[Democracy Watch Logo] [Op-ed]

Federal Liberal and Conservative proposed changes won't make secret, unethical lobbying illegal

Set out below is a letter-to-the-editor by Democracy Watch Coordinator Duff Conacher which was published in the May 10, 2010 issue of the Hill Times

The Liberals' proposal last week to extend the requirement that lobbyists disclose some of their communications to more federal government representatives, and the Conservatives' responding proposal to extend the ban on becoming a lobbyist after leaving office to MPs and senators and their staff, are not enough to end secret, unethical lobbying because of loopholes in the federal Lobbying Act.

Currently, lobbyists are not required to register and disclose their activities on the existing Internet registry if they are not paid, or if they work as an employee of a corporation and lobby less than 20 percent of their work time, or if they lobby about the enforcement of a law.

As well, currently only pre-arranged oral communications with only Cabinet ministers, their staff and senior government officials are required to be disclosed -- secret emails, letters, and secret informal phone calls and meetings are still allowed even with these people.

The Conservatives broke their 2006 election promise to "Require ministers and senior government officials to disclose their contacts with lobbyists".

To end secret lobbying, all politicians, political staff and decision-making public servants must be required to disclose on the existing Internet registry all direct and indirect communications by anyone connected to an organized effort aimed at affecting their decisions (except for informal, casual communications from voters).

To ensure an actual ban on lobbying after leaving office, anyone doing such communicating aimed at affecting decisions must be defined as a lobbyist and required to register and disclose their activities.  The ban should be on a sliding scale from 1-5 years depending on the power of  the politician, staff or official.

For more details, go to Democracy Watch's Government Ethics Campaign page