Group Files Complaints With Lobbying
Commissioner, Ethics Commissioner and Elections Canada About Lobbyist's
Federal Conservative Fundraising Event That Raises
Thursday, October 22, 2009
OTTAWA - Today, Democracy Watch released the letters it
sent yesterday to the federal Commissioner of Lobbying, Conflict of
Ethics Commissioner, and Commissioner of Canada Elections requesting
that they investigate and rule on a fundraising event it believes was
held by Conservative Minister of Natural Resources Lisa Raitt on
September 24, 2009.
Democracy Watch has been provided with what appears to be a
genuine copy of an invitation
to the fundraising event for Minister Raitt, and/or her riding
association, and indirectly the
Conservative Party of Canada.
The invitation states that the event was to be held on September 24, 2009 at Kultura at 169 King St. E. in Toronto and, to attend, a person was required to make a donation of minimum $250.
While it is not known what role (if any) Michael McSweeney played in organizing the event, or designing or distributing invitations for the event, the invitation that was distributed stated “Come and support Lisa Raitt on September 24th” and “To RSVP, please fax this form to Michael McSweeney 1.613.563.4498”. This is the fax number for the Cement Association of Canada’s office in Ottawa.
The invitation also stated: “Questions? Please e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org” and that “Cheques can be made payable to:
Halton Conservative E.D.A.” The invitation that was distributed
also had space for the invitee to fill out their name, credit card
number and expiry date, and amount they were donating.
It is clear from the invitation that Mr. McSweeney played a
significant role in the event for Minister Raitt. It is not known
whether he provided any other services to assist with the organizing of
the event, or whether Minister Raitt paid Mr. McSweeney for the
services he provided to her.
Michael McSweeney is a registered lobbyist for the Cement
Association of Canada (CAC), and the CAC is registered to lobby the
Ministry of Natural Resources under the federal Lobbying Act (Registration number
According to the registry, on March 3, 2009 (Communications
registration number 13913-100475), and on September 24, 2009 (the same
day as the event -- Communications registration number 13913-125034)
representatives of the CAC communicated directly with Minister Raitt.
Democracy Watch contacted several
members of the Canadian Society of Professional Event Planners and was
told that the service of registering people for such an event has a
commercial value of $1,500 to $2,000, and the services involved in
overall organization of such an event have a commercial value of $4,000
In Democracy Watch's opinion, Mr. McSweeney's assistance with
the fundraising event raises
serious questions because if he provided the assistance for free, and
provided the services while at work, he has provided a gift of services
to Minister Raitt (whom his association lobbies) that it is reasonable
to conclude violates both federal ethics and political donations rules.
"Democracy Watch's opinion is that given federal ethics rules for politicians and lobbyists, and federal political donation rules, and given related federal court rulings, the fundraising event for Minister Raitt raises serious questions that merit investigation by the federal Lobbying Commissioner, Ethics Commissioner and Commissioner of Canada Elections," said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch.
Democracy Watch's opinion is that if Mr. McSweeney was not
paid for the services he provided to Minister Raitt, the contribution
he made through assisting with her fundraising event raise serious
questions for the following reasons (all of which are detailed in the
letters sent yesterday to the federal Commissioner of Lobbying, Ethics
Commissioner and Commissioner of Canada Elections):
Based on its very close review of the federal Conflict of Interest Act and
federal Ethics Commissioner's 2008 Guideline
on Gifts (including Invitations, Fundraisers and Business Lunches)
under that Act, and relevant
court rulings, Democracy Watch’s opinion is that the only gifts and/or
contributions that are permitted to be given to federal Cabinet
ministers (including Parliamentary Secretaries) under the Canada Elections Act exemption in
clause 11(2)(a) of the Conflict of
Interest Act are money, property or the use of property or
services provided by an individual up to the contribution limit of
$1,100 (or equivalent commercial value) annually, and volunteer labour
provided by an individual outside of their area of work and outside of
their working hours.
Based on its very close review of the federal Conflict of Interest Code for Members of
the House of Commons (the MPs
Code) and relevant court rulings, Democracy Watch’s opinion is
that it is a violation of the MPs
Code for an MP to accept any gift of money, property or the use
of property or services (volunteer or otherwise, such as fundraising)
from a registered lobbyist, as such a gift can reasonably be seen to be
given to influence the MP’s exercise of their public duties.
