Jan 30, 2018


Democracy Watch released the letter it sent today to new federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion requesting that he not make any decisions concerning investigations of situations involving the Trudeau Cabinet or Liberals because the Cabinet created a conflict of interest for him by handpicking him through a secretive, PMO-controlled process. As well, the Cabinet failed to consult with opposition party leaders before making his appointment as required by the Parliament of Canada Act.

As a result, Commissioner Dion has an appearance of bias that taints any decision he may make, including decisions he may make about Bill Morneau’s involvement in discussions and decisions concerning Bill C-27. It is not known how many other current situations the Ethics Commissioner is investigating that involve the Trudeau Cabinet or Liberals.

On January 25th, Democracy Watch sent a similar letter to new Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger, who that same day sent a decision to Democracy Watch stating that she was ending the investigations into both fundraising events for the Liberals that Barry Sherman was involved in because Mr. Sherman passed away recently. Because of her bias, and also because her decision is legally incorrect, Democracy Watch will soon file court cases challenging the Commissioner’s decisions.

On January 15th, Democracy Watch filed an application in Federal Court challenging the appointment of the new Lobbying Commissioner by the Trudeau Cabinet because of the failure to consult with opposition party leaders, and because the Cabinet was in a conflict of interest as the Ethics Commissioner was investigating situations involving Prime Minister Trudeau and other Cabinet ministers at the time the appointment was made.

To allow the investigations into Democracy Watch’s complaints to continue, Democracy Watch proposes that Ethics Commissioner Dion delegate the situations to a provincial commissioner who is independent of her, the Trudeau Cabinet, and all federal political parties. This process has been used at the provincial level by ethics commissioners. For example, in 2016 Marguerite Trussler, Alberta’s Ethics Commissioner, recused herself from investigating and ruling on a complaint because she was friends with two people involved in the matter.

“The Trudeau Cabinet put the new Ethics Commissioner in a conflict of interest by handpicking him through a secretive, PMO-controlled process, and as a result the Commissioner is tainted by bias and must not rule on any situations involving the Trudeau Cabinet or Liberals,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Adjunct Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Ottawa.

“It would be a clear conflict of interest if someone sued Prime Minister Trudeau or a Cabinet minister and the Cabinet chose which judge would hear the case, and it is just as clearly a conflict of interest for the Cabinet to choose the new Ethics Commissioner when he is judging whether the PM and other Cabinet ministers are involved in illegal situations,” said Conacher.

In addition, Ethics Commissioner Dion has a record of eight unethical and questionable actions in his previous position as Integrity Commissioner – a record that makes him unfit for the position of Ethics Commissioner.

More than 11,000 Canadians have signed a petition supporting Democracy Watch’s Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign calling on federal parties to work together to change the appointment process for all officers of Parliament and judicial and watchdog positions, to make it actually merit-based and independent from Cabinet, and to prohibit reappointments.

For many appointments, including of the new Ethics Commissioner and Lobbying Commissioner, the Trudeau Cabinet continues to use the same secretive, PMO-controlled, partisan process that past governments used.