House of Commons Hansard #88 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was lobbying.


-Minister of Industry-Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Industry of Bill C-43, an act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act and to make related amendments to other acts.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Ottawa South Ontario


John Manley LiberalMinister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That Bill C-43. an act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act and to make related amendments to other acts be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Industry.

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the motion today is very simple and straightforward. The government wants to provide members of this House with a greater role in preparing legislation through House of Commons committees.

That was a commitment we made in the red book. We honour the commitment to give MPs a greater role today as part of the process of honouring another red book commitment, that of restoring public trust and confidence in the government's decision making process.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister presented a comprehensive reform program, one component of which is the bill now before us today. The proposed amendments to the Lobbyists Registration Act are based on two fundamental principles, principles which are shared by my colleagues in this House.

The first is that all Canadians have a right to approach their government without employing lobbyists. The second belief that forms the basis for the legislation before us is that lobbying must be transparent so that Canadians can have confidence that decisions are based upon merit.

It is with these principles in mind that the Prime Minister announced yesterday the creation of the position of ethics counsellor.

In the red book, we pledged that a Liberal government would appoint an ethics counsellor who would be available to advise lobbyists and their clients on how to do business with the federal government.

The ethics counsellor would also have the task of drafting a code of ethics for lobbyists which would define behaviour standards in the industry.

This bill gives the ethics counsellor the powers necessary to investigate lobbying activities contrary to the code. The counsellor will be able to report publicly on breaches of the code and will have the power to disclose publicly the fees charged by lobbyists in pursuit of government contracts where it is in the public interest to do so. This will provide a strong incentive for lobbying firms to abide by the spirit of openness and transparency that is at the heart of the reforms before us today.

The other reforms in the bill before us build upon the requirements in the Lobbyists Registration Act which came into effect in 1989.

I would like to remind the House that last year, the Standing Committee on Consumer and Corporate Affairs and Government Operations studied the lobbying issue.

In June of 1993, committee members released a report entitled "A Blueprint for Transparency: Review of the Lobbyists Registration Act".

The committee's report concluded that the Lobbyists Registration Act did not reveal enough about the activities of lobbyists. The report made the case for the disclosure of additional information about lobbyists and their activities and those are the recommendations that have provided the basis for the amendments before us today.

The legislation provides greater transparency in four ways.

First, under the existing Lobbyists Registration Act lobbyists need to disclose only general subject matter. Under the new bill they will have to be very specific.

Second, under the existing legislation lobbyists need not disclose to whom they will be talking. Under the new bill they will have t disclose what departments and governmental agencies they will contact.

Third, under the existing law lobbyists need not disclose how they intend to lobby. Under the new bill they will.

Fourth, under the existing law lobbyists who are employed by organizations such as associations and by companies need only provide their name and business address. Under the new law these in-house lobbyists would disclose the broad subject matter of the lobbying and detailed subject matter of their lobbying efforts, including the name of the legislative proposal, bill or resolution, policy, regulation, grant, contribution or other financial benefit and they would register the name of the departments or governmental agencies to be contacted.

The government has decided to maintain the distinction between consultant lobbyists and in-house lobbyists who work either for an organization or a corporation. We believe there is a major difference between these two types of lobbyists, both in terms of the nature of their activities and their status.

Consultant lobbyists work somewhat independently under contract on behalf of a client. Unless they file detailed returns on the nature of their client's interests, it is impossible to say that their activities are transparent.

Organization lobbyists, on the other hand, work for associations that are formed by their members to pursue their common objectives. The objectives of the associations are generally well publicized and in a similar way corporate lobbyists clearly and legitimately pursue their own company's interests. Most important, all lobbyists will be required to disclose both more information and information that is more meaningful than is now the case.

This legislation has gone a great distance to shed more light on the activities of all lobbyists so that Canadians can assure themselves the system is not being abused.

In this regard several proposed changes have been introduced to improve the administration and enforcement of the provisions of the act. The limitation period for laying charges in summary proceedings will be increased from the current six month period to two years to strengthen the RCMP's ability to enforce the act.

At the registrar's request, lobbyists will be required to clarify the information contained in the returns that they have filed. Lobbyists will also be allowed to file their returns electronically to avoid an unnecessary paper trail and to accelerate the disclosure process.

The first of our two principles, I would remind the House, is that all Canadians have a right to approach their government. They do not require lobbyists.

I hope that in the coming weeks, we will all benefit from the advice and counsel of Canadians who will be asked to present their views on this bill to the committee.

I look forward to hearing new ideas that the committee may propose and we are willing to amend this bill if it means providing a piece of legislation that will do more to earn the trust and confidence of Canadians in the decision making process.

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10:15 a.m.


Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-43 comes within the comprehensive plan unveiled yesterday morning to restore the trust of the public in their institutions.

