Lobbying - the organized attempt to influence legislators - is not new. The term itself has been used to describe influence peddlers gathering in the hallways (or lobbies) of British Parliament as far back as 1820. In 1869, a U.S. newspaperman described lobbyists as "the monsters of Capitol Hill":
"Winding in and out through the long, devious basement passage, crawling through the corridors, trailing its slimy length from gallery to committee room, at last it lies stretched at full length on the floor of Congress-this dazzling reptile, this huge, serpent of the lobby."
Over the last three decades, lobbying has become a more accepted part of government. Federal, provincial and municipal governments passed lobbying laws and instituted registries that the public can use to track what areas of government are being pressured by lobbying forces, and on what subject. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper reads these registries daily and posts relevant updates on our website. (You have probably seen the articles appear at the bottom of the newsletter in the past). We receive a lot of questions about how the registries work, so this week, we offer you a brief introduction to Canada's lobbyist registries.
The Ontario Lobbyist Registry
The Ontario Government was the first provincial government to establish a registry of lobbyists in 1999. The Registry posts information on lobbyists, who they represent, and the areas of government they intend to lobby.
To search the Ontario Lobbyist Registry:
- Click on “Active Registry Search” under the “Registry Search” tab at the top of the page
- The Quick Search function allows you to search by keyword (e.g. “nuclear”) or name of the lobbyist/organization.
Other features of the the Registry include the “Recent Registrations” tab. This tab allows you to view a list of recent changes and additions to the list.
Canadian Lobbyist Registry
The federal Commissioner maintains a detailed list of lobbyists much like the provincial registry. The federal registry also requires lobbyists to disclose any previous public office they may have held.
To search the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying in Canada registry:
- Click on “Registry of Lobbyists” on the right-hand menu
- From here, you can search the registry by keyword, lobbyist’s name, client name, or subject
- You can also browse all recent additions, and review the Monthly Communications Report and Statistical Reports from this menu
The Monthly Communications Report details any meetings between lobbyists and government officials, and the subject of any discussions. Statistics of the number of lobbyists and the area in which they work are also updated on a regular basis.
The City of Toronto Lobbyist Registry
Toronto is the fourth largest government in Canada. It has established an Office of the Lobbyist Registrar to track lobbying efforts made towards city council. The registry has made an impact in policing the activities of municipal lobbyists, laying its first charge for violating the lobbying bylaw April 27th, 2009.
The city is currently upgrading the registry, which will be unveiled to the public May 5, 2009.
Listen to Living at the Barricades.
Lobbying is also the focus of this week's episode of Living at the Barricades. We speak with Mark Tovey of World Changing Canada, and Rick Dove, former Neuse Riverkeeper and hog-farm activist on the how lobbying impacts grassroots environmental groups and the transparency of democratic process.
Music on this week's show:
Money - Pink Floyd
Sold my Soul - Danko Jones
The Man Who Sold the World - Nirvana