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News Release

Will Throne Speech Mention 24 Promised Democratic Reform Measures Federal Conservatives Left Out of So-Called “Federal Accountability Act”?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

OTTAWA - Today, 10 months after Bill C-2 (the so-called “Federal Accountability Act” (FAA)) received final approval by Parliament, Democracy Watch called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his so-called “new” Conservative federal government to introduce bills and implement the 24 election promises they failed to include in the FAA.

“If the Conservatives’ second throne speech does not include pledges to implement their promised 24 democratic reform measures, it will confirm that even minority government power corrupts in major ways,” said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch.

The 24 broken promises are as follows:

Broken “ending patronage and cronyism” promises (For more details, go to the Voter Rights Campaign page):

  • the promise to “Establish a Public Appointments Commission to set merit-based requirements for appointments to government boards, commissions and agencies, to ensure that competitions for posts are widely publicized and fairly conducted” (In fact, the FAA does not require Cabinet to create the Commission (it only allows Cabinet to do so) and since a parliamentary committee rejected the Prime Minister Harper’s nominee for Commission chair in spring 2006, the Prime Minister has derailed the Commission);
Broken “politicians’ and lobbyists’ ethics” promises (For more details, go to the  Government Ethics Campaign page and the Honesty in Politics Campaign page):
  • the promise to “Enshrine the Conflict of Interest Code into law” (In fact, the new Conflict of Interest Act does not include five of the rules in the old Code including the rules requiring honesty and avoidance of the appearance of a conflict of interest);
  • the promise to “Close the loopholes that allow ministers to vote on matters connected with their business interests” (In fact, the FAA does not close these loopholes);
  • the promise to “Make part-time or non-remunerated ministerial advisers subject to the Ethics Code” (In fact, the new Conflict of Interest Act increases the number of part-timers and unpaid advisers not covered by most ethics rules);
  • the promise to “Extend to five years the period during which former ministers, ministerial staffers, and senior public servants cannot lobby government” (In fact, unless Cabinet ministers put ministerial staff on a list, the staff person will be allowed, as they were already, to become a lobbyist one year after they leave their staff position);
  • the promise to “Require ministers and senior government officials to record their contacts with lobbyists” (In fact, the FAA does not include this requirement, and the new Lobbying Act has not yet been made law by Cabinet, so the promise to make the Registrar of Lobbyists independent of Cabinet also remains a broken promise);
  • the promise to “Allow members of the public - not just politicians - to make complaints to the Ethics Commissioner” (In fact, the Conflict of Interest Act and the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons  (MPs Code) only allow politicians to file complaints);
  • the promise to “Give the Ethics Commissioner the power to fine violators” (In fact, the Conflict of Interest Act and the MPs Code do not empower the Ethics Commissioner to fine violators of many ethics rules, and the maximum fine is the ridiculously low amount of $500);
Broken “open government” promises (For more details, go to the Open Government Campaign page):
  • the promise to “Implement the Information Commissioner’s recommendations for reform of the Access to Information Act” (ATI Act);
  • the promise to “Give the Information Commissioner the power to order the release of information”;
  • the promise to expand the ATI Act to all “foundations, and organizations that spend taxpayers’ money or perform public functions”;
  • the promise to “Subject the exclusion of Cabinet confidences to review by the Information Commissioner”;
  • the promise to “Oblige public officials to create the records necessary to document their actions and decisions”;
  • the promise to “Provide a general public interest override for all exemptions, so that the public interest is put before the secrecy of the government”;
  • the promise to “Ensure that all exemptions from the disclosure of government information are justified only on the basis of the harm or injury that would result from disclosure, not blanket exemption rules”;
  • “Ensure that the disclosure requirements of the Access to Information Act cannot be circumvented by secrecy provisions in other federal acts, while respecting the confidentiality of national security and the privacy of personal information”;
  • the promise to publish “all government public opinion research . . . within six months of the completion of the project” (In fact, the FAA only requires some government institutions to publish some research);
Broken “whistleblower protection” promises (For more details, go to the Government Ethics Campaign page):
  • the promise to “Ensure that all Canadians who report government wrongdoing are protected, not just public servants” (In fact, the new Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA) does not even protect all public servant whistleblowers);
  • the promise to “Require the prompt public disclosure of information revealed by whistleblowers . . .” (In fact, the PSDPA prohibits the disclosure of much of the information revealed by whistleblowers);
  • the promise to “Establish monetary rewards for whistleblowers who expose wrongdoing or save taxpayer dollars” (In fact, the PSDPA did contain a $2,000 maximum reward, but this measure was cut from the bill during the parliamentary review process with support from the Conservatives);
Broken “spending and budgetting” promises (For more details, go to the Voter Rights Campaign page):
  • the promise to “Appoint a Procurement Auditor to ensure that all procurements are fair and transparent, and to address complaints from vendors” (In fact, the FAA does not give the (name-changed) Procurement Ombudsman promised powers needed to ensure fair and transparent procurement practices);
  • the promise to “Create an independent Parliamentary Budget Office” (In fact, the FAA allows Cabinet to dismiss the Officer at any time for any reason, which means the Officer will not have a key safeguard needed to act independently);
Broken “political candidates” promises (For more details, go to the Voter Rights Campaign page and the Money in Politics Campaign page):
  • the promise to “Ensure that party nomination and leadership races are conducted in a fair, transparent, and democratic manner”, and;
  • the promise to “Prevent party leaders from appointing candidates without the democratic consent of local electoral district associations."
Whether or not the Conservatives’ throne speech pledges to keep these promises, Democracy Watch and its coalitions will continue to push federal parties to implement these and other key measures (For more details, go to Clean Up the System webpage).

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

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 90 undemocratic and accountability 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

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