The bill focuses on lobbyists and thus, does not address issues pertaining to the code of conduct governing ministers and senior officials as well as parliamentarians. In that regard however, the Prime Minister indicated yesterday in his presentation that these issues will be dealt with in a subsequent bill.

The main elements of the bill are the following: first, lobbyists are required to disclose the specific subject-matter of their activities, the name of the government departments or institutions they will be lobbying, the communication techniques that will be used and, in certain cases, information about the true beneficiary of the lobbying.

Second, consultant lobbyists, that is to say those who work for lobbying firms, commonly referred to as professional lobbyists, are required to report this information for each new undertaking or contract, while in-house corporate and organizational lobbyists, those who work for large companies or interest groups, are required to report annually. Both tiers of lobbyists are required to report changes in this information within thirty days.

Third, the enactment allows lobbyists to file their returns electronically, sets the limitation period for enforcement proceedings at two years and provides for a Parliamentary review of the act in four years. The prescription period was extended to two years-from six months-with respect to proceedings before the counsellor, but this will be discussed later.

Finally, the enactment provides for the designation of an ethics counsellor who establishes a lobbyists' code of conduct and investigates alleged breaches of it.

The Bloc supports the establishment of an ethics counsellor position and is satisfied with the powers of investigation vested in the counsellor. Although the Bloc agrees with the appointment of Howard Wilson, who is now Assistant Deputy Registrar General, it had hoped that future ethics counsellors would be appointed by the House of Commons.

The Bloc is therefore disappointed to see that the Liberals will make the appointment through an order of the Governor-in-Council. The counsellor is supposed to be a kind of guardian of integrity. Why would he not be accountable to Parliament for his actions?

On the contrary, Bill C-43 sort of makes him accountable to the Prime Minister who, as we know, has partisan interests, unlike Parliament. The other guardian of public integrity, the Chief Electoral Officer, is appointed through a resolution of the House of Commons. The Bloc thinks that the guardian of this institution's integrity should be chosen on the same basis.

Finally, in response to the argument that the leaders of the opposition parties were consulted before Mr. Wilson was appointed, yes, it is true that a letter sent by the Prime Minister to the Leader of the Official Opposition and to the leader of the Reform Party mentions Mr. Wilson's appointment, but it was not the main purpose of the letter.

The Bloc agrees that Mr. Wilson's first mandate should be to develop a conflict-of-interest code for lobbyists. It is, however, disappointed that the Liberal government refuses to give regulatory status to the yet-to-be-developed code, which would have made it more legally binding. In my opinion, since the ethics code is neither a statutory instrument nor an act of Parliament, it has the substance and consistency of a prayer, which I think will make lobbyists, who are not in the habit of worrying about minor considerations, feel morally entitled to circumvent prayers.

Unfortunately, the Bloc would have liked the government to announce the end of tax deductions for lobbyists' fees, as the Minister of Transport suggested. This deduction means that taxpayers are indirectly financing the efforts of those trying to influence authorities.

Nowhere does the bill say that lobbying expenses or contracts will be made public. For the sake of openness, the public should have access to this information because it is very relevant for assessing what lobbyists do. At the very least, the bill could have provided that if there is an investigation, the counsellor should be required to make this amount public.

The bill has an attractive feature: disclosure of the means of communication used by the lobbyist. However, it is difficult for us to assess its significance at this stage. The regulations will surely make the scope of this provision clear. The bill also mentions electronic communication; it will favour communication by fax and other modern media. Regulations on these matters will follow.

To ensure greater transparency, as the Minister of Industry just said, the Liberal Party's position on the Lobbyists Registration Act, as stated on page 95 of the red book, is as follows: "To increase the transparency of the government's relations with lobbyists. . . a Liberal government will implement the. . . June 1993 report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Consumer and Corporate Affairs respecting the Lobbyists Registration Act", known as the Holtmann report.

Among the main commitments of the Holtmann report, it said in Recommendation No. 1 that the distinction between Tier I lobbyists, who work for lobbying companies and are called consultant lobbyists in the new law, and Tier II lobbyists, who are paid employees of a corporation, for example, the vice-president of public relations at Bell Canada or another big corporation, should be eliminated.

In another recommendation, it said that the disclosure requirements should be the same for all lobbyists, in whatever category. Unfortunately, these recommendations were not followed and the dual system persists. These are major dilutions of the Holtmann report. How can you justify giving lobbyists for big corporations two months to file a return when consultant lobbyists must do so in 10 days? What is the rationale for such a distinction?

The Holtmann report also recommended that the Lobbyists Registration Act and the Lobbyists Registration Regulations be amended to force lobbyists to provide more details on the purpose of their efforts. More specifically, lobbyists should say whether their representations concern bills, amendments to acts, subsidies, contributions, regulations, policies, programs, contracts or legislative proposals. They should also mention who they are trying to influence and name the department responsible for the service concerned, as well as the office of the parliamentarian or organization contacted. That recommendation was also significantly watered down.