And based on its very close review of the federal Lobbying Act and Lobbyists' Code of Conduct and
relevant court rulings (including the Federal Court of Appeal's unanimous
ruling in March 2009), Democracy Watch’s opinion is that it is a
violation of Rule 8 of the Lobbyists’
Code for any lobbyist (whether legally and properly registered
under the Act or not) to
provide, directly or indirectly, to any public office any more money
than is allowed to be contributed annually under the Canada Elections Act, or any more
property or use of property the commercial value of which exceeds the
annual contribution limits under the Canada
Elections Act, or any services (whether paid or volunteer) that
are significant enough to create within the public office holder a
personal sense of obligation to the lobbyist.
Rule 8 of the 12-year-old federal Lobbyists' Code of Conduct (Lobbyists’ Code) states:
"8. Lobbyists shall not place public office holders in a conflict of interest by proposing or undertaking any action that would constitute an improper influence on a public office holder."
The Federal Court of Appeal's March 2009 unanimous ruling
stated that Rule 8 of the Lobbyists'
Code simply "prohibits
lobbyists from placing public
office holders in a conflict of interest" because "Any conflict of interest impairs public
confidence in government decision-making" (para. 48).
The Court of Appeal's ruling went on to clarify specifically
that "A lobbyist's stock in trade is
his or her
ability to gain access to decision makers, so as to attempt to
influence them directly by persuasion and facts. Where the
lobbyist's effectiveness depends upon the decision maker's personal
sense of obligation to the lobbyist, or on some other private interest
created or facilitated by the lobbyist, the line between legitimate
lobbying and illegitimate lobbying has been crossed."
The Court of Appeal's ruling follows
the same logic, and sets
the same ethical standard, as the federal Conflict of Interest and
Commissioner's 2008 Guideline
on Gifts (including Invitations, Fundraisers and Business Lunches),
which covers gifts of money, property or services as defined
of Interest Act and strongly reaffirms that federal Cabinet
ministers and other
officials (and their family members) essentially cannot accept any
gifts or favours from anyone
who is trying to influence, or will be trying to influence, or has or
have dealings with, the minister or government official, even if the
lobbyist is a friend or a relative. (NOTE:
the Ethics Commissioner's guideline is based upon the principles of the
of influence and persuasion -- for more details, click here)
The Guideline on Gifts offers examples of gift givers
Commissioner views as giving gifts or doing favours in order to
a minister or government official, including anyone who is associated
or lobbying for, any entity that has or may have dealings of any kind
the government institution(s) that the minister or official directs
The Guideline on Gifts contains the following key
The Preamble of the federal Lobbyists' Code states that together it and the Conflict of Interest Act and other ethics codes for public office holders (politicians, their staff and government officials) “play an important role in safeguarding the public interest in the integrity of government decision-making”. Therefore, Democracy Watch has always argued that the interpretation of Rule 8 of the Lobbyists' Code must be based on public office holders' ethics rules.
There are rules that clarify what types of influence are improper and cause conflicts of interest in the two-year-old Conflict of Interest Act, and in the four-year-old Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons and in the four-year-old Conflict of Interest Code for Senators and in the 12-year-old federal Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service.
Specifically, all of these codes state that it is improper to
receive a gift of money, property or services that could influence a
Given that lobbyists, by definition, try to influence the decisions of
public office holders, Democracy Watch believes that a proper
application of the Court of Appeal's interpretation and application of
Rule 8 of the Lobbyists'
Code prohibits lobbyists from providing money, property
services to public office holders because that can create, in the words
of the Court of Appeal, a “personal sense of obligation” by the public
office holder to the lobbyist or a “competing private interest” (paras.
For all these reasons, Democracy Watch believes that is
reasonable for the Commissioner of Lobbying, the Ethics Commissioner
and the Commissioner of Canada Elections to investigate Mr. McSweeney's
role in Minister Raitt's fundraising
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Democracy Watch's Government Ethics Campaign
Democracy Watch's Money in
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