Evidence of meeting #26 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was lobbying.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

11:20 a.m.

Janice Young Senior Advisor, Strategic Policy, Treasury Board Secretariat

Certainly. To add to what the parliamentary secretary has indicated, I think that's a good overview. There are two different pieces of legislation oriented towards two different individuals. As I understand the workings of the two pieces of legislation, there are a couple of areas that witnesses may have brought forward. One is the post-employment provisions under those two pieces of legislation. Because they're orientated towards different groups, they would probably have a different emphasis and different requirements.

The other area is certainly definitional considerations and how conflict of interest itself is treated.

As I understand it, you're looking at the Conflict of Interest Act vis-à-vis the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct when you're talking about conflict of interest issues. Post-employment would be within the two different pieces of legislation themselves.

As a non-lawyer, I think that's probably it as far as I can see.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

So there is some opportunity, then, to try to align some of the issues that appear in both pieces of legislation. Is that what I'm hearing?

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

I would say yes, there is definitely an opportunity for the committee to make recommendations in that regard.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Thank you.

11:20 a.m.

Assistant Secretary, Priorities and Planning, Treasury Board Secretariat

Roger Scott-Douglas

If I might just elaborate a little bit on the point the parliamentary secretary and Janice made clear about having different orientations, for the most part, the Lobbying Act orients itself towards lobbyists. The Conflict of Interest Act, however, orients itself towards public office holders.

The specific area you've identified is one of the very small areas of the Lobbying Act in which the focus is on public office holders, and designated public office holders in particular. Following along your line, it might be worth considering aligning within one act all that has to do with public office holders. That might be where clarity could be brought. Issues around conflict of interest that have been discussed could be brought into more alignment, if the committee felt there was something to align, and the public office holders' conflict of interest provisions could perhaps be integrated in one act, the Conflict of Interest Act.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

You would deal with lobbyists strictly under the Lobbying Act and you'd deal with the public office holders under the Conflict of Interest Act. Is that correct?

11:25 a.m.

Assistant Secretary, Priorities and Planning, Treasury Board Secretariat

Roger Scott-Douglas

I'm saying that it's certainly something I think the committee would wish to consider.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Okay.

One of the other things we heard, and I believe it was from some of the different lobby groups, was that monthly communication reports could sometimes pose some problems, whether they were to do with some of their business dealings or some of their proprietary information. The suggestion was made that perhaps the monthly reports could be removed or could be made less frequent. Do you have any comments on that?

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

My only comment is that I understand that hundreds of monthly reports are filed on a timely basis. So I think the vast majority of lobbyists don't have a problem with that. Whether there is consideration to make them less frequent, again, that is something the committee should consider. You've heard from a lot of witnesses, who I'm sure have had various opinions on that suggestion, especially lobbyists themselves. I encourage you to consider that recommendation when you make your report.

11:25 a.m.

Assistant Secretary, Priorities and Planning, Treasury Board Secretariat

Roger Scott-Douglas

I might just add, Mr. Saxton, that one of the principal features of the Lobbying Act is the degree to which it achieves an appropriate balance between ensuring that, as was said earlier, the legitimate activity of lobbying is enabled and ensuring that the necessary degree of transparency is there so that Canadians know who is speaking with designated public office holders within the government.

Any effort to change the mechanisms that ensure that transparency, such as the reporting schedule and so forth, the committee would need to very carefully balance to ensure that all the rights the parliamentary secretary spoke about in his introduction were kept in balance and were properly respected. The fact that so many lobbyists are able to meet the deadlines without incident and without, thanks to a very sophisticated website, a great deal of administrative burden on their part I think would be an important thing to take into account.

11:25 a.m.

NDP

The Chair Jean Crowder

Thank you, Mrs. Davidson.

Mr. Morin, you have five minutes.

March 1st, 2012 / 11:25 a.m.

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I would first like to say that I agree with my Liberal colleague, Mr. Andrews: I am also disappointed that the President of the Treasury Board did not find the time to attend our committee's meeting, unlike other ministers. Just this morning, at the Standing Committee on Health, we learned that the Minister of Health would be pleased to appear before the committee before long. I find it regrettable that the President of the Treasury Board is too busy to deign to attend a meeting of the committee that deals with the same issues as he does. That said, I am pleased that Mr. Saxton is here to replace him.

My colleague, Pierre-Luc Dusseault, asked you what you thought of the fact that the committee, at least this part of the committee, wished to have representatives of the RCMP appear before the committee and give some explanations. Many witnesses have expressed the same desire. As you know, the Ethics Commissioner has been submitting a large number of complaints to the RCMP, but they all seem to disappear into a black hole. So we would like to have representatives from the RCMP come before the committee. In response to my colleague's question, you said that the choice of witnesses was up to the committee, but might I remind you that your mission at Treasury Board is to ensure that government resources are properly managed?

I would therefore ask you the same question, Mr. Saxton: given your mandate to ensure that government resources are managed properly, do you think it would be a good idea for the RCMP to come before the committee and explain why none of the complaints submitted by the Ethics Commissioner have led to a conviction?

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Again, Madam Chair, the commissioner has tools available to her. One of those tools is to refer breaches of the act to the RCMP, and I respect that the RCMP does their job with respect to those referrals. She also has the tool of referring breaches of the code to Parliament. She has on a number of occasions also written reports to Parliament. So those tools are being used by the commissioner on a regular basis. I have no comment as to whether or not they are working. It's up to the committee to decide whether or not those tools are adequate.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Once again, you are not answering the question. The commissioner herself told us that she had submitted complaints to the RCMP, but that no charges were laid. She does not know what is going on and has recommended that the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics call on the RCMP to appear and give explanations. Since your mandate, as I have said, is to ensure that government resources are managed properly, do you think that it would be a good idea to do that?

Need I remind you that the Conservative government—

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

On a point of order, Madam Chair, I'm not aware of the committee suggesting that they wanted the RCMP to appear.