From now on, lobbyists, regardless of their category, will have to specify the purpose of their representations to the government. They will have to name which bill, proposal, legislation, resolution, regulations, program or subsidy is the object of their efforts. We notice that the government has listened to lobbyists representing major corporations and interest groups which can afford full-time lobbyists, and has maintained two tiers of lobbyists.

The Bloc Quebecois nevertheless congratulates the government for having gone a little farther. However, we are under the impression that the Liberals are like fishermen who do not enjoy fishing. They go fishing but they do so reluctantly. If they make a good catch, it does not necessarily make them happy. It is unfortunate that we do not see any real political will and drive to put the emphasis on the activities performed by lobbyists. This may be the biggest reproach that we can level at the Liberals, who nevertheless deserve some praise for having gone a little

farther, as I just said. By taking small steps from Parliament to Parliament, we may eventually reach our goal.

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10:25 a.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today on amendments to the Lobbyists Registration Act.

The primary reason for changing the act is to ensure that decision making is done with transparency and under public scrutiny. We are trying to ensure that lobbyists are going to truly represent the people and not special interest groups. I applaud the government for making these changes to the Lobbyists Registration Act.

Historically, lobbyists have wielded enormous power. Their numbers are not insignificant; they have grown from over 800 two years ago to some 944 as of March of this year. They have often operated in a secretive fashion and not, I believe, in the best interests of the public. It is unfortunate their power has been so significant because they do not necessarily represent the silent majority this country has. It is something the people of Canada have often felt powerless to engage in.

These individuals run their agendas through government, often peddling their influence to certain groups. As I said before, it is not necessarily in the public interest that they prevail. It is wise to look at some of the changes this act provides.

The proposed legislation tabled today is aimed at restoring public confidence in the decision making process. As part of its commitment to ensure that members of Parliament are given a greater role in drafting legislation, the government intends to send this bill to committee before second reading as permitted under the standing orders. I applaud the government in doing this because it makes the process more open to all parties.

The proposed amendments would strengthen the Lobbyists Registration Act by increasing the transparency of lobbying activities directed at the federal government and by increasing the power of the newly employed ethics counsellor to investigate complaints about lobbying activities. The amendments follow the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Consumer and Corporate Affairs and Government Operations requiring all lobbyists to reveal more about their projects.

Consulting lobbyists who act on behalf of clients would be required to file more specific information of their undertakings. Right now they disclose only the general subject matter of their lobbying campaigns. Under this bill they would have to report the following: the specific subject matter of their lobbying efforts; the name of each department or government institution to be contacted; the techniques they will use; and the true beneficiaries of their efforts.

Under the current act in-house lobbyists who work for companies or organizations need file only business card information. Under this bill they will be required to file once a year specific information including the following: a description of who their employer represents and the employer's lines of business; the specific subject matter of their lobbying efforts; the name of each department or government institution to be contacted; the techniques to be used; and the names of the employees who engage in lobbying.

All lobbyists would have to inform the registrar of lobbyists within 30 days of the termination or change of activity.

Lobbyists that do not adhere to these rules can be found guilty of a criminal offence and fined up to $25,000. It is interesting to note that these penalties are often missing in the lobbyists registration acts in the United States.

This act is a leader in North American and in first world nations because it gives some teeth to the act that are missing in other countries. It also provides for the ability of the RCMP to enforce the act.

The legislation tabled today also provides that the ethics counsellor would develop in consultation with the industry a lobbyists code of conduct and investigate complaints about lobbying activities that run counter to the code. It would also make a public report of the results of any investigation. These are all in keeping with the transparency I mentioned before and can only be applauded.

With the legislation the government intends to ensure that lobbyists cannot exercise the undue influence they have in the past. The primary reason for revamping the Lobbyists Registration Act will ensure, as I said before, that decision making is done with transparency and under public scrutiny. It will try to ensure that lobbyist representations are made very clear and the techniques they use are made very obvious to everyone concerned.

There are some amendments that we need to make. The new ethics counsellor is available to the Prime Minister to investigate cabinet ministers. We believe it should be the other way around. Instead the Prime Minister should be available to the ethics counsellor for these investigations. The reason behind it is that we feel the counsellor must be independent of political influence.

Another point to be made is that government funding for lobby groups and special interest groups must stop. That is something we have continued to put forth as a party in the House and in the public for a long time. We believe it is very unfair for the public to be funding a special lobby group, a special interest group, that in many cases does not represent the true interests of the silent majority most of the time. I implore the government to take heed of this point. We have raised it before in the House. I also implore all government officials, particularly those of us who are new at the job, to be very wary of these groups.

One of the most difficult things I have found since being here is how to get to the truth of the matter, how to find out what the true answers are, what the people want and what the real problem is in definition. We are all in our offices subjected to large numbers of people from different groups who are giving us various points of view. Sometimes when we sit there listening to them we can be convinced that they represent the will of the people.

