According to dozens of organizations, the current “cooling off” period for lobbyists in Canada is already too short. Now the proposed rule changes could mean even less time between a lobbyist campaigning to elect a politician and then seeking to influence them.
From now on, a lobbyist working on a politician’s election campaign cannot contact them for a full election cycle thereafter to prevent politicians from feeling obligated to help people who have helped them. Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger is proposing a change: two years for lobbyists who work closely with a candidate (for example, on a fundraising campaign) and one year for less involved lobbyists (who solicit, for example).
On Thursday, Democracy Watch, Climate Action Network and other civil society groups sent a joint open letter to Belanger expressing concern over the reduction in the cooling-off period, which they say opens the door to lobbying contrary to ethics.
Bélanger suggested a series of other changes to the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct – including stricter rules on gifts – which the groups say do not address conflicts of interest. She also proposed more rules on who lobbyists can seek to influence, placing limits on business partners and other close relationships.
“Groups with over a million supporters are jointly calling on the Federal Commissioner of Lobbying to do the right thing and stop undermining key lobbying ethics rules in a way that allows for a corrupt exchange of favors in the federal policy that has been illegal since 1997,” said Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch.
“The lobbying commissioner is contradicting herself,” Conacher said. A proposed rule change would prohibit lobbyists from providing public office holders with gifts and hospitality worth more than $30 per year. Meanwhile, he said, Bélanger is “removing other rules to allow lobbyists to raise thousands of dollars and campaign for politicians, and then lobby politicians for little favors in return.” soon after”.
Public consultations around the changes ended this week. In May, Bélanger told Canadian National Observer code updates would be in place by the end of the year.
On Monday, the lobbying commissioner told the Globe and Mail she is “extremely determined to get this code across well…completely realizing that some will think I’m not going far enough and others will think I’m going too far”.
For Conacher, the only way to get it right would be to increase the cooling-off period to 10 years for lobbyists heavily involved with a politician and to five years for those less involved.
“Prime Minister Trudeau and all ministers and MPs in his cabinet who were first elected in 2015 still clearly owe the people who raised money or campaigned for them in any way to help them win power, like all other party leaders and MPs still owe everyone. who first helped them win the election,” the letter read.
On Thursday, Democracy Watch, Climate Action Network and other civil society groups sent a joint open letter to Nancy Bélanger expressing concern over the reduced cooling off period, which they say opens the door to counter lobbying. ethics.
“They wouldn’t have the pay, benefits or power they have today if they hadn’t won that first election.”