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Two-and-a-half years later, where is Lobbying Commissioner’s ruling on Council of Canadian Innovators lobbying of Liberal Cabinet?

Delay unjustified on ruling whether top people at CCI, who were Chrystia Freeland’s 2015 election campaign managers, violated lobbying rules

Lobbying Commissioner has ruled on 14 other complaints filed since September 2017, two months after Democracy Watch filed its complaint

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch sent another letter to federal Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger, following up on its July 17, 2019 letter, again calling on her to ensure an independent ruling on the complaint Democracy Watch filed in July 2017 about the relationship and meetings between representatives of the Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI) and Liberal Cabinet officials. The Commissioner confirmed that the complaint was being investigated in a July 20, 2017 letter.

As of the end of March 2019, the Lobbying Commissioner had investigated and ruled on 14 other complaints and/or situations filed since September 2017 (two months after Democracy Watch filed its complaint about CCI’s lobbying).

“Democracy Watch’s July 2017 complaint provided detailed evidence to the Lobbying Commissioner, and the Commissioner is being completely negligent by continuing to fail to issue a ruling two-and-half years later,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The Lobbying Commissioner has issued rulings on more than a dozen complaints filed since September 2017, and so the Commissioner’s delay in ruling on Democracy Watch’s July 2017 complaint is completely unjustifiable, and likely linked to the fact that the Commissioner was handpicked by Prime Minister Trudeau.”

Democracy Watch has requested that the Lobbying Commissioner recuse herself from ruling on the situation because she was handpicked by Trudeau. Democracy Watch is challenging Lobbying Commissioner Bélanger’s appointment in the Federal Court of Appeal, with the hearing scheduled for January 28th. Democracy Watch is also challenging two rulings issued by Commissioner Belanger in Federal Court (see details here and here) and one ruling issued by former Commissioner Shepherd.

The federal Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct prohibits anyone from lobbying a Cabinet minister or their officials for four years after helping them get elected (former Rule 8 and, since December 2015, Rules 6-9 (see especially Rule 9)). The question posed in Democracy Watch’s July 2017 complaint was whether Minister Freeland’s former campaign managers violated the Code given that they headed up CCI, and CCI had lobbied the foreign affairs and trade departments.

Since March 2016, the CCI’s Executive Director has been Benjamin Bergen, who according to this Globe and Mail article, and this article, played a senior management role in the 2015 federal election campaign of former International Trade Minister and, from January 2017 to November 2019, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland (Ms. Freeland is now Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs). And Dana O’Born was CCI’s Director of Policy and is now its Director of Strategic Initiatives. According to Mr. Bergen (as cited in this Globe and Mail article), Ms. O’Born was Ms. Freeland’s 2015 campaign manager.

According to the Registry of Lobbyists, CCI was registered to lobby the federal government (including Ms. Freeland’s Global Affairs ministry) with Mr. Bergen as the listed senior official since April 4, 2016 and as of July 2017 had 202 registered communications with government officials (although many more could have occurred as only oral, pre-arranged communications initiated by the lobbyist are required to be disclosed (unless the communication is about a financial benefit and then even if the government official initiates the communication it must be disclosed)).

The CCI’s monthly communications reports in the registry show that on the following dates (and, again, possibly many more) CCI communicated with Global Affairs Canada officials (when Ms. Freeland was Minister of Foreign Affairs or Minister of International Trade) including deputy ministers, assistant deputy ministers, special assistants, and the minister’s Parliamentary Secretary: April 21, 2017; April 10, 2017; March 30, 2017; March 24, 2017; March 1, 2017; February 8, 2017; November 4, 2016; November 2, 2016; October 21, 2017; October 20, 2017 (two meetings); October 17, 2016, and; October 13, 2016.

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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 Government Ethics Campaign and Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign