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

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

Voters have a right to know before they vote this fall if top people at CCI, who were Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland’s 2015 election campaign managers, violated lobbying rules

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch sent a letter with federal Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger calling on her to ensure an independent ruling, before Parliament is shut down for the fall election, on the complaint letter it filed in July 2017 about the relationship and meetings between representatives of the Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI) and Liberal Cabinet officials. The Lobbying Commissioner confirmed that the complaint was being investigated in a July 20, 2017 letter.

“Two years ago Democracy Watch filed a complaint calling for an investigation of former election campaign managers for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland heading up the Council of Canadian Innovators, and the Lobbying Commissioner has negligently failed to issue a ruling on the complaint,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Voters have a right to know before they vote this fall if Minister Freeland’s former election campaign managers violated federal lobbying rules, and given that Democracy Watch’s July 2017 complaint provided detailed evidence to the Lobbying Commissioner, there is no justifiable reason for any further delay by the Commissioner in issuing a ruling.”

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 the Globe and Mail article, and this article, played a senior management role in the 2015 federal election campaign of former International Trade Minister and, since January 2017, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland. 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 has been 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.

Democracy Watch requested in July 2017 that the former Lobbying Commissioner recuse herself from ruling on the situation because she had been handpicked by Trudeau, and Democracy Watch’s letter sent today requests that current Commissioner Bélanger also recuse herself because she also was handpicked by Trudeau.

Democracy Watch is challenging Commissioner Bélanger’s appointment in the Federal Court of Appeal as part of its Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign.

– 30 –

Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
[email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign and Stop Bad Government Campaign