House of Commons Hansard #64 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.

Topics

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Accordingly, the vote is deferred until tomorrow.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think you would find consent in the House to further defer the vote until Tuesday next week at the end of government orders.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to defer the division until Tuesday at the end of government orders?

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-15, an act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Lobbyists Registration Act
Government Orders

February 20th, 2003 / 12:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There are three motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-15.

Motions Nos. 1 to 3 will be grouped for debate. The voting patterns for the motions are available at the Table.

I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1 to 3 to the House.

Lobbyists Registration Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-15, in Clause 7, be amended by adding after line 26 on page 8 the following:

“(h.3) if any employee named in the return is a former public office holder, a description of the offices held;”

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-15, in Clause 7, be amended by adding after line 26 on page 8 the following:

“(h.4) if any employee named in the return is a former public office holder, the names of the public office holders with whom the employee intends to communicate;”

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-15, in Clause 7, be amended by adding after line 40 on page 9 the following:

“(3.1) The definition “employee” in subsection 7(6) of the Act is replaced by the following:

“employee” includes any person who is compensated for the performance of the duties referred to in paragraph (1)(a);”

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to these amendments to Bill C-15.

Bill C-15 is a comprehensive bill that upgrades and modernizes the Lobbyists Registration Act, a very important item of legislation that ensures accountability and transparency in the lobbying process. I have been involved in this legislation from time to time since its review in 1995, and while I certainly applaud the intent of the legislation, both its original intent and the legislation in its amended form under Bill C-15, I have long felt that there was an omission in the legislation. The motions I proposed are a first step to correcting those omissions.

The Lobbyists Registration Act as it stands, both now and with the Bill C-15 amendments, is primarily directed toward setting up a regime of transparency for the lobbyists. What happens is that various types of lobbyists are required to register with the lobbyists registrar, to identify themselves by company, by name, by individuals, and to identify the government department they intend to lobby.

That is all very well and good, but the reality is that for really effective transparency, what the public needs to know, what the public needs to have access to is not just who the lobbyists are but specifically who the lobbyists are lobbying.

At various times when this bill has been before committee, I have argued that the government should amend the legislation in such a way that bureaucrats, who are the targets of lobbyists, should be required to keep logs to indicate who has been lobbying them.

I have had a very difficult experience with the lack of this provision in fairly recent times. The House knows that I am a very great champion of the Access to Information Act, and freedom of information in general, and have long been concerned about the inadequacies of that legislation. However I had occasion to use that access to information legislation to do background on the animal cruelty bill that was before the House, and is now before the Senate.

I wanted to determine how certain policies were developed by the justice department that appeared in that legislation and where they came from with respect to the various groups that were obviously lobbying government. I had some real concerns because in its original form, the animal cruelty bill, which in the previous Parliament was called Bill C-17, had some very inappropriate and extreme measures slanted toward the animal rights movement and the extreme end of the animal rights movement, I would have said. This prompted me to try to determine how it came that the government should come up with policy that seemed to go toward the animal rights movement rather than to the animal management groups, like the farmers' groups and various other organizations that use animals.

When I tried to get this information, I certainly found who the lobbyists were. One of the lobby groups for instance was the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Another lobby group that was consulted was People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Members in the House will realize that both these groups are known to be very extreme in their approach to animal rights and often are on collision courses with other more moderate groups that use animals either in a clinical context for research or in a farm context.

What I was unable to find and what I would have really liked to have known was who these lobbyist organizations actually made contact with. Of course under the existing legislation it is impossible to determine that.

The reason that it is so important is not whether these organizations approached the Deputy Minister of Justice or some very high ranking official. What we really want to know is whether these lobbyist organizations approached middle level people, the invisible people who routinely write policy for government and who may be susceptible to the blandishments of skilled lobbyist.

There is another factor. In my riding I encountered complaints from organizations and individuals who found themselves in competition for government contracts. They complained that they lost the contract because another lobbyist organization had the advantage of a former officeholder, somebody who had been working in the department not many years earlier and now had left the department and was working for a lobbyist.

This raises a very delicate issue of fairness. We want an even playing field for anyone who is dealing with the government. We have no objection to lobbyists lobbying the government but we have to worry if people are trying to obtain government contracts or to access government programs and those people ought to have the advantage of knowing whether their lobbyist competitors have the advantage of a former officeholder. As it sits right now in the legislation, there is no way of anyone knowing that.

The further problem is that lobbying is a multimillion dollar industry in Ottawa. We know it to be so. The problem is that what no one knows in this business of lobbying is how extensively spread are the former officeholders. We are not talking about necessarily former ministers of the crown. We are talking about people who could be former deputy minsters or assistant deputy ministers. It goes on and on down through the various levels of government where we might have somebody who was a purchasing agent for a government department or somebody in a government department who recommended purchases who has quit the department and who now works for a lobbyist. These are the things we cannot see. These are the things that we need to see.

