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Media Release


Monday, November 22, 2004

OTTAWA - Today, Democracy Watch called on Prime Minister Paul Martin and the federal Liberal Cabinet to stop letting corporate lobbyists off the hook by finally approving Bill C-15 and by making the watchdog for lobbyists independent of Cabinet control.  Bill C-15, which changes the federal Lobbyist Registration Act, was passed by Parliament in June 2003, but needs Cabinet approval to be in force.

 Bill C-15 makes several changes to the federal lobbying law, all of which mean that more lobbyists, (especially corporate lobbyists) will be required to register and disclose more details about their lobbying activities.  Among other changes, Bill C-15 includes the following new measures:

"It is disappointing, but not surprising, that Paul Martin would delay strengthening the federal lobbying law given that he became Prime Minister with the financial backing of corporate Canada and with a campaign team made up of corporate lobbyists," said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch. "By delaying the passage of Bill C-15, Martin is failing to protect the public interest and allowing his shadow government of corporate lobbyists to continue influencing Cabinet ministers in secret."

In addition, while Martin ensured passage in spring 2004 of Bill C-4 (originally introduced by Jean Chrétien when he was Prime Minister), Martin failed to correct a fatal flaw in the bill.  Bill C-4 eliminated the Ethics Counsellor position and created a more independent Ethics Commissioner to enforce ethics rules for Cabinet ministers and MPs.

The flaw is that Bill C-4 also made the Registrar for Lobbyists the enforcer of the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct, even though the Registrar remains under the control of a Cabinet minister and as a result cannot fairly and impartially enforce the Code (which contains rules that restrict lobbyists' relationships with Cabinet ministers and other public officials).  Exactly the same as the former federal Ethics Counsellor, the Registrar can be dismissed at any time for any reason by the Industry Minister, cannot set his own budget, and cannot hire his own staff.  Because of his lack of independence in these ways, the Ethics Counsellor was found to be systemically biased by the Federal Court in a July 2004 ruling in Democracy Watch's court case against the Ethics Counsellor.

"The Registrar for Lobbyists is as much under the control of Cabinet, and therefore as biased, as the former Ethics Counsellor," said Conacher. "Until the Registrar is made  fully independent lobbyists friendly to the Liberals will very likely continue to be let off the hook when they break ethics rules."

Democracy Watch and its nation-wide Government Ethics Coalition also believe that the following changes are needed to increase the disclosure of, and ethics of, the activities of lobbyists:

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Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179

Democracy Watch's Government Ethics Campaign

 Bill C-15 information webpage

Democracy Watch homepage