At the heart of our democratic system of government is a relationship of trust and respect between Canadians and the representatives they elect. We expect those representatives to act responsibly, with integrity, honesty and intelligence. When they do not, trust and respect frays and democracy falters. We must protect that relationship with all our might. As we have seen in other countries, a few loose strands, if pulled, can unravel the whole fabric of society.
All governments seem to have their ethical challenges. Jean Chretien had the sponsorship scandal, Stephen Harper the Duffy affair, and now Justin Trudeau the SNC-Lavalin affair. The recent report of the Ethics Commissioner shines a harsh light on the inner workings of a Prime Minister’s Office to which a powerful corporation had easy access, to the point of getting legislation passed that would allow it to avoid criminal prosecution and pressuring the Attorney General to use it. While this may be the worst case, corporate influence on minister’s offices and federal boards is entrenched. 
The Green Party is committed to honest, ethical, caring leadership. All of the policies set out in this platform represent a deep commitment to ethics in government and a democracy that works for all citizens.
- Strengthen the Conflict of Interest Act
- Implement a committee to review MPs’ salaries and budgets
- Mandate that public interest comes before government secrecy
- Eliminate the first-past-the-post electoral system
- Lower the voting age to 16
- Give Indigenous, federal, provincial and municipal governments an equal seat at the policy-making table
Integrity and Ethics in Government
There are a host of reforms that could strengthen the checks against abuse of power and influence peddling in parliament and federal institutions and make the House of Commons a more constructive, cooperative and effective institution. A Green government will introduce integrity in government legislation.
- Direct the Speaker to enforce existing rules to minimize the power of party whips over individual members of parliament.
- Remove the requirement for party leaders to sign candidate nominations, accepting proof of a fair and open process at the local (Electoral District Association) level.
- Strengthen the role and protect the independence of parliamentary officers including the Ombudsman, the Auditor General, the Ethics Commissioner, the Information Commissioner, the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
- Strengthen the Conflict of Interest Act to include financial and other penalties for breaking the law.
- Set up an all-party commission to select a five-member board that will make decisions regarding Governor-in-Council appointments and select candidates for parliamentary officers.
- Impose strict conflict of interest screening criteria for appointments to federal regulatory boards and agencies, minimizing the potential for bias and preferential access by the regulated industry.
- Replace the secretive Board of Internal Economy with an independent oversight committee to review MPs’ salaries, expenses and office budgets.
- Establish a public investigations office reporting to parliament to provide clearer and permanent operating rules for such investigations.
- Strengthen the Lobbying Act to require greater transparency and prevent “revolving doors” between political life, the public service and lobbying.
- Reaffirm the independence and integrity of the public service and strengthen whistle-blower protections for public service employees.
- Launch a federal public inquiry into what the RCMP and other federal agencies knew about money laundering in B.C. casinos and why they did not expose the growing corruption. 
Transparency in Government
The Access to Information Act (ATI) giving individuals the right to access records under the control of a federal government institution has a number of exceptions, including cabinet confidence, that are used increasingly to limit access. To ensure open and transparent government, a Green government will strengthen the ATI.
- Expand access to information about the government and its activities by scrapping all fees, except the filing fee.
- Provide enforceable deadlines so that requests are processed in a timely manner.
- Authorize the Information Commissioner to order the release of information.
- Place the administration of parliament, the Prime Minister’s Office and minister’s offices within the scope of the ATI.
- Override all exemptions so that public interest comes before the secrecy of the government.
- Provide for exclusions based on claims of cabinet confidences to be reviewed by the Information Commissioner.
- Require public officials to create a public record to document their actions and decisions regarding all ATI requests.
Protection of Privacy
The flip side of increasing government transparency is protecting the privacy rights of Canadians. According to Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien, Canada’s privacy legislation is “sadly falling behind what is the norm in other countries.”  A Green government will also curtail the surveillance powers of security agencies and prohibit the surreptitious reach of corporations.
- Change the law to require the Communications Security Establishment and CSIS to get a warrant before intruding on Canadians’ communications.
- Prohibit the routine surveillance of Canadians who protest against the government and the sharing of protesters' and NGO staff information with the National Energy Board, and others.
- Significantly increase the powers of the Privacy Commissioner, in particular to protect identity and personal data, and to enforce privacy laws.
- Require companies to grant access to all information they hold on an individual, and to delete personal information from company databases when requested by that person. Individuals would have the “right to be forgotten.”
- Establish a parliamentary inquiry to recommend modernizing privacy laws governing the burgeoning “internet of things.”
- Create mandatory data breach reporting for all government departments, companies, banks and political parties.
- Regulate Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to ensure that only actual people, with verifiable identities, are able to publish on those platforms.
- Prohibit cyber surveillance and bulk collection of data as part of cyber surveillance by intelligence and police agencies.
- Require that internet service providers may only release data when required to do so by warrant, except in emergency situations.
- Require political parties to follow the Privacy Act, without exceptions.
Reforming Democratic Institutions
Integrity in the elections process is foundational to the relationship of trust and respect on which democracy is built. A Green government will ensure that the electoral system produces a parliament that represents the will of the electorate and that the electoral process is beyond reproach.
