Lobbyists left alone

Political lobbyists, fear not: the Yukon government has shot down an NDP proposal to reveal efforts to sway political decisions. The proposal, made earlier this month, was part of a broader NDP-sponsored motion to address the territory’s “democratic deficit” with a series of reforms.

Political lobbyists, fear not: the Yukon government has shot down an NDP proposal to reveal efforts to sway political decisions.

The proposal, made earlier this month, was part of a broader NDP-sponsored motion to address the territory’s “democratic deficit” with a series of reforms.

NDP Leader Liz Hanson is familiar with how companies, First Nations and non-profits seek to shape public policy. She routinely received appeals from these groups when she served as the Yukon’s director of Indian and Northern Affairs.

There’s nothing unethical about lobbying, she said in an interview. But Hanson has a problem with when it’s not publicly disclosed.

Now that the Yukon’s amidst a mining boom, the territory “is coming under increasing pressure from industry, including as far away as China, to allow widespread development in all areas of this territory,” Hanson warned the legislature on March 3.

The federal government and at least seven provinces have laws that govern political lobbying, by the NDP’s count: Ontario, Alberta, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, Newfoundland.

And the Yukon’s Conflict of Interest Commissioner recommended last year that the territory create a registry for lobbyists, said Hanson. “This government has chosen to ignore his advice and, as a result, we have no lobbying legislation, no registry of lobbyists, no code of conduct for lobbyists, and conflict-of-interest legislation that has not kept pace with the changing times.”

But Justice Minister Marian Horne expressed concern that lobbying rules, if poorly defined, would prevent constituents from raising concerns with their MLAs about potholes and bush-clearing.

The NDP’s former leader, Todd Hardy, also “lobbied” Horne to deal with crime in downtown Whitehorse, she said. And representatives from women’s groups do much the same, said Horne.

That’s nonsense, Hanson later said in an interview. Other Canadian jurisdictions have managed to define lobbying in such a way to exclude constituents who want to air their concerns. “I don’t think that’s rocket science.”

However, Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell also raised concerns over how to define lobbying.

“Government frequently meets with representatives from major companies, corporations, as does the opposition. We don’t see those people as lobbyists. We see them as presidents or officers of corporations.”

The public should be consulted before any rules are put in place, said Mitchell. “We would listen to the consultation, as opposed to the government, which doesn’t.”

The big problem with Ottawa’s lobbying rules is that they’re too narrowly defined, according to a February release by Democracy Watch.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that “anyone can lobby, without registering under the act, if they are not paid to lobby. This is a very easy loophole to exploit – just arrange to have your client pay you for advice and other services, and lobby for them for free.”

Lobbyists only need to register if they spend more than 20 per cent of their working hours lobbying.

Only pre-scheduled, oral communications with ministers and senior government staff must be disclosed.

Since the Lobbying Act became law in 1989, no one has been prosecuted for failing to register as a lobbyist.

Democracy Watch likens the situation to a world in which “the police sat in their offices waiting for complaints as their method for enforcing laws about the flow of traffic (each of which contained loopholes), and then took years to investigate each complaint, and years more to lay charges and prosecute, if they ever did prosecute.

“How many speeders, red-light runners, hit-and-run and drunk drivers would be caught?  Worse, how many people would even follow driving laws? This is the exact analogy to the loophole-filled and weak law and ethics rules and enforcement record for the flow of communication from people trying to influence the federal government for the past 22 years.”

As for Hanson, she professed to be puzzled by the cool reception her proposal received.

“I’m just perplexed why anyone would think this is an underhanded or nefarious suggestion. It’s just good government.”

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com.

Just Posted

Whether the dust jacket of this historical novel is the Canadian version (left) or the American (right), the readable content within is the same. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: New novel a gripping account of the gold rush

Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike is an ‘enjoyable and readable’ account of history

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your furnace and your truck need to go

Perhaps the biggest commitment in the NDP deal with the Liberals was boosting the Yukon’s climate target


Wyatt’s World for May 14, 2021.… Continue reading

Copies of the revised 2021-22 budget documents tabled in the legislature on May 14. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Liberals introduce new budget with universal dental and safe supply funding

The new items were added to secure the support of the NDP.

Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters on May 13. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Cap on rent increases will take effect May 15

The rollout of the policy is creating ‘chaos,’ says opposition

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family pleased youth will be able to get Pfizer vaccine

Angela Drainville, mother of two, is anxious for a rollout plan to come forward

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Neil Hartling, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon president, left, said the new self-isolation guidelines for the Yukon are a ‘ray of hope’ for tourism operators. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Yukon tourism operators prepared for ‘very poor summer’ even with relaxed border rules

Toursim industry responds to new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated individuals to skip mandatory self-isolation.

A lawsuit has been filed detailing the resignation of a former Yukon government mine engineer. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A year after resigning, former chief mine engineer sues Yukon government

Paul Christman alleges a hostile work environment and circumvention of his authority led him to quit

Most Read