What the first motion would do is it would require lobbyists, when they register, to indicate whether or not they were a former officeholder by indicating what roles they performed in the federal government.

I would suggest that this is a very simple thing to do. Once a person has registered as a former officeholder with the lobbyist registrar that would be permanently on the record and would be easily accessible for many times.

One might argue that this something that should be put on the record indefinitely. I suggest that yes, indeed it should be put on the record indefinitely because I think the public has the right to know this.

The second motion would require these former officerholders to indicate who the individual is that they are lobbying.

I would have preferred the bureaucracy keeping logs of when they are lobbied. We would get that information through the Access to Information Act. This is another way of accomplishing the same thing.

I would suggest that the registrar can define the parameters, but I see nothing wrong with former officeholders indicating who they are lobbying, because obviously it is going to be somebody who is a former friend, somebody who is a former contact, and lobbying each time. It would not stop the process of the lobbyists. It would merely indicate, for the benefit of those of us who ought to know, who it is in the government and at what level is being lobbied on any particular issue, especially whether that person is being lobbied by a former officeholder.

The third motion merely sorts out an inadequacy in the legislation. It specifically defines an employee in terms of the description of the duties of a lobbyist in section 7. It is something that ought to have been in the original legislation, and I have attempted to correct it on behalf of the government.

Lobbyists Registration Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by commending my hon. colleague for his efforts, not only on this legislation but I think in general he has been very concerned about the issue of influence and the issues of accountability and transparency. I see his motions in the spirit of that.

We do see some merit in the three motions proposed today. I will go over each of them generally and then each of them in particular.

The motions aim at revealing the presence of connections between former public officeholders turned lobbyists and the departments where they previously served or had contact.

As an initial point, it is worth noting that there already exists in the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Former Public Office Holders, time based prohibitions on former public officeholders lobbying back the departments where they worked. I know this is not in any specific motion but is worth noting. These amendments appear to be aiming a spotlight on those friendly relationships that might exist between former and current public officeholders and which might lead to undue influence.

I will turn specifically now to the three amendments before us today.

Motion No. 1 would apply to in house lobbyists employed by corporations and organizations. A corporation or organization is required to make a filing if the corporation or organization employs one or more persons who engage in lobbying, for example, communicating with public officeholders with respect to certain types of public business. This is listed in clause 7(1) and the aggregated time spent by all the employees constitutes a significant part, for example 20%, of the duties of one employee or would constitute a significant part of the duties if they were performed by only one employee.

Motion No. 1 would add to the information that must be disclosed by the corporation or organization to include disclosing the name of any employee engaged in lobbying activities who is a former public officeholder, as well as indicating what office they formerly held. The purpose of the motion, as we can determine, is to permit the public to identify those individuals who have greater influence as a lobbyist as a result of having held public office.

While the proposed motion would broaden the disclosure requirements, in our view this addition would appear to be not too onerous. Clause 7(3) already requires that organizations and corporations name all employees who do any lobbying. In addition, corporations must also name the senior officers of the corporation.

Bill C-15 would not require identifying those individuals as former public officeholders or the office that they held. The identity of public officeholders is of course public information and members of the public could, with some research, find out that information. They could make this connection. Still, having this information set out in the registry would save them research time.

It is my intention to support the first motion.

The second motion would require any former public officeholders turned lobbyists to name the particular public officeholder with whom they intended to communicate. The motion would require former public officeholders to name the person who is, so to speak, on the inside, whom they are attempting to influence. In our view this would represent a significant departure from the current approach of the act which requires only that the department itself be named without naming individuals.

In my view this does present some conceptual problems. Former public officeholders would have to know the identity of the person to whom they intended to speak before initiating contact. One thing that the member may want to clarify is what would happen if the former public officeholder went to speak to someone in the department and was then referred to someone else? How would this motion deal with that type of situation? From a practical point of view, could we not get around the motion by simply setting up an intermediary? How would the motion prevent public officeholders from simply setting up an intermediary between the person with whom they actually wanted to talk? How would the motion deal with that type of situation?

During the committee's review of the act it was generally expressed by the witnesses that they wanted to maintain as much contact with departments, bureaucrats, officials, members of Parliament and policymakers without creating a chill, if they could. In other words, they wanted a lobbyist registration system that was transparent and accountable without creating a chill.

In my view, while the idea of bill disclosure has some merits, I feel that with the unanswered problems that I posed, as well as with the overall concern of creating a chill, it is my intention to not support the second motion.

The third proposed motion would change the definition of “employee”. In the current act an employee includes an officer who is compensated for the performance of his or her duties. The motion would change the definition to any person who is compensated for the performance of his or her duties referred to in paragraph 1(a). The duties referred to in paragraph 7(1)(a) are what are commonly known as lobbying activities. The purpose of this is to expand the definition of “employee” for organizations and corporations to include not only officers but any person who lobbies. This would appear to aim at organizations and corporations that try to avoid registration by not naming the lobbyist as an officer.

