All posts tagged lobbying

The Failure of the Throne Speech

Ian Bron and Allan Cutler

The following piece ran in the Hill Times on October 21, 2013.

We had hoped that that the Conservatives would commit to protecting Canadians values through the Throne Speech. We had watched and waited for improvements in existing laws already designed to protect these values. But we did not waste time in false hopes. There appeared to be something for everyone offered in the Throne Speech unless you are an advocate of truth, honesty and transparency in government. In fact, we did not witness anything that promotes openness and honesty in government. The following details some of the significant ‘lacks’.

1. A commitment to strengthen the Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActThe PSDPA came into force in early 2006, fulfilling a key Conservative promise. However, the seven years since have shown it to be wanting. The first commissioner, Christiane Ouimet, refused to seriously investigate any cases. Second, the PSDPA, and by extension the tribunal it created, is unlikely to protect any whistleblower, since the burden of proof to demonstrate reprisal is much too high. Whistleblowers also have no right of access to courts.

There are deep flaws including unwarranted secrecy and jurisdictional limits that allow public servants to avoid sanctions simply by resigning or finding a job outside of the public sector.… Read the rest

The B.C. Rail scandal enters new phase

Most Canadians can be forgiven for not knowing about the BC Rail scandal, but it’s an interesting lesson in how corruption can creep into government.

When Gordon Campbell first ran for Premier in 2001, he promised not to sell BC Rail. This position changed, though, and in 2004 it was sold to CN Rail. There were rumours of improprieties as the deal seemed overly generous, but the scandal didn’t really erupt until the RCMP encountered evidence that linked political aides to influence peddling – in particular, Dave Basi and Robert Virk.

There were unprecedented raids on the B.C. Legislature, and charges soon followed. However, just before the matter went to trial – and senior politicians would have had to testify and documents would have come into the open – there was a deal. Basi and Virk pled guilty to a reduced sentence and had their legal fees paid.

It was sold as a good deal, costing less to taxpayers than a full trial. People weren’t convinced, though. There were widespread calls for a review.

This has apparently come to pass. The Attorney General of the province wants to see all the records. It doesn’t guarantee that the truth will come out, of course: I cannot believe that Basi and Virk acted alone, but doubt that any politician will ever have charges laid against him or her related to this affair.… Read the rest

OECD ranking likes Canada – but watch out for trouble ahead

The news over the past week has been fairly positive. International indices have been rating Canada very high on quality of life (2nd, behind Australia) and peacefulness (in the top ten).

But there have been sounds of caution, too: a month or two ago Global Integrity bumped Canada to 19th place on its corruption index. The reason: we have generally good laws but don’t enforce them, and the lack of judicial accountability.

For example, our federal Lobbying Commissioner has yet to find anyone guilty of violating the law despite finding complaints against lobbyists as “founded”. She’s asking for the power to fine them, but observers aren’t optimistic that the power would ever be used.

Canada also ranked last among the G7 countries in corruption fighting. This is partly due to a lack of laws, but, once again, this is also related to our governments’ unwillingness to enforce the laws it does have.

In short, we’re good at keeping muggers off the streets but lousy at policing big-wigs and white collar criminals.

The problem is that letting that continue will eventually hurt us (if it hasn’t already). You simply can’t have good government without strong anti-corruption measures and accountability mechanisms.… Read the rest