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

11:35 a.m.

Assistant Secretary, Priorities and Planning, Treasury Board Secretariat

Roger Scott-Douglas

No, I think that sums it up.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Thanks, Madam Chair.

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Chair Jean Crowder

Madam LeBlanc, you have five minutes.

March 1st, 2012 / 11:35 a.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I want to thank the witnesses for coming to provide us with information on this issue.

I am the official opposition critic for science and technology, and this mandate falls under the Department of Industry. I would like to know if, in this area, companies lobby the government much, namely as regards Industry Canada programs in research and development. Is science and technology at the Department of Industry an area where there is a great deal of lobbying? Has there been an increase over the years?

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

I'll pass that question to Roger.

11:40 a.m.

Assistant Secretary, Priorities and Planning, Treasury Board Secretariat

Roger Scott-Douglas

Thank you very much for the question.

I'm not sure I can fully answer all aspects of it, but the act sets out very clearly the kinds of activities that need to be reported when undertaken by a paid lobbyist, including many that would naturally fall within the Ministry of Industry. Examples are anything to do with the development of legislation, the provision of grants and contributions, or funding.

In point of fact—and these statistics are all found on the Commissioner of Lobbying's website—Industry Canada is one of the government institutions that has the most active number of registrations. There are about 1,645 active registrants for Industry.

What I'm not able to tell you is the trend—how that appears over time. But that's information you would be able to get from the Commissioner of Lobbying to give you a sense of how that has changed. Taxation, finance, and environment are also some of the heavily registered areas.

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Thank you.

Is the Treasury Board Secretariat involved in coordinating responses to lobbyists in certain areas? Could you tell me about its role in managing lobbyists?

11:40 a.m.

Assistant Secretary, Priorities and Planning, Treasury Board Secretariat

Roger Scott-Douglas

The secretariat plays no role in the consideration of cases that are undertaken by the Commissioner of Lobbying and officials working within her office. She is an entirely independent agent, and our role has nothing to do with the examination of cases.

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

I find the questions raised by my Conservative colleagues interesting. On the one hand, we have the code of ethics, which was discussed earlier today, and on the other, the Lobbying Act. Members of the government and other members, among others, seem to be in the middle. So there is some overlap.

I also noted that your mandate includes an educational component. Could you give us more details on that?

People from the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner informed us of our rights and responsibilities. Does the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying also provide information to parliamentarians on what could be called their rights and responsibilities? From what I understand, the Lobbying Act affects primarily lobbyists, but because we are in the middle of all of that, I would like to know if the Treasury Board Secretariat has a mandate to transmit information to members of Parliament in that area.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

First of all, with regard to the Commissioner of Lobbying's mandate, it does include education outreach to help lobbyists understand what their obligations are under the act. The commissioner, in fact, has requested that the mandate continue beyond this review. Obviously, that does form a very important part of her role, because it's important that people who fall under the act understand their obligations under the act.

I'll let Roger answer the second part.

11:45 a.m.

NDP

The Chair Jean Crowder

Very briefly, Mr. Scott-Douglas, because time is well up.

11:45 a.m.

Assistant Secretary, Priorities and Planning, Treasury Board Secretariat

Roger Scott-Douglas

Yes, of course.

The principal point is that this is a key part of the mandate of the commissioner. It is not a part of the mandate of the secretariat, our office. The only thing I would elaborate on is that the communication is not just towards lobbyists, but also towards designated public office holders. The commissioner spends a lot of time educating public office holders as well about how they are influenced and affected by the act and the code.

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Thank you.

11:45 a.m.

NDP

The Chair Jean Crowder

Thank you very much.

Mr. Mayes, you have five minutes.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you to our guests today.

The Commissioner of Lobbying has requested that the act be amended to allow her, the commissioner, to administer fines for penalties for non-compliance. I'm just curious about the feeling of your ministry about that.

Also, would you have any suggestions of any other judicial body that could be used to accommodate the enforcement, and the administration of that enforcement?