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Lobbying Commissioner’s proposed gutting of key ethical lobbying rules will make China and other foreign-government interference easier

Commissioner’s proposed new Lobbyists’ Code would allow lobbyists to lobby politicians while secretly fundraising or campaigning for them

25+ groups with 1.5 million+ supporters oppose the Commissioner’s proposed gutting of the rules

Thursday, March 2, 2023

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the reasons why federal Commissioner of Lobbying Nancy Bélanger’s proposal to gut key ethical lobbying rules in the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct will make secret interference in elections and secret activities to influence federal MPs easier for China and other foreign governments.

A total of 26 citizen groups with a total membership of 1.5 million Canadians call on the House of Commons Ethics 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 25+ groups and other details.

“If MPs on the ethics committee approve the lobbying commissioner’s proposal to gut key ethical lobbying rules, it will create an even more dangerous threat to fair elections, government integrity and Canada’s democracy when combined with the existing loopholes and flaws in Canada’s lobbying, ethics, political donation and election laws,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

The first dangerous threat is that Commissioner Bélanger is proposing to gut key ethical lobbying rules in the Lobbyists’ Code 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.

The second dangerous threat is that the federal Lobbying Act contains huge loopholes that allow for secret lobbying and hiding who is behind and funding influence activities such as ad and social media campaigns that appeal to voters to pressure MPs. Some of the biggest loopholes are:

  1. Lobbying and influence activities do not have to be registered, even if they are well-funded efforts by an organization, if the people overseeing or doing the activities are not paid specifically to do the activities;
  2. Businesses and organizations are not required to register and disclose their attempts to influence MPs if their employees all together lobby less than 20% of their work time, and;
  3. Even if a lobby group is registered, it is not required to disclose its source of funding (other than Canadian government funding) or how much it spends on its lobbying and influence activities.

The third dangerous threat is that federal ethics codes allow lobbying organizations to give MPs and Senators the gift of unlimited trips and junkets, and they are allowed to take their family members, staff and associates with them (known as the “sponsored travel” loophole).

The fourth dangerous threat is that the Canada Elections Act has several flaws that make interference and influence easy by foreign-government connected or sponsored individuals, businesses and organizations, as follows:

  1. Individuals, businesses and organizations are allowed to collude with and provide secret support to nomination race contestants and party leadership race contestants;
  2. Non-citizens are allowed to vote in nomination races and party leadership races;
  3. The high donation limit of $3,300 annually to each party and its riding associations makes it easy to funnel large donations to candidates and parties through just a few people;
  4. The identities of people who donate less than $200 annually are not required to be disclosed, making it easy to funnel donations of less than $200 through many people to candidates and parties;
  5. Individuals, businesses and organizations are allowed to funnel money to each other to hide the actual source of funds used in election campaign spending;
  6. One wealthy individual, or a business with just a couple of shareholders, or an organization supported by just a couple of voters, is allowed to spend up to $1 million during the pre-election period, and more than $500,000 during the election campaign, trying to influence voters;
  7. Many types of false claims are allowed about election candidates, party leaders and MPs, and no enforcement agency has the power to order social media companies to remove false online posts or ads.
  8. Nomination race contestants, election candidates, parties and party leadership contestants are allowed to audit their own campaigns, which makes it easy for them to hide illegal donations and spending.

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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, Government Ethics Campaign, Money in Politics Campaign, Honesty in Politics Campaign, and Stop Fake Online Election Ads Campaign