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News Release


Thursday, April 20, 2006

OTTAWA - Today, Democracy Watch announced that it expects rulings soon on eight ethics complaints involving 105 federal lobbyists and nine politicians it filed from April 2000 to January 2004 with former Ethics Counsellor Howard Wilson.  All but one of the complaints allege that lobbyists working for MPs, including party leadership campaign candidates, violated federal ethics rules because they put politicians in a conflict of interest (To see details about the complaints, click here).

In July 2004, the Federal Court ruled on Democracy Watch’s court challenge of the Ethics Counsellor that the Prime Minister’s complete control of the Ethics Counsellor meant that the Counsellor was biased and could not make fair, impartial rulings.  The Court also ruled that the Ethics Counsellor was biased against Democracy Watch, and also questioned the basic competence of the Ethics Counsellor (To see the Federal Court ruling, click here).

In May 2004, a new law eliminated the position of Ethics Counsellor and divided his responsibilities between the new Ethics Commissioner (who supposedly enforces the 20-year old ethics code for politicians, some Cabinet staff, some Cabinet appointees and some senior public servants, as well as the two-year-old ethics code for MPs), and the Registrar of Lobbyists (who supposedly enforces the seven-year-old Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct, and who administers the 18-year-old Lobbyists Registration Act).

The July 2004 Federal Court ruling rejected the Ethics Counsellor’s rulings on six of Democracy Watch’s complaints and ordered that those complaints, and two other complaints that had not been ruled on, be re-examined and ruled on by a fair, impartial decision-maker.

Democracy Watch requested new Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro and new Registrar Michael Nelson ensure a fair, impartial investigation and ruling on all eight complaints.  The Ethics Commissioner refused to review any of the complaints, while the Registrar eventually agreed last summer to review all eight complaints.

However, the structure of the Registrar’s position is exactly the same as the former Ethics Counsellor as the Registrar is under the control of a Cabinet minister.  Last September, Democracy Watch filed a court challenge of the Registrar because of this structural bias, and a challenge of the Ethics Commissioner for refusing to review the complaints, and for many other biased actions and statements (To see details about the court case,  click here).

“The Registrar of Lobbyists should rule very soon on these eight long-standing ethics complaints, four of which are more than five years old.  Hopefully, unlike the former Ethics Counsellor, the Registrar will properly apply the ethics rules and establish clear, strong restrictions on what lobbyists can do for politicians they are lobbying,” said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch.  Democracy Watch will file court challenges of any of the Registrar’s rulings that fail to apply the ethics rules properly.

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Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179

Democracy Watch's Government Ethics Court Cases

To see details about measures in the new "Federal Accountability Act" (Bill C-2)
that will somewhat strengthen regulation of federal lobbyists, and
other measures needed to ensure strong regulation of lobbyists, click here

Democracy Watch's Government Ethics Campaign

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