Being a sceptical individual I find it very difficult to believe that many individuals truly represent the truth, truly represent what our constituents want or truly represent the wishes of the silent majority. I would ask all of us in the House to be wary of that and try to continually ask ourselves what the majority of Canadian people feel about a specific issue. It is not an easy thing to do. It will be a continual battle for all of us to try to answer during our tenure.

I also implore members of the public to influence us where they can. We do not as a group want to be influenced by special interest groups. We need the influence of the silent majority in order to effectively represent the wishes of the majority of the people in the country. Only by the Canadian public coming to us to tell us what the average person on the street wants can we effectively and truly represent their wishes and do the best job we can.

I make an open plea to members of the Canadian public, if they are feeling apathetic, to try to influence us, to write to us and to give their wishes and views on what they want us to do here. That is the only way we can be forceful in terms of wishes. We are only as good as the constituents who influence us.

It is wise to summarize by looking at the underlying principles of the current legislation we want to promote such as openness. Records on paid lobbyists should be available publicly. There should be clarity to reinforce the principle of openness. There should be access to government by all people, not only lobbyist groups. The people on the street must have access to us freely, as the minister mentioned before. They must take advantage of that in a democratic society such as we have in the country. Not every country in the world has given the power to the people to do that. We are one of the few countries to have it. I implore the people of Canada to come out and exercise their right to do so.

We have a credo in our party. I ask all members of the House to please listen. We believe in the common sense of the people, their right to be consulted on public policy matters before major decisions are made, their right to govern themselves through truly representative and responsible institutions, and their right to directly initiate legislation for which substantial public support is demonstrated.

I hope the government will listen carefully, use them as guiding principles in its legislative efforts and institute and support efforts to democratize the system this party has presented, which I know many people in the House support.

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10:35 a.m.

Broadview—Greenwood Ontario


Dennis Mills LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I begin by saying that the member for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca has raised a couple of very good points in terms of possible amendments.

The point he raised about government funding lobbyists is something we have to review. Many members find it strange that we fund heavily many lobbyists. In many cases the government funds them to constantly criticize even the good things governments are doing. Therefore, as the bill proceeds to committee, I know that part of it will be subjected to some good and rigorous exchanges in debate.

I also congratulate the Prime Minister and the Minister of Industry for taking the necessary time to bring before the House a comprehensive package. Often in our haste we could have maybe had the Lobbyists Registration Act amended and it might not have met the total test. By having a comprehensive package which includes an ethics counsellor, the Prime Minister has sensitized all of us who are public office holders and the entire machinery of government, as well as outside lobbyists. We will do our best to make sure the process of rebuilding trust is one that involves a constant, high profile, highly respected public servant who will keep us all alert to what tends to be the temptations to which the member for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca alluded.

Many people come into our offices at times. Sometimes it is difficult to judge where the real truth comes from. It is so easy in this game because sometimes the presentations to us as members of Parliament are so sophisticated and well organized that we end up buying in to some of the policies thrown at us. This will put a very vigorous discipline on us to make sure we get to the bottom of all information presented to us.

I would like to highlight subclause 5(2)(i) which reads:

where the individual has undertaken to communicate with a public office holder in an attempt to influence any matter described in subparagraphs 1(a)(i) to (vi), particulars to identify any communication technique that the individual has used or expects to use in an attempt to influence that matter;

That is a central point in the legislation and I say that from experience in the past Parliament. Often in the past we were not aware of the various techniques used by lobbyists. What are some of those techniques?

First, let us take the drug patent legislation as an example. That is a bill by which members can see the full force of a lobby at work. The organization of brand name manufacturers not only had very good lobbyists but used polling companies. It used advertising. It used print. It used the media. If we were not really sensitive to the total package or the comprehensive communication strategy they were using, we could be very susceptible to their particular lobby or their particular point of view.

Often in the House of Commons we are susceptible to polls because we have been conditioned as politicians to look at polls to find out what people are thinking. In the past we have seen lobbyists designing polls and using polls to create a sense that the public was supporting the presentation they were making to us on a particular issue. That is where we have to keep our heads up.

Mr. Speaker, you are a veteran of the Hill; you have been here for many years. You have seen these various techniques employed. The bill states that the technique lobbyists are using, whether it be print media or polling, the total package of how they will try to shift our attitude toward redrafting a piece of legislation, has to be on the table. Their operation has to be transparent in the way it comes at us. That is a key component of the legislation. It will help us make better laws for the people of Canada.

The Minister of Industry made another very important point in his speech: Canadians do not have to pay to talk to their members of Parliament. Millions of people would probably be shocked at the very thought of having to pay to speak to their members of Parliament.

The member for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca alluded to the fact that during the last 10 years the sector of the economy that grew the most in this town was the lobby sector. I do not know what the percentage increase was, but it outstripped every other sector in terms of growth in this city. An impression was created that if we really wanted to get something done in Ottawa we had to go through a lobbyist. It made members of Parliament seem irrelevant.