I have to admit that initially I did not see much of a problem with this when I reviewed the legislation. However I do not think it is a harmful motion and therefore I would certainly offer my support to the third motion.

Lobbyists Registration Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-15, an act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act.

The Bloc Quebecois will support the amendments, but we do not support the act as introduced by the Liberal government. We are opposed to it, because this legislation does not give more teeth to the rules governing lobbyists. There is nothing in the bill to compel lobbyists to mention the type of public officials they meet, the type of work they are involved in, and the money paid for their services. Moreover, lobbyists are not required to disclose the amounts of money that they spend while lobbying.

This makes me wonder why Parliament is now discussing the issue of lobbyists. The reason is simple.

The work of parliamentarians has been impeded. The role of parliamentarians is no longer to listen to the public. Their role, particularly for members of the Liberal Party of Canada, is no longer to listen to those who represent their communities and who come to Parliament Hill to discuss issues with them. No, this is too complicated; they have to meet too many people and they have to deal with too many problems.

Since the Liberal Party of Canada has been in power, it has been holding discussions with representatives of influential companies and with influential people representing influential groups. My colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles has seen the Boisbriand GM plant close. The Liberal government is not here to listen to representations and grievances from the GM workers at Boisbriand. No, it is here to be lobbied by GM Canada. That is the reality. That is the way things work.

Today we are discussing lobbyists. My colleague from Berthier—Montcalm is currently experiencing problems in agriculture in his riding. Everywhere in Canada there are serious problems in agriculture. But they are not listening to the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec in Berthier—Montcalm. They are listening to the powerful lobbyists. That is what they are doing. There are utterly ignoring what the workers' representatives have to say.

Often, in agriculture, where international relations are concerned, in the dairy industry for instance, Canada will sacrifice Quebec's dairy producers. It will put supply management, which is so staunchly supported by all agricultural producers in Quebec, on the table. In this case, the lobby is the Government of Canada.

Today we are discussing a bill on lobbyist registration. Lobbying has now become a tradition. To gain the Liberal government's ear, one has to go through middlemen. That is what the bill we have before us is all about, dealing with middlemen. That is a harsh reality for the Quebeckers and Canadians who are listening to us.

The opposition parties, including the Bloc Quebecois, are the ones pressuring the government. We have not stopped harassing the government about the agricultural question. My colleagues from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles and from Laurentides continue to do the same about the GM plant in Boisbriand. They constantly demand that the government get to work to keep the only auto plant in Quebec open.

This is a plant in the region, in the country, of Quebec. One of the biggest producers of aluminum and magnesium in the world is unable to keep an auto plant operating, and why? Because the industry lobby is pro-Ontario. That is the situation.

The Liberal members of this House, the ministers responsible, including the Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, those with responsibility for Quebec, are the ones who come to give us the bad news.

When the GM plant in Boisbriand closed, the minister himself said, after a meeting with GM Canada lobbyists, “That's it. It's over. There is nothing we can do”.

Now, he is Minister of Justice. He is a member from Quebec and he told Quebeckers that, in the end, the GM lobbyists won and that the GM plant in Boisbriand would be closed. The same thing will happen with agriculture.

I would encourage my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm to keep up his good work, and not to let up in badgering the Liberal government here in the House and to defend supply management in Quebec's dairy industry. It does exist.

Quebec farmers have set up a supply management system in the dairy industry that is unique. It ensures revenues for farmers that allow the industry to thrive. This is not an industry that is getting rich off the backs of the people; but they do make a decent living.

Once again, the Liberal Party, through the Minister for International Trade, will negotiate all kinds of measures that could threaten Quebec's supply management system. Once again, this government is bowing to pressure from multinational corporations. In agriculture, it is under pressure from processors, because they are the ones, in the end, who want to be able to do as they please with the industry, to the detriment of farmers. That is the reality.

So, once again, the lobby for dairy products processors is more important than the representatives of those who work in the industry. That is what happened with the GM plant in Boisbriand, and that is what will happen with the Union des producteurs agricoles, supply management in agriculture and supply management in the dairy industry.

Obviously, we will support any amendments to limit the role of lobbyists as much as possible, to provide transparency regarding their work, and to limit their election campaign contributions to the ruling party. That is the reality.

So, we will support amendments to limit as much as possible the work of lobbyists. However, you will understand that we are against this bill, which does not go far enough and which should likely never have been drafted.

As a matter of fact, representatives of every association and group can meet members of Parliament. Bloc Quebecois members' office doors are always open. Why do we need lobbyists? Because the office doors of Liberal members and ministers, of the government in power, are not open to Quebeckers and Canadians. They are open to lobbyists who have money to dole out. That is the reality.

