House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was lobbying.

Topics

Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills
Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Minister of State and Chief Government Whip

(Motion agreed to)

Air Passengers' Bill of Rights
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present this morning.

Thousands of Canadians are calling on Parliament to adopt Canada's first air passengers' bill of rights, Bill C-310. This bill would compensate air passengers with all Canadian carriers, including charters, anywhere they fly in the world. The bill would provide compensation for overbooked flights, cancelled flights and long tarmac delays. It deals with late and misplaced bags. It would require all-inclusive pricing by airlines in all of their advertising.

This type of legislation has been in effect in Europe since 1991 and in its current form for the last five years. Why should Canadian passengers or any passengers from Canada get better treatment in Europe than they do in Canada?

The airlines would have to inform passengers of flight changes, whether there are delays or cancellations. The rules would have to be posted at the airport. Airlines would have to inform passengers of their rights and the process to file for compensation. There would be no cost to the airlines if they follow the rules.

The petitioners call on the government to support Bill C-310, which would introduce Canada's first air passengers' bill of rights.

Prison Farms
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls on the government to stop the closure of six Canadian prison farms. Dozens of Canadians have signed this petition.

The petitioners are demanding that the government reconsider its decision on all six prison farms, including Rockwood Institution in Manitoba. These have been functioning farms for many decades, providing food to the prisons and the community.

The farm operation provides rehabilitation and training for prisoners by having them work with and care for plants and animals. The work ethic and rehabilitation benefit of waking up at 6 a.m. to work outdoors is a discipline that Canadians can appreciate.

There are two of these farms in the Speaker's own riding of Kingston and the Islands.

Closing the farms would mean a loss of infrastructure and it would be very expensive to replace them in the future.

The petitioners call on the government to stop the closure of the six prison farms and also to produce a report on the work and rehabilitative benefits to prisoners of the farm operations, and on how the program could be adapted to meet the agriculture needs of the 21st century.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 148 could be made an order for return, the return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 148
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

With regard to the transfer payment contributions for the Gateways and Border Crossings Fund in the fiscal years 2007-2008, 2008-2009, 2009-2010 and 2010-2011: (a) what is the fiscal breakdown of the program objectives; (b) what is the explanation of the program objectives; (c) what are the results of the program objectives; (d) what are the performance indicators and targets used to audit the performance of the program objectives; (e) how much was originally budgeted for the fund; (f) how much was included in the estimates for the fund in the four aforementioned fiscal years; and (g) how much has been spent from this budget allocation, including a complete listing of the proposed projects?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion--Lobbying Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

May 4th, 2010 / 10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

moved:

That, given the apparent loophole in the Lobbying Act which excludes Parliamentary Secretaries from the list of “designated public office holders”, the House calls on the government to take all necessary steps to immediately close this loophole and thus require Parliamentary Secretaries to comply fully with the Lobbying Act, in the same manner as Ministers are currently required to do.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Beauséjour.

I will begin this morning with a quote:

Some people feel that there is a privileged access to government that is reserved only for a chosen few. That is something this government intends to deal with head on when we introduce the federal accountability act next week.

Who said that? It was the current Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in April of 2006, when speaking of the Federal Accountability Act, which includes provisions for the Lobbying Act. I wanted to begin my remarks this morning by reminding colleagues of the commitments by the government.

I am pleased to speak today to this motion that would close a loophole in the Lobbying Act, which presently excludes parliamentary secretaries from the list of designated public office holders. The need to close this loophole has become quite apparent in recent weeks as we learn more about lobbying activities surrounding the renewable energy project funding.

This renewable energy project funding has some $2 billion from the economic stimulus plan: $1 billion for the green infrastructure fund, which supports sustainable energy, generation and transmission, along with municipal waste water and solid waste management infrastructure; and a further $1 billion in clean energy funds that invest in research, development and demonstration projects to advance Canadian leadership in clean energy technologies.

Responsibility for these funds rests with the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities as well as with the Minister of Natural Resources. Lobbying activities in these funds, now known as the Jaffer affair, have illustrated how the Lobbying Act does not extend responsibility under designated public office holders to parliamentary secretaries.

In at least one department, and perhaps in others, the parliamentary secretary has been delegated the responsibility for those funds, which circumvents the requirements under the Lobbying Act.

I began today with a quote from the current Minister of Transport. He also said at the time:

--we can ensure that the public business is done in the public interest and not for private gain.

That was then and this is now.

Back in 2006, Mr. Jaffer was a Conservative caucus chair and now, some four years later, he is at the centre of some serious challenges to accountability and to the Lobbying Act. Some seven ministers and departments, that we know of to this point, have given him privileged access. With the revelations of the privileged access, the robustness of the Lobbying Act has been called into question.