I remember being in opposition and feeling the frustration. When I would run into constituents flying back to Toronto or in a restaurant or doing something in town here, I would say: "What are you doing here?" They would say: "Well, I'm with my lobbyist trying to get something done". I would ask: "What do you mean you are with your lobbyist? Why wouldn't you just come around? This is what we as members of Parliament are here for. This is what we are here to help you with. You don't have to pay a lobbyist".

If we are talking about a piece of complex policy where they want to get some ultra-sophisticated advice on how one might advance a very complex issue, fine, there are some good professional policy people out there who can help. But you never have to pay to get access to your member of Parliament.

In dealing with this legislation in the first part of our mandate in a comprehensive way, we are not only going to help our constituents, whether they be from a social agency or a business, but we will also be reinvigorating the role of members of Parliament.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Industry through this legislation will make our role as members of Parliament much more meaningful than it has been in the last 10 years. In the previous 10 years it is a well known fact that if one had a really good lobbyist who could get to the eight or ten key people who were basically administering the government, one had a pretty good chance of getting one's issue on the front burner.

The Prime Minister is saying with his comprehensive ethics package: "Work with your members of Parliament. They're here. They're working for you". We are not trying to put lobbyists out of business, but we are trying to put the role and the responsibility of members of Parliament back to where it once was.

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10:45 a.m.


Philippe Paré Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the proposed legislation to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act gives us a chance to reflect on the state of our democracy. Since the Berlin wall came down and the Soviet empire was dismantled, we have seen some major attempts at democratization, by countries which for decades had lived under the yoke of a totalitarian state.

Against this background, we are sometimes tempted to idealize our own political system and give it virtues that do not, however, stand up to close scrutiny. There are also those who, rather simplistically, tend to confuse democracy with universal suffrage. I do not deny the fact that the electoral process is ultimately a symbol of democracy, but, with Alexis de Tocqueville, I want to point out that democracy means far more.

During the last federal election campaign, the Liberal Party announced it would work on enhancing the credibility of parliamentarians and wanted to give them a code of ethics. So what happened? Since the beginning of the 35th Parliament, the government has repeatedly done the exact opposite of what it pledged to do.

A few examples. Before the Standing Committee on Human Resources had even started its consultations and studies on the reform of health and social security programs, the government announced in its February 22 budget, without involving parliamentarians or the Canadian public, a number of draconian cuts in unemployment insurance totalling more than $5 billion. Did the government receive a democratic mandate from the people, in this case?

Without the consent of opposition members democratically elected to the House of Commons, the government, by the sheer force of its majority, imposed the presence of non-elected senators on the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. Does this not show contempt for the democratic process? Before the Special Joint Committee responsible for reviewing Canada's foreign policy had even started its activities, the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced that from now on, development assistance would no longer be conditional on a country's respect for human rights.

Did the government receive a mandate from the people to that effect? Hardly, if the objections of Canadian stakeholders in the international development sector are any indication. I am thinking in particular of the tens of thousands of Canadians and Quebecers who spend their time and their energies so that NGOs from Canada and Quebec can provide humanitarian aid to the poorest in the world. I am also thinking of the close relationships forged with people in developing countries, relationships that are formed around the concepts of viable development, democratic development and respect for human rights.

In its Bill C-22, dealing with the cancellation of the contract to privatize terminals 1 and 2 at Toronto Airport, the government refuses to make full disclosure of all the dirty tricks surrounding the signing of this privatization contract. It refuses to force the main players in this affair to come before the Standing Committee on Transport.

In clause 10 of this bill, for example, the government gives itself the power to compensate friends of the federal system for services rendered before cancellation. Is our democracy such a good example? Where is this wonderful openness announced by the Liberals? Unfortunately, there is not much more openness in this bill.

For weeks and months, the government, through strategic planning or lack of ideas, reduced the legislative program to very little. The government is taking months and months to develop legislation, but very often it is introduced only the day before consideration in the House, which was the case with this bill. Can we really talk about making parliamentarians more responsible? Do you think that the democratic process is well served by such shortsightedness, such meanness?

In our parliamentary system, opposition parties are part and parcel of the democratic process. Should a government concerned about democratic principles not make a minimum of effort so that Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, an expression dear to federalists, can play its role efficiently?

The bill amending the Lobbyists Registration Act is at the heart of the debate on democracy, since the activities of these professionals are always the very opposite of the democratic process. Let us keep in mind that in a democratic society the long-standing principle of one man, or woman, one vote is the cornerstone of democracy. By definition, lobbyists are constantly trying to influence the political power in order to obtain privileges or special favours for a particular individual or group. It is their raison d'être.

We may tolerate this practice as a necessary evil, but we cannot accept the lack of transparency which too often accompanies it. The present bill, aimed at bringing transparency to the practice of lobbying in Canada, is broadly based on the commitments contained in the Liberal red book. Originally, the provisions of the bill were supposed to be much more stringent that any existing legislation. However, if we look at it more closely it falls short of the commitments made by the Liberals during the last election campaign and does not meet citizens' expectations concerning the promised reform.

