Edmonton

Klein dismisses lobbyist registry

Premier Ralph Klein is dismissing having a lobbyist registry in the province, an idea raised by an all-party MLA committee, saying he doesn't know what it would accomplish.

Premier Ralph Klein is dismissing having a lobbyist registry in the province, an idea raised by an all-party MLA committee, saying he doesn't know what it would accomplish.

The committee, headed by Conservative MLA Neil Brown, is recommending that anyone lobbying the government have to notify a registry, with fines for those who don't comply.

But Klein says the province shouldn't be looking to fix something he doesn't consider broken.

"What I'm saying now is what I've said in the past. I'm not changing my mind at all," he said. "The difficulty with a lobbyist registry is defining who is a lobbyist.

"I guess the opposition could use any instance to say that person was a lobbyist and why wasn't that person registered."

Klein says Alberta has a transparent process already.

The federal government, Ontario, B.C. and Quebec already have lobbyist registries in place, giving taxpayers an idea of who is trying to influence government policy.

"There should minimally be a right to know who exercises influence on any government and under what circumstances," Alan Tupper, who chaired a three-person panel that recommended an Alberta lobbyist registry a decade ago, said.

Jerry Flanagan, health care policy director for a California citizen's group, says U.S. health companies are interested in moving into the Canadian market – especially with Alberta's musing on opening up the way health care is delivered. Without knowing who is talking to elected officials, they could operate "unfettered," he says.

"It's shocking to me that there isn't a registry of lobbyists," he said. "Without tracking, without disclosure, the HMOs are allowed to operate unfettered. And that's happening now, I can guarantee you."

Klein says despite his feelings on the subject, he will look at the lobbyist registry recommendation when it makes its way to his office.

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