Two of the National Citizens Alliance (NCA)’s objectives are to eliminate the direct, behind-the-scenes influence of special interests on federal political affairs, and to increase the political influence of the Canadian people.
The NCA believes that special interests including lobbyists play an important democratic role in society by for example increasing public awareness about important social issues. Special interests include corporations, not-for-profit organizations, individuals, both Canadian and foreign, who seek to influence government and/or the public about a particular interest. Yet, the NCA believes that special interests influence on government needs to be transparent and above board. The NCA does not support secretive, behind-the-scenes dealings between elected officials and special interests.
The NCA believes that federal legislation may reflect the viewpoints of special interests, but at the same time, the legislation must be consistent with the best interests of the Canadian people. The NCA applies this standard to the conduct of elected officials and their relationship with special interests including lobbyists.
Current federal legislation on conduct of elected officials stops short of this standard, and thereby opens an avenue for the corruption and misconduct of elected officials.
The influence of lobbyists and conflicts of interest are currently limited to tangible or direct “financial” benefit. There is no regulation on tangible non-financial benefit and indirect benefit to elected officials. The NCA seeks to close this loophole.
The following legislation is relevant to the conduct of elected officials:
The Lobbying Act (1985) restricts the influence of lobbyists and regulates them through registration requirements. The Conflict of Interest Act (2006) prohibits elected officials from making political decisions that would benefit them financially. The Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner enforces these Acts.
The NCA supports the following:
● enact legislation to ensure that the Auditor General is an elected position. Currently, the Auditor General is appointed, which diminishes the independence of this important role
● give the Canadian people greater say after elections over political issues through such mechanisms as a national vote of non-confidence on the Prime Minister or government in power, and say over legislation that is before the Parliament (see our governance reform policy statement)
● reduce the size of government through creating an effective and efficient government, and thereby reduce the number of things elected officials control, and thereby can be controlled over
● conduct an independent national inquiry into the influence of special interests on federal elected officials. Based on the results of this inquiry establish mechanisms to further limit the influence of special interests on federal policy and to hold accountable elected officials who support special interests over the best interests of the Canadian people
● expand the laws concerning the influence of lobbyists/special interests on elected officials to include non-financial benefits and indirect benefits, as opposed to just laws on financial ones, for examples: voting for projects or passing industrial projects that help friends/acquaintances as well as voting for legislation that benefits persons who share the same ideology, and limiting the benefit to cabinet ministers from so-called friends who have a conflict of interest with the federal government
● expand the laws concerning the conduct of elected officials themselves to include non-financial benefits and indirect benefits, as opposed to just laws on financial ones, for example: using public monies to influence blatantly election outcomes
● conduct independent investigations into pay to access, pay to play and other corruption schemes by any elected official including the Prime Minister
● instruct the Auditor General and Canada Revenue Agency to watch closely any foundations and other charities that are linked to elected officials including the Prime Minister
● establish comprehensive procedures for the full public transparency of elected officials’ public expenditures including travel expenses
● establish as a federal standard that elected officials must represent the overall best interests of the country and their constituents, and be of free conscience in representing these best interests
● remove elected officials from the House of Commons who are caught voting on behalf of special interests or supporting special interests in regard to policy and programs at the expense of the Canadian people
● amend the Canadian Standing Committee’s and House of Common’s question period procedures in order to attain greater transparency on what and what not the sitting government is doing
● establish online public input and discussion on elected officials and special interests
● create a public complaint process for the purpose of revealing elected officials who have been colluding with special interests to the detriment of the Canadian people
● encourage elected officials to listen to the issues and concerns of a broad range of special interests
● encourage and support whistleblowers who report on the corruption of elected officials by setting up a 1-800 hotline access
The NCA believes that elected officials have the primary duty to represent their country and constituencies. The NCA acknowledges that special interest groups/individuals play an important role in raising issues that otherwise may not have been raised. Yet, at the same time, the NCA believes that the elected official has the responsibility to act in the best interests of the country and his/her constituency over a conflicting special interest. The NCA will ensure through legislation and enforcement that elected officials conduct themselves within this democratic standard of serving the public good.
The NCA welcomes feedback on its policies. Please send policy feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org