Lobbyists in B.C. will face more scrutiny and the provincial registrar of lobbyists will have more power to launch investigations and levy penalties under a bill introduced in the legislature.
The Lobbyists Registration Act — a bill long promised by the government of Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell — is meant to shed some light on an industry that has remained largely in the back rooms.
It would require anyone lobbying government to pay a fee, file paperwork and be listed in a public registry.
The current act regulating lobbyists — made law in 2002 — has long been dismissed by critics as toothless.
It gave the registrar of lobbyists no power to investigate complaints without the consent of the person to be investigated.
B.C. Attorney General Mike de Jong said Tuesday the registrar will have real clout once the bill becomes law, including, "specific investigative powers, the ability to issue specific decisions [and] to impose significant sanctions."
'Too little, too late,' says NDP
Lobbyists who break the rules could be fined $25,000, and $100,000 for a second offence. They could also be suspended for up to two years.
The B.C. NDP's critic for the attorney general, Leonard Krog, said the legislation is only a modest improvement.
"This is very much a situation of too little and far too late," said Krog. "The Liberal insiders have done their lobbying over the last seven years very comfortably under a statute that was absolutely and predictably useless."
Registrar of Lobbyists David Loukidelis gave the proposed law a thumbs-up, however, saying it does give him what he needs to do his job.
"I'm satisfied that we'll have the tools to ensure compliance and promote transparency around lobbying in B.C.," Loukidelis said.
Last year, Loukidelis refused to take on any more investigations until he was given new powers.