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Federal Conservative Cabinet Minister Tony Clement’s Lobbying Act proposed changes allow secret, unethical lobbying

Set out below is a letter-to-the-editor by Democracy Watch Coordinator Tyler Sommers which was published in on September 19, 2012, the Edmonton Sun on September 24, 2012, and the Hill Times September 24, 2012

While the measures promised by federal Conservative Cabinet minister Tony Clement to change the federal Lobbying Act will increase disclosure of the activities of some lobbyists in some ways, secret, unethical lobbying of the federal government will continue to be legal unless other changes are made.

Minister Clement has only pledged to extend an existing measure to require disclosure of meetings by only registered lobbyists with lower-level government officials who have decision-making power (currently only meetings with senior officials are required to be disclosed).

To ensure all lobbying is disclosed, anyone who communicates about decisions with any politician, their staff and appointees, or any government official, must be required to register and disclose all their communications, whether or not they are paid or are lobbying full-time.

Until this change is made, Cabinet ministers and many other politicians and officials will continue to be able to leave government and the lobby the government the next day.  They can do this by exploiting loopholes in the Act by arranging to be paid for advice while doing their lobbying for free, or by lobbying part-time for a business, and by communicating informally or by email with policy-makers.

These are the loopholes that Bruce Carson and Rahim Jaffer exploited, and more than three dozen other lobbyists also exploited in the past seven years.  None of them were charged, let alone prosecuted and penalized, for failing to register as a lobbyist under the Lobbying Act.

So no one should be fooled by Minister Clement’s charade — his proposed changes will shine only a small light on some lobbying of the federal government, while leaving lots of high-powered lobbying in the shadows.

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