Of course, some elements of the bill are in keeping with the Bloc Quebecois' ideas on this issue. It appears that some amendments to the Lobbyists Registration Act match the recommendations made by the Commons committee.

According to the bill, the Governor in Council designates the ethics counsellor who, among other things, has to develop a code of conduct. The ethics counsellor is also mandated to investigate alleged violations. However, the ethics counsellor is designated by order of the Governor in Council. Why is the ethics counsellor not accountable to Parliament, instead of just the Prime Minister?

Also, the bill seems to have diluted other important demands made by the Bloc Quebecois. For example, lobbyists are only required to disclose the name of the government department or institution they will be lobbying and not the amount of money they will be spending on their activities, if such activities are subject to an investigation.

Moreover, the code of conduct to be developed by the ethics counsellor will not be a statutory instrument. With this provision, the government significantly reduces the impact of the code.

Political actions of members sitting in this House are very often offset by the cynicism many voters feel towards the politicians whom they do not trust any more. For too long now, they have heard politicians make promises and do the exact opposite. Interdependence is not something you have to take into account only at the international level. All elected members

are affected by the statements and the actions of all politicians. That is why, in my view, this bill does not go far enough.

Finally, I want to say that, since lobbying is not available to everyone, because there will always be honest citizens who refuse to resort to such influence networks and others who cannot afford such services, it undermines the principle of democracy.

Consequently, the Bloc will co-operate in the effort to improve this bill which does not even come close to the people's expectations or the Liberal promises.

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10:55 a.m.


Pierrette Ringuette-Maltais Liberal Madawaska—Victoria, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to be able to participate in the debate on referring this bill, an Act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act, to committee prior to second reading.

Lobbying is a long-standing part of democracy in this country. It pre-dates Confederation. Ever since the birth of this country, individuals have tried, directly or indirectly, to influence government decisions in their favour.

This House knows along with the increased activity by lobbyists grew a concern among Canadians. So long as the activities by lobbyists were conducted outside public view, Canadians might question whether government decisions were indeed made for the public good or under undue influence from a particular group.

This concern is nothing new. In 1969, the first private members' bills were tabled to demand that lobbying be opened to public scrutiny. By the time the government announced the establishment of a system for the registration of lobbyists in 1985, about 20 such private bills had been tabled but none had been passed by Parliament.

In 1985 the Government of Canada took up the cause of lobbying reform and issued a discussion paper which was studied by the Standing Committee on Election, Privileges and Procedure. The ideas presented in that standing committee report became the basis for the original Lobbyists Registration Act. It was given royal assent in September 1988 and came into force a year later.

This Act rests upon the fundamental principle that the registration of lobbyists serves to inform the public about lobbying and to guarantee that government decisions are made on the basis of the issues. In other words, the Act seeks to make lobbying transparent. The public has a right to know who is trying to influence government decisions.

By opening up the process to public scrutiny registration provides the opportunity for others to initiate their own efforts to present their views to the government.

This government believes that every Canadian has the right to approach government officials without using lobbyists as an intermediary. No one should feel they have to hire a lobbyist to bring matters to the attention of their member of Parliament, the ministers of the crown, public servants or any other institution in our governmental system.

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the House that, during the 1993 election, the Liberal Party of Canada promised that we would implement the Standing Committee's recommendation.

The registry will indicate who is attempting to influence what government department and agency on what specific subject matter, on whose behalf and using what technique. They will also be required to clarify any given information at the request of the registrar.

The amendments also provide for a review of the Act by Parliament after a period of four years.

These measures in total represent a major step in the evolution of lobbying in Canada.

The sub-committee members may want to make suggestions to enhance this legislation in order to ensure that it adequately guarantees the openness and transparency of lobbying activities. It is therefore proper that members have the opportunity to make their comments before the bill goes to second reading.

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10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

It being eleven o'clock, pursuant to Standing Order 30(5), the House will now proceed to statements by members, pursuant to Standing Orders 31.

Medal Of BraveryStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, today the Governor General, His Excellency, the Right Hon. Ramon Hnatyshyn, will honour three police officers from Burlington with the medal of bravery.

Sergeant Stephen J. Carroll, Constable Gonzalo Couce and Constable Thomas A. Doherty are officers with the Halton Regional Police Force.

On September 27, 1993, Sergeant Carroll and Constables Couce and Doherty were called into a high risk situation and attempted to save a woman who had been shot outside her home. Although Sergeant Carroll managed to carry her to safety, the Burlington woman did not survive. Constables Couce and Doherty later entered the house to find that the gunman, her former husband, had killed himself.

Police officers across the nation take incredible risks to keep us safe. I commend all of them for their hard work and their dedication to public safety.

