THE Government of British Columbia has introduced legislation to toughen the rules around political lobbying, which is expected to help protect the integrity of public decision making.
Attorney General David Eby said on Monday that the legislation will ban former public office holders and their senior staff from lobbying government for two years after leaving government. The legislation — which amends the Lobbyists Registration Act — also provides the Registrar of Lobbyists the discretion to grant an exemption from this two-year prohibition if it is deemed best for public interest.
“We’re making sure people are at the centre of government decisions,” Eby said, thanking the Green Party caucus for its work on the issue. “British Columbians want to know that decisions are being made in the interests of their families, communities and province — and not because a lobbyist had access to inside information.
“Our legislation will increase transparency and eliminate the potential for undue influence or use of insider information by lobbyists. Previously, individuals could go straight from a senior decision-making role in government to lobbying. This sweeping prohibition will ensure that knowledge is not used or sold for private gain after employment with the Province ends. This significant legislation will also require lobbyists to register the names of staff of ministers or MLAs they lobbied.”
The act defines former public office holders as former cabinet ministers and their staff (excluding administrative personnel), parliamentary secretaries, deputy ministers, ministry CEOs, associate deputy ministers, or positions of an equivalent rank, including the two most senior positions at universities, institutions, school boards, health authority boards, hospitals, Workers Compensation Board, and a number of Crown corporations, agencies and associations.
Many provinces have lobbying prohibitions of varying time periods, including the federal government’s Lobbying Act, which prohibits designated public office holders for a period of five years.
Penalties under the Lobbyists Registration Act will remain. Administrative penalties may be imposed by the registrar up to $25,000 for non-compliance with the act and regulation. For convictions of offences, fines up to $25,000 for a first offence and up to $100,000 for a subsequent offence may be imposed. The two-year prohibition would come into effect approximately two months after the amended legislation is approved, giving the registrar time to update the online registry and develop a policy to guide the granting of exemptions.
THE B.C. Green Party noted that this lobbying reform was the first B.C. Green initiative to be introduced as legislation following the May 9 election. They noted that they were the only party to campaign to reform B.C.’s lobbying laws and the reforms were a key policy priority the B.C. Greens negotiated into their Confidence and Supply Agreement with the B.C. NDP.
“This change represents one piece of a larger number of reforms that the B.C. Greens will push for to clean up B.C. politics,” said Adam Olsen, the B.C. Green caucus spokesperson for trust in government.
“Government should represent the interests of the people, not special interests. Due to our province’s lax campaign finance laws, limited regulations on the lobbying industry and other systemic issues, this has not always been the case.
“The two-year prohibition ensures that decisions-makers cannot turn around and profit from decisions they took part in making. In the days and weeks ahead we will be reviewing it in detail to ensure that it adequately protects the interests of British Columbians from the undue influence of special interests and will be looking for ways to bring in amendments to further strengthen the way we regulate lobbying in B.C.
“The most important thing that this minority government can do is earn the trust of British Columbians. The B.C. Green caucus will continue to bring concrete, actionable proposals to the table to strengthen British Columbians’ trust in their government.”