- Ensure that the 2019 election is the last “first past the post” election. By March 2020, we will launch a Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform with the mandate to make recommendations to parliament on an electoral system that would “make every vote count.” Legislative changes to implement the recommendations of the Citizens Assembly would be made in time for the 2023 federal election.
- Lower the voting age to 16, giving young people more say in their future and instilling habits of civic participation.
- Require all parties to submit their campaign platform cost estimates to the Parliamentary Budget Officer for review.
- Mandate Elections Canada to develop a truth in advertising framework for election campaigns that empowers the Commissioner of Elections to investigate citizens’ complaints related to campaign advertising and impose sanctions if the complaints are found to be justified.
Canada’s constitutional division of powers between federal and provincial levels of government, together with the constitutional protection of Indigenous treaty rights and our adoption of the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, both enable and constrain the federal government in setting national priorities. We need a mechanism that convenes all governments to discuss and decide upon issues of national importance.
A Green government will support the model of collaborative federalism, working with and ensuring fair treatment for provinces, territories, municipalities and Indigenous Peoples by establishing a Council of Canadian Governments to set higher order policy priorities, with the goal of policy coherence to optimize public spending. It would include the federal government, provincial/territorial governments, representatives of the local order of government with large city mayors and smaller and rural municipalities, and Indigenous (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) governments. This is similar to one in place in Australia.
The Role of the Municipal Order of Government
Around the world, cities are taking leadership on critical issues such as climate change, immigration and refugee protection. Canadian cities are hobbled in this respect because the 1867 constitutional designation of the municipal order of government as creations of the provinces severely limits their autonomy and authority. With only 10 cents out of every tax dollar flowing to municipalities, and no direct powers of taxation, vast inequities in our governance structures and financial stability have been created.
Successive governments have skirted the issue; there is no appetite for re-opening the Constitution. Prime Minister Harper, quite rightly, made the gas tax a permanent form of municipal taxation. The Trudeau administration has also made some progress on funding housing and transit infrastructure. These have helped to stabilize municipal budgets, but it is still insufficient.
- Give municipal governments a seat at the policy-making table through the Council of Canadian Governments.
- Encourage the use of City Charters which give greater autonomy to cities.
- Makes changes to the Canada Infrastructure Bank to reduce interest rates to municipalities on loans for infrastructure projects.
- Institutionalize federal transfers to municipalities through the creation of a Municipal Fund, renaming the Gas Tax funds, which were delinked from gas tax revenue years ago. Ensure a doubling of current funding to ensure predictable and reliable funding to municipalities.
- Allocate one per cent of GST to housing and other municipal infrastructure on an ongoing basis to provide a consistent baseline of funding.
- Answer the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ and Vancouver Mayor’s Council’s call for a permanent, dedicated federal public transit fund of $3.4 billion annually starting in 2028, once the existing transit funding program expires.
The criminal justice system criminalizes far too many Indigenous persons, members of visible minority communities and people suffering from mental illness, homelessness and addiction. The adversarial family court system does not address the needs of children and families experiencing the trauma of divorce and separation. The civil justice system disadvantages those who cannot afford lawyers.
A Green government will implement a justice reform agenda that will increase access to justice and fairness in Canada’s justice system.
- Develop a clear framework for the use of Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) and require the Director of Public Prosecutions to report on any negotiated DPAs in her annual reports.
- Implement recommendations of the McLellan Report for a clear written exchange of views to avoid some of what was inappropriate in the SNC-Lavalin matter.
- Eliminate mandatory minimum sentences and enable the courts to determine appropriate sentences based on the circumstances of each case.
- Pass legislation to eliminate solitary confinement that fully coheres with decisions rendered in the courts of British Columbia and Ontario.
- Re-invest in prisoner rehabilitation and preparation for reintegration in society, especially for Indigenous people and women.
- Ensure illegal handguns are intercepted and kept out of our cities. Redirect Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) resources to weapons smuggling and reduce pursuit of people living in Canada without proper residency, but who are otherwise law-abiding. Launch a confidential buyback program for handguns and assault weapons.
- Reform the process of record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis to maximize fairness and accessibility for marginalized communities, and review the process of record suspensions as it applies to other offences.
- Reform the policy, legislation, programming, and funding framework for Canada’s superior courts so that civil and family justice services become much more accessible to Canadians, following the precedent set by British Columbia and the United Kingdom.
- 36. See for example Robyn Allan’s withdrawal letter from the National Energy Board hearings for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, May 19, 2015. Available: https://www.scribd.com/document/265910093/Robyn-Allan-Withdrawal-Letter-NEB-May-19-2015.
- 37. Money laundering in British Columbia skewed the housing market and assisted in the spread of fentanyl, killing people in the opioid crisis. See S. Cooper, S. Bell, and A. Russell, “Secrert police study finds crime networks could have laundered over $1B through Vancouver home in 2016.” Global News. November 26, 2018. Available: https://globalnews.ca/news/4658157/fentanyl-vancouver-real-estate-billion-money-laundering-police-study/. [Accessed August 17, 2019].
- 38. Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. 2017-18 Annual Report to Parliament on the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Privacy Act. September 27, 2018. Available: https://www.priv.gc.ca/en/opc-actions-and-decisions/ar_index/201718/ar_201718/. [Accessed August 17, 2019].