Today the efforts of Sergeant Carroll, Constable Couce and Constable Doherty are being recognized with a medal. I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to all 30 recipients of medals today and to all Canadian police officers for their dedication.

Francophone Public ServantsStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to a front-page report in Le Droit on June 11, 1988, ``francophone public servants must bite their tongue''.

Paul Gaboury reported at the time that in spite of the Official Languages Act, English was still the language of work in the federal public service in the Ottawa region. By all accounts, the situation is not all that different in 1994.

Francophone employees realize that there is a world of difference between the public service's language policies and day-to-day reality. French, their mother tongue, must take a back seat to English.

Many have said that they are unwilling to stand up for their rights for fear of reprisals ranging from isolation to being denied opportunities for advancement. This is just one more example of the dubious results of federalist rhetoric.

The FamilyStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Ed Harper Reform Simcoe Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week's family poll indicated that, although the majority of Canadians are happy with their own family life, they fear for the future of their families. They see warning signs that indicate the family is seriously threatened.

I am disappointed at the apathetic attitude of the government toward these fears and concerns. Throughout this past week my colleagues and I have presented in the House the issues of concern to families.

The government has not responded with a single constructive word. The Liberals have ignored the wishes of Canadians by maintaining and pursuing legislation that is harmful to the family. It is a betrayal of the trust of those who elected them.

If the Ministers of Justice, Finance, and Human Resources Development would dare to get close to the grassroots of Canada they would discover how deeply troubled the families feel. But the Liberals are not paying attention.

I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that my colleagues and I are here to defend the interest of Canadian families but we will not allow the family to die a slow death at the hands of the government.

WaterStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Francis Leblanc Liberal Cape Breton Highlands—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, here is another example of how the government is putting sustainable development into action.

On June 9 an agreement was signed in Halifax between the Government of Canada and the province of Nova Scotia. This agreement, called the Canada-Nova Scotia Economy Agreement, was developed under the authority of the Canada Water Act.

Its purpose is to help integrate good water resource management practices with economic decision-making. By better understanding the value of water and its importance to economic prosperity, Canadians will be able to make informed decisions about their water use.

The real value of the new agreement will be improved long-term economic growth by ensuring that water will be used wisely in Nova Scotia and that it will be kept available for future economic development.

This agreement illustrates our ongoing commitment to establishing frameworks in which environmental policy and economic policy work together, laying a firm base for sustainable development.

EducationStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have discovered in my riding that our public school system is in desperate need of overhaul.

While education is a provincial jurisdiction, I believe that federal government funding of unemployment insurance and a portion of post-secondary education makes us partners with the provinces in working toward an improved educational environment.

Forced passing of students with poor reading and other academic skills is not in the best interests of Canada. Poor discipline has led to a situation where many teachers fear for their safety.

Different programs in different provinces are retarding our growth as one nation. We should immediately undertake a national forum on education in order to fulfil all government commitments to provide for an educated and motivated generation of new Canadians who will have to deal with the changes demanded by the 21st century.

Victims' RightsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


John Finlay Liberal Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, a woman in the riding of Oxford recently collected over 500 names on a petition asking for changes to the Young Offenders Act. These petitioners are asking the government to create a law that will protect the victims rather than the offender.

The justice minister has done a great deal to advance the cause of victims' rights by proposing legislation which is now before the justice committee to ban the distribution of serial killer board games and trading cards. I believe the changes proposed to the Young Offenders Act will assure the Canadian people that youths must take responsibility for their actions.

I would like to thank these petitioners for informing me of their concerns and for taking it upon themselves to try to improve our justice system.

Quebec SovereigntyStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Bernard Deshaies Bloc Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Governor of Vermont stated clearly yesterday at the meeting of New England governors and Eastern Canadian premiers that he was prepared to maintain good business relations with a sovereign Quebec. Not surprisingly, our neighbours to the south are proving to be the most receptive of all to our democratic plans for sovereignty.

The Governor of Vermont rightfully pointed out that the business community in his state has no qualms about a sovereign Quebec government. Vermont has understood that it is in its best interests to respect the democratic choice of Quebecers and not to engage in a debate about the province's future. There is no question that the New England states will maintain their sound economic relations with a sovereign Quebec, just as all of Quebec's other trading partners will.

The federal government's fear-mongering is simply not working.

Grand Rabbi Of LubavitchStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today, somewhat belatedly but with no less sincerity, to pay tribute and to mourn the passing of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson who served as the Grand Rabbi of Lubavitch for four decades.

Rabbi Schneerson's devotion to his community and to society as a whole is demonstrated in his legacy of achievements which includes the establishment of drug rehabilitation centres, prisoner outreach programs, non-profit loan organizations, day schools and Education Day U.S.A. The world is a poorer place with the passing of Rabbi Schneerson.

I would ask all members of the House, and indeed all Canadians, to join with me in honouring the memory of the Rabbi and I would ask members to join with me in extending our deepest sympathies to the Lubavitch community at this most difficult time.

