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News Release


Monday, February 5, 2007

OTTAWA - Today, as the three-day International Congress on Ethics opened in Gatineau, Québec (across the river from Ottawa), Democracy Watch revealed the 15 measures in Bill C-2 (the so-called “Federal Accountability Act” (FAA)) that are not in force and will not be in force until the federal Cabinet approves them, and called on the federal Conservative Cabinet to tell the truth about the FAA, finally, and to tell the public exactly when the Cabinet will approve these measures.

Democracy Watch also called on all the federal political parties to work together to correct the 85 key, significantly undemocratic flaws that remain in the federal government by ensuring the passage of strong honesty, ethics, openness, representativeness and waste-prevention measures that are strongly enforced with high penalties for violators of the measures. (To see a summary of the 85 undemocratic loopholes, click here)

The FAA only included 30 of the 52 measures the Stephen Harper and the Conservatives promised to include in the Act and also cut key Cabinet ethics rules (including the rule that requires them to be honest with the public) -- To see the details about the ethics complaint Democracy Watch has filed about the Conservatives' breaking their election promises concerning Bill C-2, click here.  When Harper made the FAA promise in November 2005, he claimed that all 52 measures were needed to clean up the federal government and make it accountable.  Even though Parliament passed the FAA on December 12th, 15 of the 30 measures in the FAA will only come into force when the federal Cabinet approves them, and the Cabinet is not ever required to approve the 15 measures. (To see a summary of the key measures in Bill C-2, the so-called Federal Accountability Act, click here)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, former-Treasury Board minister John Baird, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury Board Minister Pierre Poilievre have all misled Canadians in the past two months with false claims that the Conservatives kept their 2006 election promise concerning the FAA.

Prime Minister Harper falsely claimed when Bill C-2 passed through Parliament mid-December that "accountability in government is now the law".  Former Treasury Board-minister John Baird falsely claimed in December that the Conservatives delivered "clean government" as a Christmas gift to Canadians.  And on CBC Radio’s show “The House” on January 13, 2007, Pierre Poilievre falsely claimed that the federal government "is legally obliged" and is "bound by law" to implement the entire FAA.

“The federal Conservatives baited voters with a false promise that if elected they would close 52 government accountability loopholes with an Accountability Act, and since then they have falsely claimed they kept their promise when in fact they have only closed 15 loopholes so far,” said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch.  “Will the Conservatives finally start telling the truth and let the public know exactly when they are going to close the other 37 loopholes they promised to close?”

The 15 key measures in the Federal Accountability Act that are not in force and that the federal Cabinet is never required to approve or act on are as follows:

  • measures that weaken ethics rules for federal Cabinet ministers, their staff and senior government officials, but hopefully will lead to the appointment of a new Ethics Commissioner who, in contrast to current Commissioner Bernard Shapiro and former Ethics Counsellor Howard Wilson, will effectively enforce ethics rules;
  • measures that increase disclosure requirements in the federal lobbying law and will turn the current lapdog Registrar of Lobbyists into an independent watchdog;
  • measures that add 50 government institutions to the list of institutions covered by the federal Access to Information Act
  • measures that establish the Public Appointments Commission to help ensure Cabinet appointments are made based on merit, and;
  • measures that establish the Procurement Ombudsman to help ensure government purchases of goods and services are done fairly.
And even if the Conservatives establish the Public Appointments Commission and the Procurement Ombudsman, a future government could shut both down at any time without any review by Parliament because the Accountability Act does not require Cabinet to maintain either the commission or the ombudsman.

Last November, the Senate proposed changes to Bill C-2 (the Federal Accountability Act (FAA)) to require Cabinet to establish and maintain the Public Appointments Commission and the Procurement Ombudsman, but the Conservatives hypocritically rejected those changes for no valid reason.

The Conservatives have also played dishonest, hypocritical games since the FAA was introduced in April 2006 with their promised changes to the Access to Information Act (ATI Act).  The Conservatives promised to include more than 40 changes strengthening the ATI Act in Bill C-2, but they only included one change extending coverage of the ATI Act to more government institutions.  At the same time, the Conservatives released a discussion paper that criticized their own promised changes to the ATI Act.

In a report tabled in Parliament on October 4, 2006, the House of Commons Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics unanimously rejected the discussion paper, and requested that the federal Cabinet instead introduce a bill by December 15, 2006 strengthening the ATI Act in the ways the Conservatives promised.  The Conservatives have not introduced a bill, nor given any formal response.

Overall, there are 85 well-identified, undemocratic flaws in the federal government (including the 15 flaws that will only be corrected if the federal Cabinet approves 15 measures contained in the FAA), and these flaws allow federal politicians to act dishonestly, unethically, secretively, non-representatively and wastefully and not be penalized in any way.

“The federal government will often not deal with issues or problems fairly, effectively or efficiently until politicians and government officials are effectively required to act honestly, ethically, openly, representatively and to prevent waste,” said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch. “The federal government’s accountability system is the scandal, and until the 85 flaws in the system are corrected scandalous activities will continue to plague the government.”

Democracy Watch and its nation-wide coalitions will continue pushing for these 85 key changes and, if they are not made before the next election, will continue pushing all parties to include the changes in their next election platforms and to make the changes after the next election.

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

Democracy Watch's Clean Up the System webpage

Democracy Watch homepage

To see a summary of the key measures in Bill C-2, the so-called Federal Accountability Act, click here

To see a summary of the 85 undemocratic loopholes in the federal government's accountability system that Bill C-2 does nothing to close, click here

To see the details about the ethics complaint Democracy Watch has filed about the Conservatives' breaking their election promises concerning Bill C-2, click here

To see an opinion piece about Bill C-2 by Democracy Watch Coordinator Duff Conacher which was published in two Canadian newspapers, click here

To see Bill C-2, the so-called“Federal Accountability Act”and related federal government documents go to: http://www.accountability.gc.ca