You will have understood that every amendment and every proposal made by the Bloc Quebecois at report stage was defeated in committee. Naturally, Liberal members succeeded in defeating every suggestion by the Bloc Quebecois to try once more to place stricter controls on lobbyists' activities. Our proposals were defeated at report stage. Of course, the few amendments moved by our colleagues are important, and we thank them, but those amendments do not go far enough to put controls on the political structure.

You will have understood it is nothing but smoke and mirrors. Lobbying is a political structure that parallels everything members do, both Liberal members and members from the other parties in the House. Ministers would rather deal with lobbyists than with members, irrespective of their ridings or political allegiance. That is the reality.

People are confused because the most influential lobbyists on the Hill should be the members of this House. It is our role; our job is to stand up for our constituents, various associations and groups.

Again the problem is that the few members who are ministers find there are too many people to listen to. They prefer dealing with a few so-called experts in fields in which their expertise definitely has more to do with the money they can give to campaign funds than with the quality of the work they can do. That is the reality.

The hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles experienced this when the GM plant in Boisbriand closed down. The hon. member for Laurentides also experienced this. And the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm is experiencing it with agriculture. It is difficult to defend the interests of Quebec farmers when in Canada efforts are being made to eliminate supply management and wipe out the work of an entire generation of farmers in an attempt to bring the standards down to what they currently are in Canada. Naturally, not all provinces are as far ahead as Quebec in terms of management.

However, care should be taken not to penalize Quebec farmers. We would not want either to penalize those processors who are trying not only to expand plants but, more importantly, to increase quarterly profits for their shareholders.

So, all we in this House wish is for workers, whether in the automotive industry or in agriculture, to be able to earn a decent living in this state known as Canada and in the country of Quebec.

Lobbyists Registration Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Beauharnois—Salaberry
Québec

Liberal

Serge Marcil Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to thank the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot for the work he has done since he has joined this House, especially in this matter that is so close to his heart. I would also like to thank all the members of the Standing Committee on Industry, for their particular work in improving, fine-tuning and clarifying the Lobbyists Registration Act.

Incidentally, this is the bill which was sent back to committee, and which is now going through second reading. It is currently one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in the world. There is no lobbyist legislation that goes as far as the Canadian legislation in terms of returns and registration obligations.

Let us come back to the three motions introduced by my hon. colleague. I would like to address each of them in turn. The Lobbyists Registration Act contains a very general definition of the expression “public office holder”. This definition includes public servants, full- or part-time Governors in Council, members of the House of Commons and the Senate and their staff, members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and members of the RCMP.

This motion is not limited in time and is therefore very broad in scope. It would create a serious administrative burden. It could hinder the ability of former public office holders to find a job.

It is difficult to see how such a general measure would protect public interest. The government has already imposed post-employment requirements that are designed to protect public interest by limiting the companies where former public office holders can work, and the departments or agencies which they can lobby. These rules are found in the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders and the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for the Public Service.

Briefly, these rules prevent public office holders, including senior public servants, from accepting a job or contract with a company with whom they had official dealings of a direct and significant nature during their last year in office. They also prevent these individuals from lobbying a minister or an organization with whom they had official dealings of a direct and significant nature during their last year in office. The transition period is one year in both cases; it is two years for ministers.

As to the second motion, since lobbying is the act of communicating with a public office holder, the former public office holders would be required to make a list of all persons with whom they communicated in the government other than for parliamentary business, the application or interpretation of an act or regulation, or a request for information.

It is presumed that if the registration does not specify the person with whom the former public office holder communicated, the registration must be modified after the communication has taken place.

The House Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology did not deal with the specific matter of former public office holders during its consideration of the Lobbyists Registration Act in 2001, but it formulated recommendation No. 16, which is found in the well-known report:

The Committee does not recommend that the Act be amended in order to create a requirement that the names of individuals who have been lobbied be disclosed in the lobbyists registry.

The committee felt that such a measure would not significantly improve transparency and could in fact prevent open communication between public office holders and lobbyists. It also concluded that such a requirement would significantly increase the cost of compliance audit and implementation. The same conclusions apply to the motion.

This motion would create a major administrative burden. It could also adversely affect the ability of former public office holders to find a job. It is difficult to see how such a broad measure would protect the public interest. So, the comments are the same as for Motion No. 1.

Motion No. 3 would have the effect of broadening the scope of the definition of “employee” to include all employees, including support staff. The current definition of “employee” includes officers.

In 1996, when the Lobbyists Registration Act was last amended, it was decided to group together the requirements relating to the registration of people who could be expected to be responsible for lobbying activities in an organization or corporation.

Extending the scope of these requirements to include support staff would simply increase the administrative burden, without improving transparency as regards the lobbying goals of the organization or corporation.

Lobbyists Registration Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?