Former Okanagan Coquihalla MP Stockwell Day, responding to questions about his decision to go into private business as a government relations consultant, says he has gone to great lengths to ensure that his new enterprise does not violate federal ethics laws.
“It is all clear,” he said in responding to questions from a leading Canadian political watchdog organization. Day said that his company Stockwell Day Connex does not lobby government. Nor does it provide access to individuals or reveal sensitive information, including cabinet secrets, said Day, who noted that he has actually strengthened a disclaimer that states that his business is not a lobbying firm. “Further, in consultation with Canada’s Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, and subject to the Government of Canada Accountability Act and the Conflict of Interest Act, neither Stockwell Day nor Stockwell Day Connex will provide ‘insider’ information on any matters related to cabinet discussions, files or decisions, past or pending,” it states on the site.
Day served as the region’s MP from 2000 to 2011 and held senior cabinet positions in two consecutive Conservative minority governments from 2006 to 2011.
Day’s assurances have appeared after Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch had expressed concerns following the launch of Day’s new business called Stockwell Day Connex.
Its site says that Day will work with organizations to create a “clear and concise government relations strategy, as well as provide insightful analysis on Canadian political developments.”
It goes on to say the company will assist clients in identifying “implications and opportunities” resulting from developments in Canadian public policy, as well as provide political environmental assessments, offer consultation on communications strategies and provide what it calls strategic council for the governing body of the client’s organization.
Conacher has not directly accused Day of any wrongdoing and acknowledged a letter in which Day stated he will not deal in any confidential information and only provide advice.
But Conacher says he remains concerned by what he calls “loopholes” in the current federal laws governing lobbyists.
The federal Conflict of Interest Act prohibits former MPs from acting in a manner as to take improper advantage of his or her previous public office, acting on behalf of any person or organization in connection with anything to do with their previous office and giving advice using information obtained as a holder of public office that is not available to the public.
Conacher’s concern stems from the fact neither the federal commissioner of lobbyists, nor the federal ethics commissioner audit or inspect the activities of former ministers, staff or senior officials to see if they are following the rules after leaving office.
Conacher also noted the five-year ban on lobbying is only for registered lobbyists. If someone is not a registered lobbyist and is not being paid to lobby, but simply to advise, he or she could skirt the law.
“Until the loopholes in these laws are closed, and these laws are effectively enforced, they will just be empty words on paper,” said Conacher.
With files from Alistair Waters