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Democracy Watch v Ontario Integrity Commissioner

The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), Animal Justice (AJ) and Centre for Freedom of Expression (CFE) have jointly intervened on this case to argue that members of the public and social justice groups must be allowed to challenge government decisions that benefit private individuals’ interests.

When Democracy Watch tried to challenge the Ontario Integrity Commissioner’s favourable decisions for nine provincial lobbyists, they were denied the opportunity to make arguments. This was largely due to Democracy Watch’s misalignment with the private interests at stake, as well as the judge’s view that the Lobbyist Registration Act (LRA) did not allow public interest litigants to challenge these decisions.

The BCCLA, AJ and CFE seek to defend the public interest in holding government decision-makers accountable for their actions. This is especially important in situations where a person investigated and cleared of wrongdoing has no motive to challenge an incorrect decision – for example, in police complaints, conflicts of interest, animal welfare, environmental assessment, free expression limitations, and tax administration. Moreover, we argue that judges must be allowed to grant public interest litigants the ability to hold government actors accountable. It is a constitutionally protected power which cannot be taken away by an ambiguous provision in provincial statutes like the LRA.