Federal Accountability Act
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The Federal Accountability Act (full title: "An Act providing for conflict of interest rules, restrictions on election financing and measures respecting administrative transparency, oversight and accountability", here in this article shorthanded to FedAA) is a statute introduced as Bill C-2 in the first session of the 39th Canadian Parliament on April 11, 2006, by the President of the Treasury Board, John Baird. The plan aims to reduce the opportunity to exert influence with money by banning corporate, union, and large personal political donations; five-year lobbying ban on former ministers, their aides, and senior public servants; providing protection for whistle blowers; and enhancing the power for the Auditor General to follow the money spent by the government.
Notably, the bill comes at a time when the significance of political advocacy groups in electoral campaigns is increasing in Canada. The act limits and reveals the funding of political parties, but is blind to possible undue monetary influence on government policy by advocacy groups. Notable examples are the National Citizens Coalition, the Council of Canadians, and Ontarians For Responsible Government.[clarification needed]
The bill (now a law) also aims to increase transparency of government spending, and establish clearer links between approved expenditures and their outcomes. (Previous legislation required linkage between expenditures and 'purpose', rather than outcomes.)
The following are some of the major changes instituted by the Federal Accountability Act:
- Auditing and accountability within departments
- One of the biggest changes, recommended by the Gomery Commission, was that deputy ministers became "accounting officers", reporting directly to Parliament (thereby bypassing their ministers) on the financial administration of their respective departments.
- A mechanism to resolve disputes between ministers and deputy ministers, and to document such resolutions, was also created.
- Independent Oversight Offices
A number of new independent were created, reporting directly to Parliament on the administration of the government.
- The Commissioner of Lobbying replaced the Registrar of Lobbyists as a fully independent office with greater investigative powers.
- The Parliamentary Budget Officer provides Parliament with objective analysis about government estimates, the state of the nation's finances, and trends in the national economy.
- The Public Sector Integrity Commissioner promotes whistleblowing and protects whistleblowers from negative repercussions in the workplace.
- The Office of the Procurement Ombudsman reviews and investigates complaints against government procurement practices.
- The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner administers the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons.
- New limits on individual donations to parties and candidates
- Prohibition of gifts or other benefits to a candidate for political office that influence or appear to influence performance of that office if elected.
- Individual political contributions limited to $1,100 to different aspects of a single political organization: $1,100 to a registered party; $1,100 to a registered party’s candidates, nomination contestants, and constituency associations, collectively; and $1,100 to leadership contestants collectively.
- Corporations, unions and organizations were banned from contributing to parties and candidates.
- Candidates must report all gifts over $500 to the Chief Electoral Officer.
- Senior public officials prohibited from engaging in lobbying for 5 years after their employment has ceased.
- Public Appointments Commission
- Proposed creation of a Public Appointments Commission to develop guidelines, review and approve the selection processes proposed by Ministers to fill vacancies within their portfolios, and report publicly on the Government’s compliance with the guidelines. However, no such commission has yet been created.
- Access to information
- Increased scope of the Access to Information Act, to cover a number of Crown Corporations, which can now be called upon by the public to disclose their records.
- Independent Prosecution
- The Public Prosecution Service of Canada was made independent of the rest of the Department of Justice, although the Director of Public Prosecutions still reports to the Minister of Justice.
The Federal Accountability Act was the first bill to be tabled by the newly elected Conservative Government. It took about 9 months to pass and was significantly amended in the Senate.
The development of the FedAA was informed by the Conservative Party election platform for the January 2006 election and by Phase 2 of the Gomery Report (Recommendations).
When delivering his sponsor's speech in Parliament, John Baird described it as the "toughest anti-corruption law ever passed in Canada," although this description is disputable.
The FedAA is an omnibus legislation - one that amends a number of other statutes. It amended the following:
- Access to Information Act
- Auditor General Act
- Business Development Bank of Canada Act
- Canada Council for the Arts Act
- Canada Elections Act
- Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporations Act
- Canada Post Corporation Act
- Canada Revenue Agency Act
- Canadian Commercial Corporation Act
- Canadian Dairy Commission Act
- Canadian Race Relations Foundation Act
- Canadian Tourism Commission Act
- Canadian Wheat Board Act
- Cape Breton Development Corporation Act
- Conflict of Interest Act
- Criminal Code
- Department of Justice Act
- Department of Public Works and Government Services Act
- Director of Public Prosecutions Act
- Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation Act
- Export Development Act
- Farm Credit Canada Act
- Federal Courts Act
- Financial Administration Act
- First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
- Freshwater Fish Marketing Act
- Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act
- Government Employees Compensation Act
- Income Tax Act
- Library and Archives of Canada Act
- Lobbyists Registration Act
- Museums Act
- National Arts Centre Act
- National Capital Act
- Non-smokers’ Health Act
- Official Languages Act
- Parliament of Canada Act
- Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act
- Pilotage Act
- Privacy Act
- Public Sector Pension Investment Board Act
- Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act
- Public Service Employment Act
- Public Service Superannuation Act
- Radiocommunication Act
- Royal Canadian Mint Act
- Salaries Act
- Standards Council of Canada Act
- Full text of bill
- Legislative Summary
- Government of Canada's website on the Federal FedAA
- Democracy Watch's Report Card on the Federal Accountability Act