Former Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day claims that in his new government relations role he will “not deal in any confidential information,” he will only “provide advice.”  Former minister Monte Solberg, who has been providing such strategic advice to clients for the past few years, claims that it’s easy to avoid lobbying when communicating with his former cabinet colleagues.

While their claims may be difficult to believe, they may well be true.

What is definitely true is that because neither the federal Commissioner of Lobbying nor the federal Ethics Commissioner do any audits or inspections of the activities of former ministers, staff or senior officials, these people can essentially choose whether or not they will follow the laws that prohibit them from selling lobbying services for five years after they leave office, and that prohibit them forever from giving advice using secret information they learned while in office.

Along with the federal Integrity Commissioner, these two commissioners have been acting like lapdogs protecting federal politicians, government officials and lobbyists, instead of being watchdogs strictly and strongly upholding key good government laws.

Another part of this wide open, unethical system is that the so-called five-year ban is only on being a registered lobbyist, not on lobbying. You are allowed to lobby the day after you leave office because you don’t have to register as a lobbyist if you are not paid for the lobbying (so you can just arrange to have someone pay you for “advice” and do the lobbying for free). You also don’t have to register if you work as an employee for a company and lobby less than 20 per cent of your work time, or if you only lobby about the enforcement and/or administration of laws, regulations, policies and government programs, so these lobbying activities are also legal the day after you leave office.

The cases of former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer, and of former prime minister adviser Bruce Carson, have highlighted these loopholes, but still the federal Conservatives continue to fail to make the changes they promised in the 2006 election that would require all lobbying to be registered by the politicians and government officials being lobbied.

Perversely, the rules are stronger, and Canadians have a higher chance of getting a ticket, for having their car parked a few minutes after the meter runs out compared to the chance former cabinet ministers and government officials have of getting caught violating these key anti-corruption laws.

Until the loopholes in these laws are closed, and these laws are effectively enforced, they will just be empty words on paper, and secret, unethical lobbying and advice giving by former cabinet ministers and senior government officials will continue to be rampant in Canada.

Canadians deserve better, especially from the Conservatives who promised to clean up federal politics.

Duff Conacher is a founder and board member of Democracy Watch, and the organizer of the movement.