Mr. Speaker, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, who I have great respect for, drives me crazy when in attacking governments he attacks Parliament and the democracy in this place.
Canada, as you know, Mr. Speaker, is one of the oldest democracies in the world. We had a democracy when they were all monarchies and dictatorships in Europe. We have held one of the largest land masses together with the greatest ethnic diversity. We are a country of two official languages. The whole world knows that Canada has the most admired democracy in the world and one of the most successful democracies.
The member complains, as an example of a lack of democracy, that the Prime Minister appoints senior officials to government. How would he have it? The Prime Minister is elected. Would he have unelected people appoint these people?
It just drives me crazy because we do have a democracy and it is the best democracy in the world. The reason the government appoints the officials is that the government is elected by a majority to take these actions.
Coming to Bill C-15, the amendments to the Lobbyists Registration Act, I will not go over the debate that went on here earlier because I think all would agree that the bill that is before the House is a good bill. I do not think there is anything in the bill that is contentious and that should not go through the process and be passed into law.
However I do agree with the member from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, who, I point out, is a member on the opposition side, that the bill does not go far enough. I am not satisfied that we took advantage of the opportunity, when were reviewing the legislation, to make it stronger and to throw more light on the way lobbyists operate in government and how they influence government.
My connection to the legislation goes back to 1994, to the previous review, when I served on the industry committee at that time. I said it then, and I have proposed it at various times in the intervening years, that the shortcoming of the legislation is that it provides for transparency in terms of who it is that is lobbying the government but that it does not provide the identities of those who are being lobbied in government.
As a former journalist, I am not particularly interested, either as an MP or a former journalist, in who is doing the lobbying so much as I am interested in who is being lobbied. I have had occasion to use the Lobbyists Registration Act and the Access to Information Act on various occasions, particularly in connection with the animal cruelty bill, Bill C-15B, in which I was very concerned that there was policy being implemented that was coming from lobbyists. I wanted to trace not only who was putting the influence on government but who was reacting to the influence. I could identify the International Fund for Animal Welfare as the lobbyist but I could not figure out how it was getting to government.
The problem, and it is a serious problem, is not whether or not lobbyists are reaching senior bureaucrats, ministers or politicians. The danger is when lobbyists are reaching mid-level officials, mid-level officials who may be preparing policy papers which they are going to send up the line. There is no way of determining whether these lobbyists are getting in the back door and influencing the deputy ministers because they have been lobbied.
One of the proposals I had at the time, and on which you can be ready, Mr. Speaker, because I will be moving an amendment in due course, is that I believe we need to have a situation where the officials keep a log of the lobbyists who approach them. We, not the senior officials, need to know what these lobbyists are doing, how they are making contact, how they are influencing the mid-level bureaucrats and the extent of that influence.
I can say that I was very concerned regarding the animal cruelty legislation that there was improper lobbying in my view, that there was lobbying behind the curtains that had got to low level bureaucrats, low level officials who had influenced the people up the line.
Another aspect that we need to address in the legislation, and one I hope we can address through an amendment, relates to what I have been saying, the influence that former members of Parliament, ministers and former bureaucrats have on the lobbying process.
One of the ironies is that when the industry committee studied the Lobbyists Registration Act in 1994, the chairman of the committee became a lobbyist. He now lobbies government. I can cite former ministers who are lobbying government and cite senior bureaucrats who are lobbying government.
There is no problem, in my view, with allowing those people to lobby. They are recorded under the Lobbyists Registration Act. However, in the interest of transparency and in the interest of understanding how policy is developed, we want to know who they are lobbying. The Lobbyists Registration Act is entirely silent on that. We can find out that they are lobbying the Department of Justice or Environment Canada but we cannot find out who they are lobbying.
I would suggest that if bureaucrats and officials were required to keep logs of the lobbyists who approach them, and by that I mean a telephone log or a mail or solicitation log, and if these logs were accessible to the public so that we could see which officials were being approached, I think we would have a better grip on how policy is made in this place. It is of great concern to members of Parliament that decisions are being made and influence is being brought to bear in ways that give the advantage to those who are paying for the influence legally and to the disadvantage of those of us who are here representing Canadians and the points of view of Canadians. That is a major change that I would bring in.
I actually put that forward in 1994 and the government responded that it felt that it would be too much of a burden on officials to keep lists of the lobbyists who approach them. I submit that in the eight years intervening computer technology has advanced so far and so fast that there would be little problem in keeping such a record. Indeed, in my own constituency office I routinely record all the telephone calls that come in for some very good reasons.
Years ago when I was at the Toronto Star that was again a routine procedure made much easier now because we can put it right into the electronic file. I do not see any reason why this cannot be done. If the officials have nothing to hide, and indeed they should not have anything to hide, then I think this is something that the government could consider. I can assure the House that I intend to put it forward as an amendment.
One final point is that Professor Stanbury, when he appeared before the committee in 1994, pointed out that it would be very advantageous to know how much money is being spent by an organization to lobby for a particular point of view. It is not the lobbyist and the hiring a lobbyists that is so interesting, what we really want to know is how much money someone will spend behind the scenes to influence officials in order to get their way. Members of Parliament really have nothing but this place in order to bring influence to bear, to change legislation or to act in the public interest.
Lobbyists, on the other hand, or organizations that hire lobbyists, have vast sums of money and I think the public is entitled to know when vast sums of money are being used to influence public policy.
So those are two changes that I hope the committee and the government will consider before the legislation comes back to the House.