Thank you, Madam Chair, and I'd be happy to.
With me today is Roger Scott-Douglas, the assistant secretary, priorities and planning, at the Treasury Board Secretariat; Janice Young, the senior advisor of strategic initiatives at the Treasury Board Secretariat; and David Dollar, the director of strategic initiatives at the Treasury Board Secretariat.
Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you, members, for inviting me here today.
I'm pleased to be here on behalf of the President of the Treasury Board and to speak to this committee as you approach the end of this phase of the legislative review of the Lobbying Act.
First, let me thank the committee members for your hard work on this important matter. You have heard input from various parties, and I appreciate your efforts in seeking out the views of stakeholders on this important piece of legislation.
As you know, lobbying public office holders in this country is a legitimate activity and a necessary part of the democratic decision-making process. This is recognized in the legislation itself.
At the same time, Canadians have the right to know who is lobbying their public officials. The provisions of the Lobbying Act, which is largely oriented toward the lobbying industry, assist in ensuring that this activity is carried out ethically and transparently.
In my view, the current legislation functions well, providing Canadians with transparency around lobbying activities.
Indeed, Madam Chair, at the federal level, we have one of the toughest and most sophisticated lobbying regimes in the world.
This government is committed to transparent and accountable public institutions and has taken steps to ensure this since first being elected in 2006.
One of these steps was strengthening the rules and guidelines that regulate lobbying at the federal level to ensure lobbying is conducted ethically and transparently.
On coming to power, our first priority was passing the Federal Accountability Act. The Lobbying Act, which is a key component of the Federal Accountability Act, came into force in July 2008.
The Lobbying Act toughened the rules and ensured Canadians had access to more information about interaction between lobbyists and senior government officials. The changes that came into force in 2008 represent a significant step forward in providing clarity to Canadians about who is lobbying their public officials.
As you know, the legislation was further expanded in September 2010 to include all members of Parliament, senators, and exempt staff in the offices of the leaders of the opposition in the House and in the Senate.
Today at the federal level, the system works well and it is meeting the overarching objectives of the Lobbying Act. However, this legislative review, mandated by the act, provides the opportunity to consider whether in the committee's view the rules and guidelines governing lobbying remain current and easily understood. It also gives stakeholders the opportunity to provide their opinion on this issue.
The current regime seeks to ensure that the interests of all stakeholders—the rights of lobbyists to advocate, the rights of those they represent, and the rights of Canadians to know how their government does business—are respected and balanced against the overarching objectives of the act.
As the committee considers possible recommendations regarding the Lobbying Act, I would ask that you bear in mind these overarching objectives while maintaining the act's focus on regulating the activities of lobbyists rather than those they lobby.
As a government, we are committed to openness and transparency. We support this review and we continue to place a priority on ensuring Canadians have the clarity they rightly seek in regard to lobbying activities.
Madam Chair, I look forward to hearing your recommendations regarding the Lobbying Act.
Thank you. Merci beaucoup.
Thank you very much.