Blood Fractionation PlantStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a member from Ontario, I would like to express my support for the immediate construction of the blood fractionation plant. This is a vital initiative for the health and safety of Canadians.

The Department of Health established a blue ribbon panel composed of independent experts in this field to review the issue of blood fractionation. I welcome their report which concluded that blood fractionation should begin immediately in Canada. It was last fall that Halifax was chosen, after an extensive site selection process conducted by the Canadian Red Cross Society, as the best location in the country for this project.

This issue is far too important for petty regional politics. We need a fractionation plant and we need it now. This is not just good news for Nova Scotia, this is great news for all Canadians.

CommunicationsStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Dianne Brushett Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, Canada's private radio broadcasters have suffered very tough times in recent years.

In the past three years, collectively they have lost more than $100 million. In 1992 private radio stations on average lost $72,000 and 58 per cent were unprofitable. Now the Department of Canadian Heritage, in amending the Copyright Act, is considering major new fees on private broadcasters known as neighbouring rights.

I am very concerned that the neighbouring rights amendment, as proposed, would be detrimental to the survival of small radio stations in my riding in Truro and in Amherst.

It is essential that any changes in copyright law must not endanger the vital services of small town broadcasters to all Canadians.

Black Watch Regimental BandStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Warren Allmand Liberal Notre-Dame-De-Grâce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to protest the proposed cuts to the Black Watch Regimental Band stationed in Montreal. In effect these cuts would kill this renowned Canadian institution.

The Black Watch Band is 132 years old and is the last remaining highland band in Quebec. It represents an outstanding regiment which distinguished itself in both the first and second world wars.

This band has been a significant symbol of Canadian valour, culture and social commitment. Every year the Black Watch Band appears at a wide variety of community and social functions, including the Canada Day parade, the St. Patrick's parade and many others.

It seems strange that in the same month where we honoured our Canadian troops for their D-Day contribution and the Black Watch Band participated in these ceremonies, the government is now taking steps to cut the band.

Since it is only a matter of $28,000, which will not affect our deficit one way or another, I ask the government to reconsider this decision which would kill a great Montreal institution, one that contributes much to our heritage and to our community.

AidsStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the member for Wild Rose said something in this House that I found quite outrageous. He condemned the Department of Health for distributing an information brochure on how AIDS is transmitted.

The disturbing thing is that an elected representative of the people does not know that AIDS is a viral infection transmitted through blood or semen. For lack of protection and sufficient information, hundreds of people have contracted this disease and died from it. It is unfortunate that Reform members are so hard on the homosexual community. This gut-level homophobia has no place in Parliament.

Some Reform Party members have shown narrow-mindedness, partisanship and base ignorance of the AIDS problem. The Department of Health should give them an intensive briefing on how AIDS is transmitted; this search for information should be the first step to greater tolerance.

Ru486Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, recent reports confirm that a number of health practitioners have illegally imported and are prescribing the abortion pill RU486.

The drug's manufacturer has said it will not apply to test and sell the drug in Canada unless specifically invited to do so. The government has been quoted as saying that it never asks companies to make specific drugs available and will not make an exception for the manufacturer of RU486. Nevertheless the drug is in Canada and is being prescribed to women without legal approval.

Possession and use of illegal drugs are serious criminal offences and for good reason. The health and safety of Canadians depends, to a large degree, on effective and enforced drug legislation. Criminal law dealing with RU486 should be no exception.

Therefore I call on the Solicitor General to initiate an RCMP investigation into the possession, use and prescription of the illegal drug RU486.

Environmental Achievement AwardsStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to remind members of the House and all Canadians that Environment Canada is accepting nominations for environmental achievement awards until August 2.

These awards to be given by the Minister of the Environment at a conference in December show that every effort helps to protect our environment and thus our future.

Let us hope that award winners and nominees alike will be an inspiration for others wanting to become environmentally responsible citizens.

We can all contribute to this worthwhile effort by nominating constituents who are making concerted efforts to protect and restore the environment.

The Reform PartyStatements By Members

11:15 a.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me ask the House the following skill-testing questions. What is the name of the party that preached listening to people and then proceeded to vote against a measure approved by business, government and natives in the Yukon Territory?

What is the name of the party that professed to do parliamentary business in a different way and then used Harvie Andre and Erik Nielsen tactics?

What is the name of the party that professed to cut costs and government waste and then proceeded to delay the parliamentary committee by 16 hours with points of order and clarification and repetition, thereby wasting $13,000 taxpayer dollars?

Give up? It was the Reform Party of course. It is time for a recall.

The Reform PartyStatements By Members

11:15 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Saskatoon-Clark's Crossing. Is that the right one?

The Reform PartyStatements By Members

11:15 a.m.


Len Taylor NDP The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK

The Battlefords-Meadow Lake, Mr. Speaker.