Graham's regional lobbyist registry plan making little progress

There appears to be no rush in the other Atlantic capitals to sign on to New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham's vision for a regional lobbyist registry program.

There appears to be no rush in the other Atlantic capitals to sign on to New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham's vision for a regional lobbyist registry program. 

A month ago, when Graham was under fire for hiring a Liberal ally for an influential government position, the premier said setting up a provincial lobbyist registry would be too expensive.

Instead of having New Brunswickers foot the bill for a registry that would track individuals hired by companies to put pressure on politicians and bureaucrats, Graham came up with a new plan to save money. The premier told the legislative assembly that he had approached the other Atlantic premiers about a shared system.

"We were looking at developing a registry for the region as a whole, to share resources to try to bring down the costs and, at the same time, to provide greater transparency," Graham said in December.

When CBC News contacted spokespersons for the three other Atlantic premiers this week, none of them was aware of any discussions of a shared regional lobbyist registry.

However, P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz's office said on Thursday the idea has been discussed at the attorney general's office and there has been some "preliminary work" done.

Newfoundland and Labrador already has a lobbyist registry and it extends to covering the City of St. John's, a fact Graham never mentioned in December. The Newfoundland program is part of the online registry for deeds, property and companies.

While Graham said the New Brunswick government found that a lobbyist registry was too expensive, a Newfoundland government spokesperson said that province spends about $45,000 a year to bring greater transparency to the world of lobbying.

A lobbyist registry would make public the names of consultants who are paid to lobby governments.

Liberals promised lobbyist registry in 2007

In June 2007, the Liberal government released a response to the Commission on Legislative Democracy, a panel formed by the former Conservative government to examine issues such as increasing voter participation and enhancing government accountability.

Liberal cabinet minister Stuart Jamieson said at the time the lobbyist registry would be available online and would "ensure that New Brunswickers know who is lobbying their government and for what purpose."

The pledge languished for more than a year until the Opposition Conservatives challenged Graham over the hiring of Doug Tyler as the deputy minister of strategic priorities.

Tyler, a former cabinet minister and deputy premier, has been a key ally of Graham since he became Liberal leader in 2002 and was a top strategist in the 2003 and 2006 election campaigns.

Tyler served on Graham's three-person transition team after the Liberals formed a government in 2006 but he left after a few months and was hired as the vice-president of government relations for Saint John-based Revolution Strategy.

Revolution Strategy is a marketing firm with close ties to the Liberals. In his role with Revolution, Tyler was hired by companies hoping to influence government decisions and sometimes arranged meetings for them with ministers.

One company that hired Tyler was Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., which is trying to build a second nuclear reactor in the province.