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Democracy Watch congratulates Justin Trudeau, and sets out plan for good government and corporate responsibility reforms

Surveys show proposals supported by large majority of Canadians, and also endorsed by national coalitions made up of 140 citizen groups with more than 3 million total members

April 15, 2013

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch congratulated Justin Trudeau on becoming leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and called on him not only to keep the democratic reform promises he made during the campaign but also to make many more changes that a large majority of Canadians support in keeping his commitments to “reform our political institutions” and in “reconciling the environment and our economy”.  Democracy Watch set out detailed proposals for keeping these commitments.

Mr. Trudeau promised to: open nominations in all ridings and not appoint candidates; free MPs to vote against Cabinet unless the bill is an election platform, budget or Charter of Rights measure; end the use of omnibus bills; not prorogue Parliament to avoid accountability; increase House committees’ independence and resources; support changing election voting system; ban partisan government advertising, and; make the Parliamentary Budget Officer fully independent as well as strengthen other democratic good government watchdogs.

“Justin Trudeau has promised to democratize the Liberal Party and federal government in a few ways and to make a sustainable economy a priority, but will he promise and follow through on making these and many more specific changes that surveys show a large majority of Canadians want to ensure democratic, ethical politics and corporate responsibility,” said Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch.  “The Liberals can show they are actually committed to requiring everyone in politics and big business to act honestly, openly, ethically, representatively and sustainably by proposing bills between now and the next federal election that detail the changes they would make if they win that election.”

Democracy Watch called on Mr. Trudeau and the Liberals to propose bills that make the following key changes to close 100 undemocratic and accountability loopholes in the federal government, and to require everyone in federal politics and big business to act honestly, openly, ethically, representatively and sustainably:

Democratic Good Government Changes

  1. Require all politicians, their staff, appointees to tell the truth (as federal public servants are required to do by their Values and Ethics Code), including prohibiting politicians from switching parties between elections only to advance their career, and allow complaints about dishonesty to the Ethics Commissioner with high penalties for violators, and enact measures to make fraud robocalls impossible;
  2. Ensure all government and government-funded institutions, including politicians’ offices, are open by requiring them to create records detailing all their actions and decisions (as in the UK, U.S., Australia and New Zealand) and to disclose all their communications with anyone trying to influence their decisions (whether or not they are a registered lobbyist), and by giving the Information Commissioner the power to order the disclosure of any record (as in the UK, B.C., Ontario and Quebec) if it is in the public interest and would not cause any actual harm to anyone or any organization (as in B.C. and Alberta), and the power to fine violators and require systemic changes to improve access (as in the UK), and; by fully protecting whistleblowers and allowing government scientists to speak freely about their research;
  3. Ensure everyone in politics is ethical by ensuring all politicians, their staff and appointees are required (as federal public servants are): to avoid apparent conflicts of interest (even when making general application decisions), to refuse gifts, and to refrain from lobbying the government after leaving their position for a period of time determined based on their former decision-making power, and by further restricting political donations, and by establishing high penalties for violators and requiring the Ethics Commissioner (and Elections Canada) to rule publicly on every complaint and unethical situation that arises;
  4. Ensure everyone in politics is representative by: changing the election and parliamentary voting systems in key ways; requiring meaningful public consultation before every significant government decision; establishing a Public Appointments Commission to ensure merit-based Cabinet appointments; requiring the approval of a majority of party leaders for the appointment of every officer of Parliament; freeing and empowering MPs; creating broad-based, representative citizen watchdog groups for every major government and industry sector, and; abolishing the Senate;
  5. Ensure everyone in politics is waste-preventing by: making the Parliamentary Budget Officer fully independent and fully empowered (including to order the release of information needed for spending assessments); strengthening spending rules especially by eliminating loopholes that allow for unjustifiable sole-source contracts; requiring pre-approval by the Auditor General of major spending processes to ensure they follow all the rules; requiring everyone to submit a detailed receipt for expenses, and giving the Auditor General the resources, and requiring him/her, to audit all government and government-funded institutions (including politicians’ offices) at least once every three years;
  6. Ensure everyone in politics is accountable by: creating broad-based, representative citizen watchdog groups for every major government and industry sector; allowing a majority of party leaders to initiate a public inquiry into the government’s actions; ensuring anyone can challenge the rulings of all democratic good government watchdog agencies in court; enacting strict rules on the opening and closing of the legislature;

Corporate Responsibility Changes

  1. Ensure all businesses are honest by strengthening false advertising rules, enforcement by the Competition Bureau, and penalties;
  2. Ensure all businesses are open by requiring full disclosure in a searchable Internet database of all wrongdoing by all businesses, and by fully protecting whistleblowers;
  3. Ensure all businesses are ethical by passing a law that prohibits Free Trade deals that are not Fair Trade deals (and amends current Free Trade deals to include fair trade measures), and by requiring independent audits of banks’ lending, investment and service records, and audits of all businesses to ensure gouging is prohibited;
  4. Ensure all businesses are representative by creating broad-based, representative citizen watchdog groups for every major industry sector, and; by requiring everyone in business (especially banks and other financial institutions) to consider all stakeholders’ interests when they make decisions (especially lending, investment and insurance decisions) and to account publicly for how they do this, and; by prohibiting CEOs from playing any role in the selection of board members;
  5. Ensure all businesses are waste-preventing by phasing out subsidies to polluting businesses, and requiring public disclosure of the expenses of all executives;
  6. Ensure all businesses are accountable by creating citizen watchdog groups for every major industry sector, and increasing penalties including prohibiting any business that violates the law from receiving any government contracts or subsidies or tax breaks.

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