Please support democracy

Without your support, Democracy Watch can't win key changes to stop governments and big businesses from abusing their power and hurting you and your family. Please click here to support democracy now

Loopholes allow politicians to lobby the day after they leave office

Letter to the Editor by Democracy Watch Coordinator Tyler Sommers published by iPolitics and the Hill Times, covered by CBC News and The Canadian Press, with CTV News Winnipeg, the Huffington Post, Metro News and 10 other media outlets all publishing the Canadian Press piece, and was quoted in a article that was published by 3 Postmedia News newspapers.

Federal Conservative MP Merv Tweed is allowed to lobby his government in secret the day he resigns his seat and becomes President of Omnitrax raliway company because the Conservatives, specifically Minister Tony Clement, have failed to implement the May 2012 recommendations of the House Ethics Committee.

The Committee recommended closing some of the key loopholes that allow for secret, unethical lobbying, especially by former politicians. In his September 2012 response to the Committee, Minister Clement essentially rejected the Committee’s proposed change that would prohibit former politicians from lobbying right after they leave their position, and would require that all paid lobbying activity be disclosed.

As a result, Mr. Tweed will be allowed to lobby his former colleagues in secret up to one day each week, starting the day he leaves.

In fact, because the Conservatives broke their 2006 election promises to close lobbying restriction loopholes, not only MPs but also Cabinet ministers, senior government officials, senators and their staff, and the staff of MPs are all also allowed to lobby for a business the same day they leave their position, due to the 20% loophole, and also the following loopholes:

  • all of them can be hired on contract to give advice, while providing free lobbying in secret, because the law does not require registration or disclosure of unpaid lobbying;
  • all of them can be hired on contract or work as an employee of a business to lobby in secret about the enforcement, interpretation or application of laws and regulations in secret (which is a huge area of lobbying, especially for big businesses) because the law does not require registration or disclosure of this lobbying, and;
  • all of them can, while lobbying, have secret emails, texts, phone calls and even meetings with Cabinet ministers and senior government officials as long as the minister or official initiates the communication or meeting (which they do whenever they want to have secret, unethical relations with a lobbyist) because the law only requires only oral, pre-arranged communications initiated by the lobbyist to be disclosed

For Cabinet ministers, there is a 2-year prohibition in the Conflict of Interest Act on taking jobs with or lobbying for any business or organization or person they had significant official dealings with in their last year in office (1-year for Cabinet staff and appointees and senior government officials). As well, public servants face the same 1-year prohbition under their conflict of interest code). However, all these people are still allowed to take jobs with, or lobby for, other businesses, organizations and people.

Canadians deserve better, especially from the Conservatives who promised to clean up the federal government.

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign

Democracy Watch’s submission on the Lobbying Act.