Although the Conservatives have toughened the rules governing lobbyists, a gaping loophole has become obvious. Lobbyists are required to submit monthly reports on their meetings with “designated office holders”, which include ministers and their staff, deputy ministers and associate deputy ministers; however, parliamentary secretaries are not included in this list. This means that lobbyists can meet with parliamentary secretaries without any public scrutiny.

A good example of this is with the Jaffer affair. In June of 2009, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities met with Mr. Jaffer and Mr. Glémaud. Within a month, the parliamentary secretary received three proposals from Green Power Generation Corporation. Two of these proposals were, in turn, submitted to the department for consideration under the green infrastructure fund. These proposals were then studied by the federal government to see whether they might be eligible for funding. These were submitted by the parliamentary secretary.

The parliamentary secretary's office continued to follow up with the public servants for updates on whether the projects were being considered. The parliamentary secretary and his office had regular interaction with the proponents throughout the fall, getting more details, and asking very specific questions for project-related funding. He was helping to determine whether projects fit under any of the criteria for funding.

In this entire situation, lack of public disclosure has caused challenges in the confidence that Canadians have that their government will be open and transparent. Rather than privileging their own, the Conservatives need to be more forthright in what was occurring. Adding parliamentary secretaries under the designated public office holder list would mean public disclosure would be required by lobbyists.

In this particular Jaffer affair, Mr. Jaffer felt he did not meet the criteria as a lobbyist, as no compensation was paid for his services. This matter is under investigation, as well other matters under investigation by the Commissioner of Lobbying.

I do point out, however, that in testimony at committee, it was clear that there was an intent for finder's fees as compensation. This was discussed in testimony as well as in contract evidence. Therefore, while we await the Lobbying Commissioner's decision, it does appear that compensation was considered, and therefore public disclosure should have been made.

The Lobbying Act defines activities that when carried out for compensation, are considered to be lobbying. Generally speaking, they include communicating with public office holders with respect to changing federal laws, regulations, policies or programs; obtaining a financial benefit, such as a grant or a contribution; and in certain cases, obtaining a government contract or arranging a meeting between public office holders and another person.

The act requires that individuals register themselves as lobbyists when they engage in lobbying for compensation. This involves providing certain details about themselves and their business, where applicable, the subject matter of what they are discussing and the name of any department and/or other governmental institution in which any public office holder with whom the individual communicates or expects to communicate. This information is made public on the registry of lobbyists.

The act provides exemptions for certain types of communications such as simple requests for information. Under the Conservative government, the Lobbying Act, formerly the Lobbyist Registration Act, was made more stringent. A new class of public office holder was defined, the “designated public office holder” as described.

One of the new rules aimed at increasing accountability was that any lobbyist who had oral or arranged communications with the designated public office holder must file a monthly report. Oral and arranged communications included telephone calls, meetings or any other communications that were arranged in advance.

The report must disclose, for each communication that took place in a given month, the date of the communication with a designated public office holder, the name and title of all designated public office holders who were the object of the communication, and the subject of the communication. The return must be submitted to the Commissioner of Lobbying no later than the 15th day of the end of the month covered by the report. This information is then made public on the registry.

No such report is required for meetings with parliamentary secretaries. This is from the government's own website. It states:

--the Lobbying Act creates a new statutory category of “designated public office holder” to refer to officials responsible for high-level decision-making in government. This term is defined in the Act to include ministers, ministers of state, and ministerial staff, as well as deputy ministers and chief executives of departments and agencies and officials in those organizations at the ranks of associate deputy minister and assistant deputy minister.

For the purposes of the act, departments include those federal departments and agencies listed in the Financial Administration Act. The Lobbying Act further defines any person identified by the Prime Minister as having the task of providing advice and support to him during transition.

An additional 11 positions or classes of positions have been designated by way of regulation, including a list from National Defence and any positions of senior adviser to the Privy Council Office to which the office holder is appointed by the governor in council. Currently, parliamentary secretaries to ministers do not fall within the definition of a designated public office holder within the act.

The loophole has allowed meetings between Conservative lobbyists and parliamentary secretaries, who are essentially the eyes and ears of cabinet ministers, to take place without anyone's knowledge or any record of the nature of these meetings.

We are calling on the government to close this loophole by including parliamentary secretaries in the definition of designated public office holder under the act. Clearly, ministers are delegating authority, but not the accountability that goes with it.

There may be other changes that are required and needed to meet not only the intent of the law but also the spirit of the law.