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Democracy Watch calls on Transport Minister, Transport Canada and MPs to disclose lobbying by Boeing for 737 Max-8 approval

Loopholes in federal lobbying law allow for secret, unethical lobbying

Transport Committee MPs should call for public inquiry in its upcoming report on aircraft certification process

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch disclosed the letter it has sent to federal Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, top Transport Canada officials Deputy Minister Michael Keenan, and civil aviation heads Nicholas Robinson and David Turnbull, and MPs on the Transport Committee calling on them to disclose all communications with anyone who works with or represents Boeing concerning the Government of Canada’s consideration of whether to approve Boeing’s 737 Max-8 to fly again in Canadian airspace after two crashes of the plane killed 346 people, including 18 Canadians. Huge loopholes in the federal Lobbying Act allow for secret lobbying (See details below).

In its letter, Democracy Watch also called on Transport Committee MPs to re-consider its vote last Thursday and recommend that the Trudeau Cabinet initiate a public inquiry into the many questions that Transport Canada refuses to answer about its decision-making that led to the 737 Max being approved, and between the first crash of the plane in Indonesia in October 2018 and the second crash in Ethiopia in March 2019 (the 18 Canadians were killed in the second crash, and afterwards the federal government finally banned the plane from flying).

Despite many unanswered questions remaining about the Transport Minister’s and Transport Canada’s actions, and even though Boeing refused to appear before the Committee, last Thursday Liberal and Conservative MPs on the Committee shamefully voted against a motion calling for an inquiry.

“Canadians have the right to know all the details about Boeing lobbying anyone in federal politics to try to win approval for the 737 Max to fly again in Canada, and the Minister, government officials and MPs must disclose that lobbying, and launch an independent public inquiry into how the plane was approved,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “It is scandalous that Boeing is allowed to lobby in secret about this, and it shows how much the federal lobbying law is a sad, loophole-filled joke that allows secret, unethical lobbying.”

The federal Lobbying Act has huge loopholes that allow for secret lobbying, including lobbying of any regulatory agency by any business regulated by the agency. Clause 3(2)(b) of the federal Lobbying Act sets out that loophole:
     3(2) This Act does not apply in respect of
… (b) any oral or written communication made to a public office holder by an individual on behalf of any person or organization with respect to the enforcement, interpretation or application of any Act of Parliament or regulation by that public office holder with respect to that person or organization;…”

As well, the Lobbying Act only requires disclosure of paid lobbying (sections 5 and 7). As a result, Boeing could be paying former Liberal Cabinet ministers to give it strategic advice, while they secretly lobby for free for Boeing.

In addition, this regulation under the Lobbying Act:
has huge loopholes in it as it only requires oral, pre-arranged communications initiated by the lobbyist to be disclosed monthly in the Registry of Lobbyists when the lobbying is about anything other than financial benefits.

As a result of these huge loopholes, Boeing doesn’t have to register and disclose any of its lobbying of Transport Canada or the Transport Minister or MPs re: the re-validation of the 737 Max, and it hasn’t according to the Registry of Lobbyists:

And, even if Boeing did register its lobbying generally about the 737 Max, Boeing wouldn’t have to disclose any communication initiated by Transport Canada officials or the Transport Minister or his staff or MPs, or any oral communications that were not pre-arranged by Boeing’s lobbyists, or any written communications (including letters, emails, pins etc.).

Finally, because none of the people lobbying are required to register, they are not covered by the ethics rules in the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct. As a result, it’s legal for Boeing to have people lobby for them in secret who have fundraised or campaigned in the past for Minister Garneau or Transport Committee MPs.

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign and Money in Politics Campaign