• By: OLM Staff

Democracy Watch gives Trudeau Liberal government an F in accountability and transparency

Yesterday, as the Open Government Partnership Global Summit was being held in Ottawa, Democracy Watch issued its report card on the Trudeau Liberal open government record. Not surprisingly, the report card gives the Liberals an overall F grade.

The excessive secrecy problems with the Trudeau Liberal government include:

1. Liberals promised several changes not included in Bill C-58 in the Open Government section of their 2015 election platform, and in the specific Access to Information section of the platform;

2. Bill C-58 also proposed changes that were not promised in the Liberals’ platform, changes that were big steps backwards in access rights;

3. The Liberals have also failed to keep their international Open Government Partnership commitments, weak as those commitments were.

4. Bill C-58 also ignored many of the recommendations made in the unanimous June 2016 report of the House of Commons Access, Privacy and Ethics Committee;

5. The Liberals violated the legal requirement in the Lobbying Act (section 14.1) to review the Actevery five years (the review should have happened in 2017) so they didn’t even try to close secret lobbying loopholes;

6. The Trudeau government has appealed a Federal Court ruling that that closed secret lobbying loophole, made Trudeau’s family friend the Aga Khan accountable for secret lobbying, and increased enforcement of the Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct;

7. The Liberals ignored all of the recommendations made in the unanimous June 2017 House Committee report for key changes to strengthen the federal whistleblower protection system, and;

8. PM Trudeau and his Cabinet used a secretive, dishonest, Cabinet-controlled process to appoint the new Ethics Commissioner, and the new Lobbying Commissioner, and;

9. As former Information Commissioner concluded at the end of her term, the Trudeau Liberals have made the federal government more secretive.

As well, PM Trudeau and his Cabinet ministers have been involved in the following scandals, all marked by excessive secrecy:

1. The secret trips to the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas;

2. Finance Minister Bill Morneau secretly owning $30 million in shares in his family’s company Morneau Shepell Inc.;

3. Keeping it secret how many lobbyists have helped organize fundraising events for the Liberals (Barry Sherman of Apotex Inc., and Mickey MacDonald of Clearwater Seafoods, are not likely the only ones);

4. Giving preferential access to the PM and Cabinet ministers to secret “bundler” fundraisers;

5. The secret effort to influence the Attorney General’s decision concerning the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin;

6. Failing to prevent Kevin Lynch from secretly lobbying Michael Wernick;

7. Keeping the identities secret of executives and others connected to SNC-Lavalin who donated to the Liberals through an illegal scheme, and;

8. Keeping it a secret that the Ethics Commissioner’s senior lawyer is the sister-in-law of Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

Tens of thousands of voters have sent letters through Democracy Watch’s Open Government Campaignand Protect Whistleblowers Campaign and Government Ethics Campaign calling on the Liberals to make many key changes to stop excessive government secrecy, protect whistleblowers, and stop secret lobbying. Democracy Watch also signed the open letter issued in 2017 by a global coalition of organizations and individuals calling for open government changes.

“The Trudeau Liberals have broken most of their open government promises, made the federal government more secretive, failed to make key changes to protect whistleblowers and stop secret lobbying, and been involved in many scandals marked by excessive secrecy, and that’s why they deserve a failing grade in the area of open government,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Part-time Professor of law and politics at the University of Ottawa. “Given that the federal open government, whistleblower protection and lobbying laws have been reviewed several times in the past 15 years, and that there is a consensus on key changes that must be made, the Liberals have no excuses for failing to make these changes.”

The only positive changes the Trudeau government has made are mainly in the area of open data by making information that was already public easier to access; making MPs’ expense reports more accessible; making it easier to file and track access to information requests, and; making details about some fundraising events public through Bill C-50 that came into force last December.