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News Release


Monday, June 26, 2006

OTTAWA - Today, Democracy Watch criticized the federal Conservative government for failing to include 21 promised measures in the “Federal Accountability Act” (FAA - Bill C-2), which was passed on Wednesday by the House of Commons, and for refusing to consider or rejecting some opposition party amendments that would have forced the Conservatives to keep their election promises.

At the same time, while the opposition parties won a couple of important amendments to the FAA, Democracy Watch is holding its applause because opposition parties didn’t attempt or support closing many huge loopholes (including many loopholes left or created by the Conservatives broken promises) they could have closed given that opposition parties hold a majority of seats on committees and in the House of Commons.  The Liberals especially proposed as many amendments to weaken the FAA as they proposed changes to strengthen the FAA.  (Please see further below for a summary of significant amendments made to Bill C-2, and for a summary of all key amendments proposed during the Committee review see Democracy Watch’s June 13, 2006 news release)

Democracy Watch called on the Senate to conclude quickly the review of the FAA it began last Thursday (which continues tomorrow) and amend the FAA only by adding the 21 measures the Conservatives promised to include in the bill (Please see further below for a summary of the 21 measures, and for details about the broken promises see Democracy Watch’s May 25, 2006 news release).  The Senate has the power to make other changes to the FAA, but as an unelected body it should not use this power to weaken Bill C-2 or make other significant changes to the bill.

“Bill C-2 (the Federal Accountability Act) is much weaker and loophole-filled than it should be mainly because the Conservatives failed to include 21 promised measures in the bill, but also because the opposition parties played many games instead of cooperating to strengthen the bill in key ways,” said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch and Chairperson of the Government Ethics Coalition and the Money in Politics Coalition. “Ironic as it may be, the unelected Senate should uphold voter rights by amending the bill to include the Conservatives’ 21 promised measures, and send it back to the House of Commons to force all Conservative MPs to choose between keeping their election promises and breaking them.”

Democracy Watch believes the circumstances justify the Senate adding the 21 measures to Bill C-2.  Polls show that voters elected the Conservatives mainly based on their government accountability promises which included ending secrecy in government, ending secret lobbying, closing all loopholes in ethics rules, restricting the Prime Minister’s power to make patronage appointments, and ensuring truth in government budgetting.  However, Bill C-2 does none of these things.

Polls also show that keeping promises is the top government accountability issue for Canadian voters, and federal ethics rules require that all federal politicians act with honesty (which, of course, includes being honest in making and keeping election promises).

In addition, all politicians are in a conflict of interest when reviewing proposals that will increase their own acccountability, so while it is disappointing, it is not surprising that the opposition parties approved a bill that contains fewer accountability measures than the Conservatives promised.  It also, of course, helps opposition parties prospects in the next federal election if they have clear evidence of Conservative promise-breaking.  As for the Conservatives, no roll-call votes were held in the House of Commons on Bill C-2, so voters don’t even know the position of individual Conservative MPs on their Cabinet failing to include 21 promised measures in Bill C-2.

Given the above, while the House of Commons approval of a loophole-filled FAA may be an expression of the will of the House of Commons, it should not be seen as an expression of the will of Canadian voters.  For all the reasons set out above, the Senate should uphold voters’ right to have election promises kept, and send Bill C-2 back to the House with the 21 promised Conservative measures included, thereby forcing all Conservative MPs to choose between keeping their promises or voting against them.

In terms of amendments made to Bill C-2 by the Committee reviewing the bill, and by the House of Commons, the following changes are significant improvements to the FAA:

Unless the Senate adds the Conservatives’ 21 promised measures to Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act (FAA), the following huge loopholes will continue to fatally undermine the federal government’s accountability system:
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Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179

Democracy Watch's  June 13, 2006 news release summarizing key amendments proposed
by the House of Commons Committee that reviewed Bill C-2

Democracy Watch's May 25, 2006 news release detailing the Conservatives' broken promises in Bill C-2

Democracy Watch's May 30, 2006 news release detailing 140 changes needed to Bill C-2 in 15 key areas

Democracy Watch's Report Card on the 2006 Government Accountability Election Platforms
of the five main federal political parties

“Federal Accountability Act” (Bill C-2 -- See it and all related documents at: http://www.accountability.gc.ca)

Conservative Party of Canada platform webpage

Democracy Watch's Citizen Association Campaign
Democracy Watch's Voter Rights Campaign
Democracy Watch's Government Ethics Campaign
Democracy Watch's Money in Politics Campaign
Democracy Watch's Open Government Campaign


Democracy Watch homepage