Please support democracy

Without your support, Democracy Watch can't win key changes to stop governments and big businesses from abusing their power and hurting you and your family. Please click here to support democracy now

Trudeau Cabinet hiding how Interim Ethics Commissioner Konrad von Finckenstein was appointed, and how full-term Commissioner appointment process is proceeding

Interim appointment term over in early March – or will Trudeau again lie about lack of qualified candidates and renew von Finckenstein for another 6 months?

Commissioner who serves 7-year term must be chosen by all parties reviewing all applications for the position, to prevent Cabinet from rigging the appointment

Thursday, January 18, 2024

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it received recently from the Trudeau Cabinet office that claims a 165-day extension to June 4, 2024 before the office will disclose the records of communications about the appointment of Konrad von Finckenstein as federal Interim Ethics Commissioner, and about the appointment of the next full-term Ethics Commissioner.  Democracy Watch requested the records in November, and the deadline to disclose them under the Access to Information Act (ATIA) was December 21st. Democracy Watch filed a complaint with the Information Commissioner and the Commissioner’s office is investigating the excessive delay in disclosing the records.

The extension by Cabinet/Privy Council Office (PCO) will delay the disclosure of the records until after the end of February when von Finckenstein’s 6-month term as Interim Ethics Commissioner ends.  He was appointed on August 30th after Mario Dion retired in February due to health problems, and the Trudeau Cabinet failed in its attempt to install Trudeau Cabinet minister Dominic LeBlanc’s sister-in-law Martine Richard as the Interim Commissioner (she resigned rather than face questions about her appointment, but continues to serve as the Ethics Commissioner’s Senior Lawyer).

The Trudeau Cabinet has said nothing about its secretive search for a person to appoint to a 7-year term as the next Ethics Commissioner, and is playing the same game as the Cabinet did in 2016-2017 by using a Cabinet-controlled, partisan, political and secretive process for reviewing applications, and hiding key information from opposition parties (in 2017 the Liberals misled opposition parties by falsely claiming that no qualified candidates had applied for the Ethics Commissioner and Commissioner of Lobbying positions) (Click here to see a summary of the Liberals’ undemocratic and unethical watchdog appointment process).

The deadline to apply for the Ethics Commissioner position was May 23, 2023.  In September 18th, von Finckenstein testified at the House of Commons Ethics Committee but only disclosed a bit of information about how he was appointed:

1.  Some unknown person asked him last April whether he would accept the position of Interim Ethics Commissioner, but he was going on a 40-day cruise at that time. Some unknown person contacted him again in June (p. 3 of testimony);

2.  He was only asked to take, and only committed to, a 6-month term; he hadn’t thought about applying for a 7-year term and it wasn’t discussed, and; he wouldn’t know if he wanted a 7-year term until after the 6-month term (p. 4 of testimony).

The Federal Court of Appeal ruled unanimously in 2020 that the Cabinet is biased when it chooses democracy watchdogs like the Ethics Commissioner.  The Trudeau Cabinet should, finally, remove the bias by establishing a fully independent appointments advisory committee whose members are approved by all parties in the House of Commons (which Stephen Harper promised back in 2006), with the committee doing a public, merit-based search for a short list of qualified candidates, and then an all-party House Committee would make the final choice.  This appointments system should be used for all the federal democratic good government watchdogs.

“The Trudeau Liberals are again playing secretive, dishonest games with the appointment process for the federal Ethics Commissioner, and opposition parties need to wake up and stop the Liberals from again choosing their own lapdog,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The Federal Court of Appeal has ruled that the Cabinet ministers are biased when they choose watchdogs who enforce laws that apply to them, and so an all-party committee must be given all the applications for the position of Ethics Commissioner so it can determine a short list of well-qualified candidates and make the final choice.

“For all future appointments of watchdogs, and all other federal agencies, boards, commissions and tribunals that need to be independent from Cabinet, a fully independent appointments advisory committee whose members are approved by all parties in the House of Commons should be established to do a public, merit-based search for a short list of qualified candidates, and then an all-party House Committee should make the final choice of who will be appointed,” said Conacher.

– 30 –

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