (section 18), it is proper and allowed for lobbyists to give travel junkets as a gift to MPs and senators. Rules 6 and 10 of the Lobbyists Code of Conduct do not apply even though they are intended to prevent gifts that create conflicts of interest (as Rule 10 allows lobbyists to give gifts that MPs and senators are allowed to accept).

“The Lobbying Commissioner took almost three years to issue a ruling, which is a negligently long time given that the complaint contained all the evidence needed for a ruling,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The Lobbying Commissioner’s ruling confirms that MPs and senators have put loopholes in their own ethics rules and lobbyist ethics rules to make it legal for lobbyists to bribe them with travel junkets.”

The 2018 Sponsored Travel report for MPs shows that 77 MPs from all parties accepted travel junket gifts during the year, many of them from lobby groups such as the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Results Canada, and World Vision.

Democracy Watch called on MPs and senators to act with integrity, finally, and eliminate the rules in their ethics codes that say they are allowed to accept the gift of paid travel from anyone. Democracy Watch and the nation-wide, 31-member group Government Ethics Coalition will continue pushing for these and other key changes to federal ethics rules, and enforcement and penalties, so that Canadians will finally have the ethical government they deserve.

“Only about twenty percent of MPs, and a smaller percentage of senators, embarrass all federal politicians each year by accepting travel junkets from lobbyists, and it is incredible that the large majority of MPs and senators who don’t take the trips have done nothing to stop them,” said Conacher. “With a simple change to their ethics codes that could be made before Parliament closes for the fall election, MPs and senators could close the loophole that allows lobbyists to give them the gift of unethical travel junkets.”

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign