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Because the Conservatives broke their promises, secret unethical lobbying is still legal

Letter to the Editor by Democracy Watch Board Member Duff Conacher published in the Hill Times on February 4th, 2013

Re: “Ritz most lobbied Cabinet minister in 2012: lobbying registry,” (The Hill Times, Jan. 28, p. 1). In your article, you write, “Meanwhile, there were 11,608 total meetings between lobbyists and all designated public office holders in 2012.” It should say that there were at least 11,608 meetings and very likely many more.

Secret, unregistered lobbying is legal under the Lobbying Act because the federal Conservatives broke their 2006 election promise to require politicians and government officials to disclose their contacts with lobbyists.

Unfortunately, the House Committee that reviewed the Lobbying Act last spring failed to recommend closing all the loopholes that allow secret lobbying, and although the committee made some good recommendations Treasury Board President Tony Clement has said he won’t implement most of them.

In other words, the federal Conservatives have made it clear that they approve of people like Bruce Carson and Rahim Jaffer, and presumably all other former Conservative politicians and staffers, lobbying in secret.

Meanwhile, Hill Times columnist Sheila Copps, a former Liberal Cabinet minister, tries vainly to claim that ministerial ethics standards were better in the past than they are now   “Whaddya got to do in this town to get fired?”  (The Hill Times,  Jan. 28, p. 9). In fact, more than 20 Liberal Cabinet ministers clearly violated ethics rules between 1993 and 2003, and only two were fired by prime minister Jean Chrétien, and only one resigned.

The truth is, as with secret, unethical lobbying, ministerial ethics were just as bad in the past as they are now.

Canadians deserve better, and it is clear that they won’t get any better from the federal Conservatives. The key question is whether any of the federal opposition parties will offer any better. If they don’t, none of them should expect to do any better in the next election than they did in the last election.

Duff Conacher

Board member of Democracy Watch 

Director of Consulting

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign