Ottawa Mulls Weakening Lobbyists Rules
Date: Monday, March 05 2007
From Monday's Globe and Mail
OTTAWA — The Harper government has opened the door to a watering down of its vaunted strategy to crack down on lobbying, as it contemplates forcing lobbyists to only report their formal verbal communications with federal officials, documents show.
Under proposals that are circulating in the government-relations industry in Ottawa, lobbyists would not have to report “spontaneous” verbal communications with government officials, nor would they have to disclose e-mail or other written exchanges.
The proposals stand in contrast to the Conservative Party's pledge in the 2006 election to “require ministers and senior government officials to record their contacts with lobbyists.”
At the time, the Conservative Party vowed to stop the back-and-forth between the worlds of politics and lobbying, which it said was corrupting government. In particular, a number of lobbyists were working for the government as well as for the Liberal leadership campaign or with Liberal ministers.
The government passed the Accountability Act last year, saying it would clean up government. The Treasury Board Secretariat is now engaged in consultations with the lobbying industry to draft the regulations that will bring the legislation to life.
Under the act, lobbyists will have to provide a monthly report in which they disclose the public office holders they lobbied and on what topics.
However, the government has laid out five options that would define the type of communication needing to be reported, with only one of the five options including written communication.
In the four options that only include oral communications, three would call on lobbyists to report only their “arranged communication” with government officials. This would have the effect of excluding informal communications in settings such as cocktail gatherings or unplanned meetings on the street, where lobbying nonetheless can occur.
[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on March 7, 2007]