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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 consider.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Roger Scott-Douglas  Assistant Secretary, Priorities and Planning, Treasury Board Secretariat
Janice Young  Senior Advisor, Strategic Policy, Treasury Board Secretariat
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Chad Mariage

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

On the definition of a public office holder, I'll allow my colleague to answer. That's a technical question

11:30 a.m.

Assistant Secretary, Priorities and Planning, Treasury Board Secretariat

Roger Scott-Douglas

Thank you very much.

We have to do that. Under the act, in two stages, the definition of a designated public officer-holder was made clear. In the initial amendments that came into force in 2006, there were about 11 specific categories of individuals who filled positions. I can very quickly run through those: the Chief of the Defence Staff, the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, Chief of Maritime Staff, Chief of the Land Staff, Chief of the Air Staff, Chief Military Personnel, the Judge Advocate General, as well as any position of a senior advisor to the Privy Council to which the office holder is appointed by a Governor in Council appointment.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

I am sorry to interrupt you, but I would like to know exactly which employees of the Office of the Leader of the Opposition are considered to be designated public office holders.

11:30 a.m.

Assistant Secretary, Priorities and Planning, Treasury Board Secretariat

Roger Scott-Douglas

I'm sorry; in 2010 the act was amended, as you know, to include all members of Parliament, all members of the House of Commons, all members of the Senate, and any exempt staff who were in the offices of the leader of the opposition in the House of Commons or the leader of the opposition in the Senate—those who were appointed specifically pursuant to subsection 128(1) of the Public Service Employment Act.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Jean Crowder

Thank you, Mr. Morin.

Mr. Butt, you have five minutes.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Thank you very much to the parliamentary secretary and to the staff from Treasury Board for being here.

I have to say that as a new member of Parliament I found this study to be very enlightening, very helpful, mainly because (a) I'm a designated public office holder and I certainly need to know what the rules are, but (b) I think this has been a very good exercise by this committee to have a five-year review taking a look at this act.

There may have been some haste when the previous legislation was brought forward. We were dealing with some issues at the time, and I think Parliament wanted to make sure there were some rules, and quickly. I think now, five years later, this gives us a very good opportunity to take a look at what's working and what maybe needs to be changed a little bit.

Let me just ask you a couple of things. First, my colleague Monsieur Morin was talking a little bit about the definition of designated public office holder. Are you of the view that this is covering the right people, or enough of the right people? It is very broad. It does cover a whole scope of people. It treats, to some degree, me as a backbench member of Parliament no differently than a cabinet minister, or the Prime Minister, to some degree.

Is that still appropriate? Are we covering the right types of people in all of this? I realize that some of those who work in the bureaucracy, who are not elected officials, are also covered.

In your view, are we covering the right number of people? Do we need to be covering more, or should we be refocusing on who is within that definition of a DPOH?

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Madam Chair, I'll take the first part of that question.

First of all, I agree that it is a very large net. A lot of different positions are covered. The overarching objective of the act is transparency, and in order to do that, in order for Canadians to know who is lobbying their members of Parliament, their senators, their government, I think it is important that we cast that net fairly wide. In order to achieve the transparency that the act sets out to achieve, it is important that all of the people you mentioned fall under the definition of designated public office holder.

However, it's up to the committee to make your recommendation. If you feel that it's not wide enough, or that it's too wide, then I would certainly encourage you to put that in your report. As my colleague said earlier, it is a balance between transparency and ensuring access to government. Sometimes it becomes too onerous, on the one hand, which then affects the other.

So it is a very fine balance, and I encourage the committee to make recommendations if you feel that balance could be better represented.

Roger, do you have anything to add to that?

11:35 a.m.

Assistant Secretary, Priorities and Planning, Treasury Board Secretariat

Roger Scott-Douglas

No, I think that's all.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Okay.

One of the things we've heard from some of the government relations firms and registered lobbyists who've been participating in this regime for the last five years or so is that when we're requiring lobbyists to report both oral and arranged meetings.... We've heard from some of the stakeholders that they've raised some concerns over the definition of “arranged”, that the term is somewhat ambiguous, or a little unclear.

Can you shed a little bit of light on what your view is of the interpretation of that term, “arranged”? Chance meetings—“I bumped into you in the hallway” kinds of meetings—happen all the time. We're all busy, and we're going to all kinds of meetings, and we're bumping into people all the time, both in our ridings and here on the Hill. Some of those people are registered lobbyists and some aren't.

Would it be helpful if there were some more clarity around what actually constitutes a proper arranged meeting, where there is a discussion of a matter of substance with a DPOH rather than these chance meetings? I assume that would be helpful if the act were strengthened, to some degree, in that regard to give clarity to both us as DPOHs and the registered lobbyists.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

I think it's very important that people who fall under the act understand their obligations under the act. If further clarity could be achieved, I would certainly encourage the committee to seek that. I think it's extremely important.

At the same time, I understand that the commissioner has asked for the word “arranged” to be removed so that it strictly becomes oral communications. My colleague mentioned that there may be some complications with that, for example, social meetings. I ask the committee to consider that it may also cause a chill. For example, you may not want to cross the street to say hello to your friend who happens to be a lobbyist, for obvious reasons.

I would encourage the committee to consider all these aspects when making their recommendations on this subject.

Roger, do you have anything further on this?

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 Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Thanks, Madam Chair.

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Jean Crowder

Madam LeBlanc, you have five minutes.

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

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP 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 Conservative 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 NDP 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 NDP 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 Conservative 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 NDP 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 NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Thank you.

11:45 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Jean Crowder

Thank you very much.

Mr. Mayes, you have five minutes.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative 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?