How corrupt is our country? Not very. But we can do better.

According to Transparency International’s (TI) 2020 report, we are in eleventh place on their Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). Denmark and New Zealand tie for number one; the United States is 25th. We rank best in the Americas at least; Venezuela, not surprisingly, ranks worst.

TI is a global movement that works to end corruption in over 100 countries. The CPI, the most widely used indicator of corruption worldwide, scores countries on their perceived levels of public sector corruption, drawing on 13 expert assessments and surveys of business executives.

It captures such aspects of corruption as bribery, diversion of public funds, officials using public office for private gain, ability of governments to limit red tape that may increase opportunities for corruption, meritocratic versus nepotistic appointments in the civil service, effective criminal prosecution for corrupt officials, adequate laws on financial disclosure and conflict of interest for public officials, legal protection for whistleblowers, state capture by vested interests, and access of civil society to information on public affairs.

The index does not capture citizens’ perceptions or experience of corruption, tax fraud, illicit financial flow, money-laundering or private sector corruption.

The report described Canada as a “consistently top performer” while pointing out that our index has been slipping over the past few years. It mentioned longstanding issues with foreign bribery and money laundering, referred to as “snow washing.” On the plus side it mentioned promising signs to counter this: proposed federal consultation on a public beneficial ownership registry, Québec’s tabled legislation for such a registry, and the new BC Land Ownership Transparency Registry.

This is certainly not the time to be slacking off. Accountability and transparency are more important than ever at a time when governments are spending record amounts of funds dealing with the economic and health effects of COVID-19. As TI Canada Executive Director James Cohen puts it, “This is the time when securing the public’s trust is most important so that government efforts to combat the virus and support Canadians are not undermined.” We must spend big, but wisely.

One thought on “How corrupt is Canada?”
  1. To my mind, any force that insinuates itself between the elector and elected official is a corruption. We don’t know a lot about how this plays out in Canada but the United States offers a powerful example.

    American legislatures, state and federal, are routinely “bought and paid for.” A single Senate campaign can see spending that eclipses an entire Canadian general election. That money has to come from somewhere and those with the deep pockets dole it out with strings attached.

    They don’t even try to hide it. ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, manifests this big money corruption as legislators duly attend its sessions where they’re handed ready-drafted bills to introduce and pass.

    Lindsey Graham, prior to the last mid-terms, warned his Republican colleagues that he’d been warned by the “donor class” that, unless they pushed through the $1.5 trillion tax cut for corporations and the very rich, the money taps would be turned off. It worked. This is all on record.

    Another example was then House majority leader, John Boehner, strolling the aisles of the House with a stack of white envelopes that he distributed among certain desks. Inside were campaign cheques from tobacco lobbyists. The House was to vote that afternoon on that year’s tobacco subsidies.

    Legislative capture leads to regulatory capture – i.e. stacking boards and tribunals with representatives of those very regulated industries. Sort of what we did with the National Energy Board.

    Bit by bit a wedge is driven between the voter and those they elect to high office. Transactional democracy of the sort that flourished in the final centuries of the Roman empire ensues. We know how that ended.

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