June 14, 2021 •
Canadian House Ethics Committee Recommendations Include Changes to Lobbying Act
The Ethics Committee of the Canadian House of Commons issued a report this month making recommendations for the House and the executive branch, including recommending greater recording-keeping when meeting with lobbyists. Specifically, the committee urges the Government of Canada to implement a mandatory rule requiring, except in exceptional circumstances, that senior public office holders be accompanied by at least one member of staff, for note taking purposes, during any meeting with lobbyists.
On June 10, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics issued a 116-page report titled “Questions of Conflict of Interest and Lobbying in Relation to Pandemic Spending,” which calls for greater transparency and accountability in procurement processes with specific recommendations.
Some of the recommendations include that the Government of Canada remove the significant part of duties threshold from the Lobbying Act for in-house lobbyists and clarify lobbying rules applicable to founders of organizations that may lobby government; introduce legislative changes to the Lobbying Act to give the Commissioner of Lobbying greater powers to investigate, issue fines and impose lobbying bans to those who disregard the Act; and ensure better compliance with the post-employment obligations of a public office holder, whether through greater sanctions or other means.
The report, a study originally started in 2020 to address general safeguards in place to prevent conflicts of interest in federal government expenditure policies, updated its focus to include pandemic spending and ways to counter the ethical concerns arising from the WE Charity scandal, in which former Finance Minister Bill Morneau was found to have violated the Conflict of Interest Act. It details events surrounding the awarding of the contribution agreement for the administration of the Canada Student Service Grant; addresses issues concerning communications by a former reporting public office holder with government officials; and the federal government’s award of a ventilator contract during the pandemic.
The committee made a total of 23 recommendations, including that the Government of Canada establish oversight and accountability mechanisms that are specifically designed to ensure rapid and transparent allocation of federal funds during emergency situations.
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